Recent slump concerning for Sharks fans April 15, 2009 — by Gautham Ganesan For hockey fans around the globe (all seven of us), Christmas comes four months late each year as the grueling monotony of the regular season’s latter months gives way to, quite objectively, the best tournament in professional sports: the Stanley Cup playoffs. For hockey fans around the globe (all seven of us), Christmas comes four months late each year as the grueling monotony of the regular season’s latter months gives way to, quite objectively, the best tournament in professional sports: the Stanley Cup playoffs. When Santa descends down the chimney in two and a half weeks, the San Jose Sharks will, for the fifth consecutive postseason, be very much a part of the festivities, having clinched both a playoff spot and their second straight division title. They will also enter the NHL’s second season in a fashion unlike past years. While in 2006 through 2008 the Sharks began the regular season entrenched in mediocrity before redeeming themselves by putting together remarkable winning streaks to close out the year, San Jose got its winning done early and often this season. The fifth-best start through 25 games in league history gave the Sharks an insurmountable division lead and put them in prime position to finish first place in the competitive Western Conference. As of late, however, the Sharks have slumped. After impressive starts to the year, key forwards Patrick Marleau, Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe have been consistently laying goose eggs in the goals department, All-Star goalie Evgeni Nabokov has looked surprisingly human and long-term injuries to Jeremy Roenick and Mike Grier have taken a toll on the team’s leadership. Even assist machine Joe Thornton’s passes have been errant and off the mark. By default, pessimism reigns supreme among the Shark Tank’s patrons. How can it not, with the Sharks having underachieved to second-round exits the past three postseasons after entering each of those playoff campaigns as the popular pick among media pundits to win it all? While the fact that those same fickle-minded pundits are veering away from picking San Jose this postseason in light of the Sharks’ recent doldrums should alleviate some of the pressure on the team, unless the Sharks manage to recapture the lightning in a bottle they possessed earlier in the year, fans can expect hearty lumps of coal once again.