Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber has been one of the best players in the NHL for most of his career. Even though he probably isn't quite the player he was a few years back, he is still a top-pairing defenseman. That is why it was so stunning to see everything go wrong for him in the Predators' 5-0 loss to the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of their second-round playoff series Thursday night.
He was on the ice for all five Sharks goals, played some kind of a role in most of them, and ended the first period by taking an interference penalty away from the puck.
Some of it was poor play. Some of it was bad luck. Some of it was the fact the team on the other side played a nearly flawless game.
Either way, it was perhaps the worst game of his NHL career, and it could not have come at a worse possible time.
Let's try to make some sense out of what happened for him.
1. The pass that was never going to happen. The Sharks' power play did its thing Thursday and scored a couple of goals with some precision puck movement. It started with this Joe Pavelski goal early in the first period. Weber is the player that goes to the ice directly in front of the net as Pavelski rips the shot in for his ninth goal of the playoffs.
Goal number 9 for @jpav8, and a great start to #Game7 for the @SanJoseSharks. #StanleyCuphttps://t.co/HYmIkIWuLu— #StanleyCup Playoffs (@NHL) May 13, 2016
I think I get what Weber is trying to do here. He appears to be trying to take away the passing lane to prevent a tap-in goal on the far post so Pekka Rinne can focus on Pavelski and challenge him. The problem is there isn't a Sharks player within 35 feet of the net on the far post and it just ends up looking really bad as Pavelski has about as much time and space in front of the net as a player can possibly have to get off an uncontested one-timer.
Pavelski is on the short list of players in the NHL you absolutely can not leave alone in that spot. He is one of the top-three goal scorers in the NHL over the past five years. He is going to finish most of those chances.
Of course, a lot of this is a matter of the other team simply making a great play. The initial pass by Thornton to set up Patrick Marleau along the goal line, and then Pavelski finding the soft spot right in front of the net is pretty much flawless power play work.
2. The whiff. Shortly after the Pavelski goal, Weber attempted to line up Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi for a big hit along the boards and ... well. It did not go as planned.
"lol nice try Shea" - Joonas Donskoi pic.twitter.com/3WEoLa2ZMY— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) May 13, 2016
This wasn't really a mistake -- Donskoi has the puck and Weber is trying to separate him from it, which is what he is supposed to do -- but it was a sign that this was probably going to be a tough night for Weber.
3. The bouncing puck turnover. Already leading 2-0 after the first period, the Sharks would need just 32 seconds to add to their lead at the start of the second period thanks to a Logan Couture goal.
He ended up getting a wide open look after Weber had trouble controlling a bouncing puck deep in his own zone and turned it over to Couture between the faceoff dots.
The lead is three thanks to @Logancouture. #Game7 #StanleyCuphttps://t.co/2pgs56dSx6— #StanleyCup Playoffs (@NHL) May 13, 2016
Again: Like Pavelski, this is not a player you want getting a clean look in that spot.
This whole sequence started after Weber and Filip Forsberg failed to connect on a pass into the neutral zone following a defensive zone faceoff win by the Predators. The Sharks quickly knocked the puck back into the zone where Weber could not handle it, leading to the Couture goal.
4. The fall. You don't see it on the NHL's video, but part of the reason the Sharks had that 4-on-1 rush in the third period was because Weber simply lost an edge on the Predators' rush just before the turnover.
This is equal parts circumstance (the Predators had to try and take chances and push the play, even when shorthanded, since they were down by three goals at the time. You can not fault him for being aggressive here) and simply some bad luck (he didn't fall on purpose).
The old 4-on-1. #Game7 #StanleyCuphttps://t.co/uSWsHzHR5n— #StanleyCup Playoffs (@NHL) May 13, 2016
5. Getting caught. Shortly after the Thornton goal on the 4-on-1, Patrick Marleau scored San Jose's fifth goal on another odd-man rush. This was some more aggressiveness from Weber as he pinched in the offensive zone, went for the big hit along the boards, and ended up getting caught at the wrong end of the ice as the Sharks went the other direction for another goal.
This was a not good play by Weber, leads to a goal against pic.twitter.com/giYyDnjqYW— Shane O'Donnell (@shane1342o) May 13, 2016
This is the goal that made Rinne snap his stick across the post.
Again, Weber has been a fantastic player for a long time and been one of the key pieces of the foundation in Nashville, and even though he might be slowing down (which is only natural after 11 seasons in the NHL) he will continue to be a top player for them. So let's try not to make this anything more than it was: An impossibly bad game at a moment when everybody that watches the NHL would happen to notice it.
[S/T to Shane O'Donnell for the GIFs]