The San Jose Sharks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in their first-round series with the Los Angles Kings, giving them four chances to put their interstate rivals way.
Now, with just two chances remaining, the Sharks are making changes.
It makes some sense, as Stalock was the last goalie off the ice in Games 4 and 5. In Game 4, Niemi got the hook after allowing a fifth Kings goal 34 seconds into the third period. In Game 5, Stalock came on in relief after a similarly deflating goal by Jeff Carter made it 3-0 just 22 clicks into the second.
In both instances, Stalock was flawless the rest of the way.
The move has a whiff of panic to it, something we didn't see when the Sharks allowed the Detroit Red Wings to crawl back from a 3-0 hole back in 2011, but Stalock has been unbeatable in two relief appearances. Coach Todd McLellan is no doubt hoping this can continue for enough of Game 6 to allow the Sharks to escape a series that, even despite their 3-2 lead, appears to be in LA's control.
Truthfully, though, goaltending has hardly been San Jose's issue. This is up to the skaters, who outplayed LA soundly in Games 1-3, then appeared to take their foot off the gas, or at least couldn't match the intensity of a Kings team with their backs against the wall.
"He didn't return after the blow he took to the head from Stoll," McLellan said. "He's got an upper-body injury. You can call it that."
With Vlasic out, Matt Irwin makes his series debut.
If the Sharks can't get a big game out of Alex Stalock, overcome the loss of their best defenceman, and stop this series from continuing to spiral out of control, Game 7 goes Wednesday.