Same old, same old for Sharks

Blues forward Chris Stewart fights Sharks forward Tommy Wingels during Game 5 of their NHL Western...

Blues forward Chris Stewart fights Sharks forward Tommy Wingels during Game 5 of their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal series at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Miss., April 21, 2012. (SARAH CONARD/Reuters)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

One has to wonder if the window has closed on the San Jose Sharks.

Considered an elite NHL team since the arrival of Joe Thornton in 2005, the Sharks have never lived up to expectations.

Prior to this season, the Sharks had finished first in the Pacific Division in the previous four years, but failed to advance past the conference final.

This year, they struggled to make the playoffs and finished as the seventh seed, forcing them to face the St. Louis Blues in the opening round.

Saturday, the Blues defeated the Sharks 3-1, winning the series in five games.

The Sharks' loss marks the first time in four years they have been eliminated in the first round.

Now it's up to general manager Doug Wilson to decide whether he wants to stick with Thornton and his core group, who appear to be on the decline.

SPEAKING TOO SOON

New York Rangers head coach John Tortorella was not impressed when team owner James Dolan said the club was close to winning the Stanley Cup.

That was back in January.

Obviously, Tortorella knew something his owner didn't, that the Cup is not awarded after the regular season.

With their 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators Saturday, the Rangers are now closer to being a first-round casualty than a Stanley Cup champion.

They're down 3-2 to the Senators, with the series heading back to Ottawa.

RAT BUSINESS

The plastic rat business in South Florida is booming as the Florida Panthers continue to mount playoff wins.

Saturday, the Panthers defeated the New Jersey Devils 3-0 to take a 3-2 series lead, prompting another barrage of plastic rats to hit the ice following the contest.

The tradition dates back to the Panthers' Stanley Cup final run in 1996 when early in the season, prior to the team's home opener, Scott Mellanby spotted a rat in the dressing room and fired it across the room onto a wall, killing it.

Mellanby then went out and scored a pair of goals with the same stick, prompting then goaltender, John Vanbiesbrouck to coin the phrase "rat trick."

Back then, the plastic rats were thrown on the ice after every goal in the playoffs. That forced the league to introduced a new rule where only hats were allowed to be thrown on the ice after a hat trick.

It's become a problem during this year's playoffs as some fans are still throwing rats after goals. That prompted Panthers CEO Michael Yormark to send out a tweet following Saturday's victory urging fans not to throw the rats on the ice during the game.

HEAD HUNTING

There were plenty of opinions regarding the Raffi Torres verdict handed down Saturday, including Don Cherry's, who believed NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan got it right.

While few doubted Torres should have been suspended for the hit on Marian Hossa, the 25 games imposed brought about various reactions.

Torres had been issued supplementary discipline on five previous occasions, practically forcing the league to make an example out of him.

One hit that has not often been brought up, however, was the one on Milan Michalek by Torres during the 2006 playoffs.

Then a member of the Edmonton Oilers, Torres caught Michalek, who was with the San Jose Sharks, cutting across centre.

The hit was late as Michalek had already played the puck, but there was no penalty issued on the play. In fact, the hit was credited with turning the series in the Oilers' favour, who went on to eliminate the Sharks after dropping the first two games in San Jose.

CHEAP CALL

With everything going on during the playoffs, it's easy to see how referees have a tough job.

Saying that, the slashing call on Boston Bruins forward Benoit Pouliot with under three minutes to play Saturday was, at best, borderline and one that probably shouldn't have been made.

What happened to letting the teams decide the game?

The play occurred over 100-feet away from the Bruins net and in no way prevented a scoring opportunity.

Pouliot did give Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom a couple of love taps, but it did not affect the play in any way.

Caps winger Troy Brouwer went on to score the game winner on the ensuing power play to give his team at 4-3 lead and a 3-2 series advantage.

After the game, Bruins head coach Claude Julien was understandably upset and called the penalty "weak."

JUST GO WITH IT

I once saw former Edmonton Oilers head coach Ted Green have some fun with a young television reporter who was unfamiliar with most of the faces in the dressing room.

The Oilers coach was approached by the reporter and asked if he could point out Ted Green for him.

Without breaking stride, Green looked at the reporter and simply said: "I haven't seen him," and walked away.

Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa apparently has a similar sense of humour.

Following Wednesday's Game 4 against the Los Angeles Kings, Bieksa was approached by Mike Dunsmore of Fox Sports Radio, who confused him for teammate Ryan Kesler.

Bieksa answered Dunsmore's questions as though he was Kesler, pointing out how great it was to be American and how much better it was playing in the United States then it was in Canada.

Speaking as Kesler, Bieksa also credited himself for the Canucks success on the power play because he was creating havoc in front of the net.

On Saturday, the interview was spread via Twitter, with Dunsmore trending in Canada.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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