This is an important playoff series for both teams/organizations because someone will be getting bounced from the first round two years in a row, which means not meeting the high expectations that are set in both dressing rooms. The statistics from the regular season and the matchups have all the makings of a long, tough series. So in the end, what will push one to team victory and send the other to the golf course?
3 Keys to the Series
I don't think teams need a rallying point when trying to win the Stanley Cup. We've seen it in the past, Ray Bourque for instance, and it made for a wonderful story, but just winning the coveted trophy is a rallying point in itself because it's so hard to win.
The Sharks road to the Cup starts tomorrow night in Vancouver. Who knows what is going to happen because there are are so many good teams in the West. Someone from the West will be alive in 6 weeks and they will likely have the opportunity and challenge of beating the Pittsburgh Penguins.
As for the Sharks, the focus is solely on Vancouver right now. But I think it would be remiss not to bring up someone who has meant so much to this organization and won't be around for the first time ever to watch the playoffs. That person is George Gund III.
Mr. Gund passed away on January 15 of this year. His passion, vision, and fortitude was instrumental in bringing the Sharks to San Jose. But most of all it was his passion ... passion for hockey.
Winning the Stanley Cup takes passion and lots of it. I don't see it as a rallying cry, but as we embark on the 2013 playoffs I know the spirit of Mr. Gund is watching over this team and it would be very cool to...
"win it for George"
Enjoy the playoffs, there is nothing like it in sports.
Day 99. Game 48. Hard to believe but the last day of the regular season is upon us.
What a grind for the players, coaches and trainers - 1 NHL game every 2.06 days. Throw in travel and that is a lot of hockey and an incredibly demanding schedule both mentally and physically.
A short demanding season has been volatile with wild swings for almost every team in the NHL. Here is a snapshot of the roller coaster the Sharks just endured:
The Start - January 20 to February 9
11 Games in 21 days
Overall 7-2-2 (5 ROW's)
Home 5-1-2 (3)
Away 2-1-0 (2)
The Grind - February 11 to March 25
20 Games, 15 of them on the road in 43 days
Overall 7-9-4 (4)
Home 3-0-2 (2)
Away 4-9-2 (2)
The Push - March 27 to April 27
17 Games in 32 days (game 17 tonight vs LA)
Overall 11-4-1 (8) does not include game vs LA
Home 9-1-1 (7)
Road 2-3-0 (1)
The Start and Push were enough to offset the Grind so the Sharks could participate in the next season, the PLAYOFFS!
I remember how loud you were when we played the first ever playoff game at The Shark Tank.
I remember how loud you were when we played game 3 against Toronto, the first home game after defeating Detroit in game 7 and splitting the first 2 games in Toronto.
I remember how loud you were during the incredible 5-3 against vs Edmonton back in the 2005 playoffs.
I remember how you came back after this latest lockout.
I remember how loud you were just last week when the Sharks and Kings battled it out.
And I know how loud you will be come the 2013 NHL Playoffs.
Sharks fans, you are part of the memories for every player that has played for the Sharks or against them at HP Pavilion.
Today is your day; FAN APPRECIATION DAY.
Thank you for your loyalty and for being so loud ..... and awesome!!!
You're the Best
Three Wise Men have spoken recently and their comments are very interesting.
Head Coach Todd McLellan - after his team defeated the LA Kings on April 16.
"The most important recognition of character is from within the locker room. What they think of each other and how they compete."
Assistant Coach Larry Robinson - what the team needs to improve on while having the 27th best offense and 6th best defense in the league.
"We need to tighten up defensively, especially in the defensive zone".
Assistant Coach Jim Johnson - on explaining what it means to play simple, or have a simple game.
"Take risk out of critical area decisions."
I suggest you read those again and absorb them, because they are tremendous quotes from some wise hockey men who know what they are talking about.
Including tonight's game against Dallas, the Sharks have eight games remaining.
Here is who they play:
Dallas - 2x - have won 4 in a row and are only 2 points out of a playoff spot
Phoenix - 2x - have points in 8 of last 10 games and are 2 points out of a playoff spot
LA - 2x - Defending Champs are 1 point ahead of Sharks for 4th place
Minnesota - 1x - 3 points out of 4th and 3 points ahead of teams tied for 9th place.
Columbus - 1x - They are on a roll right now, have beaten the Sharks twice and are only 2 points out of a playoff spot
The Pittsburgh Penguins have guaranteed themselves a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs and have done so for the seventh consecutive year. That's the third longest active streak for teams making it to the NHL's coveted playoffs. The top two teams are:
Detroit - Twenty one years in a row. Incredible but that amazing feat is closer than ever to ending as the Wings hang on to eighth spot by a few points over hungry teams such as Phoenix, Edmonton, Dallas and Columbus.
San Jose - Eight years in a row. And with the recent home-stand where the Sharks gained 13 of a possible 14 points it looks like their streak will continue to nine years in a row. It's a huge accomplishment and a testament to the great work that the management, hockey operations, coaches and players have put in over the years.
The Sharks meanwhile shouldn't be satisfied with just making the playoffs but trying to get enough points to be the fourth seed and home ice advantage in the first round. It is starting to look like they might play LA, Vancouver, Minnesota or St. Louis and starting at home where the Sharks are 14-1-5 would be an advantage against any of the mentioned opponents.
Hard to believe that after tonight's game in Columbus there will only be nine games left in the season. It's flying by but man is it fun.
What a week ....
Doug Wilson made some tough decisions in the past week trading away popular (in the dressing rooms and with the fans) players Murray and Clowe who were drafted and developed in the Sharks organization. They are both pending unrestricted free agents, as is Michael Handzus, so Wilson traded these players to acquire draft picks to help position the Sharks for the future.
The Sharks then acquired Scott Hannan who started his career with the Sharks and is a good depth defenseman who lays it on the line and is comfortable playing against top players in a shut down role. The Sharks also acquired Raffi Torres, and the math is real simple here, you'd rather have him on your team than have to play against him.
As one hockey writer said, Doug Wilson did some "savvy maneuvering" that was very beneficial to the Sharks both in the present and for the future.
Meanwhile, the Sharks have been savvy maneuvering their way up the standings with a 6 game winning streak and playing the best hockey since the start of the season. In the 6 games the Sharks have:
- beaten Anaheim, Anaheim, Detroit, Phoenix, Vancouver, and Minnesota
- given up 9 goals
- only put the other team on the power play 7 times
- out-skated and out-played the opposition in each of the games with a balanced 4 line attack, solid defensive play from the D-corps and great goaltending.