To win their Western Conference Quarterfinal against the St. Louis Blues, the San Jose Sharks know they'll need their dangerous power play to work. Of course, in order to get the power play to work, they'll need power play opportunities.
With a chance to go up 2-0 in the series in Saturday night's Game 2, the Sharks tried to do the kinds of things that might draw the Blues into foolish penalties.
It didn't really work.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton inserted himself late into post-whistle scrums with regularity. Patrick Marleau showed a rare lack of discipline with a late punch on B.J. Crombeen after each combatant had been restrained by officials. Seldom-fighting Joe Pavelski managed to lure seldom-fighting Kris Russell into a post-scrum fight. None created power plays, and Marleau's may have canceled a would-be Sharks power play.
The Sharks had four power plays -- scoring on none of them -- but their man advantages were earned mostly through plays on the puck that drew stick fouls, and not by goading the Blues into retaliation.
When they did try to provoke retaliation, it did not end well.
The most explosive triggers centered around Andy McDonald. First T.J. Galiardi checked McDonald straight-on along the boards, but launching upward into McDonald's head. Reports were the hit cracked McDonald's helmet. McDonald has had many concussion problems -- and concussion danger is the issue of the moment in the NHL -- so neither McDonald nor his teammates took kindly to this hit.
Later, McDonald pulled a possible slewfoot or trip from behind on Logan Couture in front of the Sharks bench. By that point, tensions were at their highest on both sides, and multiple fights ensued in the final minute of the game.
All of the late fights happened when the score was no longer in doubt, the Blues well on their way to a 3-0 win. But their futility seemed symbolic of the Sharks' approach in Game 2: Engage the enemy and hope the rulebook and the referees protect you; then find out neither do..
Dan Boyle went for a hit on Alex Steen, who simply stood him up, so Boyle started a fight that put the Sharks further shorthanded. Dominic Moore engaged Vladimir Sobotka and ended up suffering a takedown and a broken nose. Justin Braun engaged a series of Blues in the scrum after the final horn, only to end up with Roman Polak raining down punches Braun surely didn't bargain for.
(Said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock after the game: "You found out don't open the Roman Polak door. Don't ever open that door.")
It all made for entertaining NHL playoff insanity, of course. Yet it was also rather silly. Certainly NHL officials have been letting all kinds of chaos go in the opening week of the 2012 playoffs, and how things are called from game to game is unpredictable.
But the Sharks aren't a team that should be initiating fightfests with opponents. When they tried to do so Saturday night, they ended up flying home with their series tied at 1-1.