Oh San Jose Sharks.
At some point, you just have to feel sorry for them, don't you? So many great regular seasons, so many promising starts to the playoffs and then so many different ways to bow out before it's probably their time.
Wednesday's Game 7 loss may be the lowest point of them all, not because the Los Angeles Kings are an unworthy opponent - indeed, this was a team many felt was built for the playoffs - but because the Sharks absolutely dominated the first three games of the series. It was all going exactly to script and then suddenly... it wasn't.
With their 5-1 loss to the Kings on home ice, which included two empty-net goals to make it look a little more lopsided than it actually was, the Sharks became just the fourth team in NHL history to lose as series after going up 3-0. It's not quite enough to erase the sting of the Stars own collapse in Game 6, but misery does love it some company.
So it will be the I-5 series in the Pacific Division where the Kings and Anaheim Ducks could sleep in their own beds for most nights if they wanted to. Go Central Division.
Before we pick up the rest of the NHL series, let's acknowledge the continued success of the Texas Stars, who rolled to complete their first-round sweep of the Oklahoma City Barons. Chris Mueller played a big role at both ends of the rink for Texas, who now await their second round opponent. [Hundred Degree Hockey]
They'll pick up more reinforcements for that round as Patrik Nemeth has been reassigned to Texas to join them for the remainder of the AHL playoffs. [American Hockey League]
On the Stars end of things, season wrap stories are now starting to trickle out after the players' final media availability. The general sense is there's tons of reason to be optimistic, especially with such a young core, but the road just to return to the playoffs, let alone make some noise once there, isn't going to get any easier. [DallasNews.com]
One of the biggest roster questions at the moment is if Rich Peverley will ever be able to return to the NHL after his sudden cardiac arrest in March. While things are progressing well as he recovers from a surgery that's designed to permanently fix the problem, his future in hockey isn't known yet and likely won't be known for a few more months. All anyone can do right now is wait. [DallasStars.com]
Vezina-caliber goaltending got the Colorado Avalanche within two minutes of a trip of the second round (which... ouch is familiar), but eventually even Semyon Varlamov couldn't bail out the sheer number of good scoring opportunities. It was yet another odd-man rush, this one converted by Nino Niederreiter, that gave the Wild the Game 7 overtime and series win. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune]
Well I got at least one of my Game 7 predictions right as the New York Rangers got two early goals and hung onto the lead for dear life to eliminate the Philadelphia Flyers with a 2-1 victory. [New York Post]
Sharks coach Todd McLellan has got to be on the hot seat at this point after yet another disappointing playoffs, especially with so much of the Sharks roster coming back, but the next coach out looks to be John Tortorella, who the Vancouver Canucks are reportedly set to fire today. [TSN]
How does Mike Keenan celebrate winning the KHL title? A little karaoke, of course. [Puck Daddy]
Finally, James Neal is nothing if not the source for some pretty solid comedy, intentional or not. [The PensBlog]