There, Their and Everywhere
There used to come a time when the San Jose Sharks would, after a very successful regular season where they often finished with stellar records and regular season point totals that often ended up being over 100 points, fail to live up to their regular season promise and would fall flat on their faces and get eliminated from that season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. The Sharks were always the regular season darlings of the league, who were always good enough to beat pretty much every team in the league at any point of a regular season, but who were never good enough to go very far in the post season.
Their history included being a team that, over the last twenty years or so, had made it to the playoffs as consistently as any team in hockey other than the Detroit Red Wings, but, they were also a team that had never made it to a Stanley Cup final.
Their road in recent years has been that they have always had the tough Western Conference to get through to even get to the finals. The Chicago Blackhawks, the L.A. Kings, the Anaheim Ducks, the St. Louis Blues… are ALL considered to be in the conversation as being the best half dozen or so teams in all of hockey. A Shark team would have to get past all of these teams to get to a finals.
There were years when the Sharks could have the best regular season record in the West (many times) and even the best record in all of hockey, but they still could never live up to their potential and be good enough to whip all of their Western Conference contenders in the playoffs to advance to the finals.
There even was one year when the Sharks were good enough to win the first three games of a best of seven series against the Los Angeles Kings, only to then go out and lose the next four games to the resilient 2014 Kings team that ended up winning all three of their Western Conference series in crucial, pressure packed seventh games to both advance to and to eventually win that season’s Stanley Cup.
They’re a great example of a really good team that had never had that inner strength growth spurt to rise above good to mature into becoming great. They almost panicked and blew up that team after that 2014 playoff debacle (“trade away half the team,” said the pundits), but they kept their nucleus together and chose to interpret that experience as a case of “them being good enough to be up 3 to 0 and to take the eventual Stanley Cup champion to seven games” rather than interpret them the negative way as being only the fourth team in hockey history to blow a 3 to 0 lead.
Their solution was to fire the coach and keep the players together. Maybe one year, this nucleus of fine players that the rest of the league KNOWS are pretty damn good, such as longtime Sharks Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Mark Eduard Vlasic, Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Patrick Marlowe, etc. could get their act together and be as good in the playoffs as they usually are during the regular season.
There is no longer a maybe. The Sharks, who knocked off their longtime nemesis the Kings in the first round of the playoffs this year, have defeated the Blues (who had knocked off the Blackhawks), and have advanced to their first Stanley Cup finals in club history.
Their demons have finally been exorcized.
They’re finally able to say up in San Jose that this is THEIR year.
There is a strong sentiment now amongst all of the pundits that the Sharks are now the team to beat.
They’re only in the finals, though, and they’re not just glad to be there, because their mission will not be complete until there is a Stanley Cup in their possession.