It's the best time of year!
The San Jose Sharks captured a Game 7 win over Detroit – arguably their biggest win in franchise history – on Thursday night. As they head into the conference finals, Patrick and I debate… is this finally San Jose’s year to lift Lord Stanley?
A different vibe says it is their year
By Ryan Porth
I don’t think there have been many more people critical of the Sharks’ postseason disappointments over the years than I have. In saying that, there’s a special vibe surrounding this team. A vibe that has me believing that destiny may finally be on their side.
This Sharks team is mentally tougher than any in the past. These playoffs have proved just that. It started in Los Angeles back in the first round; down 4-0 in Game 3, the Sharks clawed their way back to win 6-5 in overtime. They also came from behind twice to beat Detroit in the second round.
One player in particular that has broken through in the playoffs, despite the criticism, is Joe Thornton. This postseason he’s been a man on a mission – whether he’s setting up his teammates’ goals, scoring game-winners, or playing relentless defense. Thornton has come through in a big way.
They also now have a goaltender they can rely on in the playoffs. For whatever reason, Evgeni Nabokov just couldn’t win that big game or make that big save. Antti Niemi can. Everybody doubts Niemi; but the fact of the matter is, he’s 6-0 in playoff series. He simply gets the job done.
When you look at the four remaining teams, San Jose just might be the deepest. This is arguably their best team, from top to bottom, that they’ve had in the playoffs (it says something when Joe Pavelski is on the third line!).
San Jose has been the best team in the Western Conference since the mid-season point. After seeing them exorcise some demons the past two postseasons, there’s no reason to believe they can’t beat Vancouver, a team also without a Cup and haunted by past playoff disappointments.
This is the Sharks’ year. They no longer carry the label of being “playoff chokers.” They have all of the ingredients to win it all and finally have the look of a team that is ready to go the distance. About a month from now, ‘Jumbo Joe’ will be accepting the Stanley Cup from commissioner Gary Bettman.
San Jose's run will once again end in Round 3
By Patrick Hoffman
There is no doubt that the San Jose Sharks have been pretty impressive throughout the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs so far.
The Sharks, despite blowing a three-games-to-none lead against the Detroit Red Wings in the second round, were able to win a Game 7 at home, doing so in fine fashion. The team got timely goal scoring and terrific goaltending from netminder Antti Niemi, usually a good recipe for success for the Sharks.
With that said, the Sharks’ luck will run out when they meet the Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference Finals, which is set to begin on Sunday night in Vancouver. Looking at both teams, the Sharks look overmatched in goal and on defense, two important components for any hockey club.
While Niemi has been solid for the Sharks’ this postseason and has won a Cup before, it is Canucks’ netminder Roberto Luongo that holds the slight edge in terms of play. Luongo has been great in these playoffs with a 2.25 goals against average, a .917 save percentage and two shutouts while also making key saves at the right time. Luongo may have not won a Cup like Niemi has, but there is no doubting that it is Luongo’s turn to hoist hockey’s Holy Grail.
Secondly, the Canucks have more depth to offer defensively. Guys like Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Edler, Kevin Bieksa, Dan Hamhuis and Sami Salo have all played big minutes for the Canucks’ defense this postseason and have been able to contribute offensively as well.
Speaking of offense, the Canucks’ look to have the better offensive lineup despite the Sharks’ having guys like Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Ryane Clowe, Dany Heatley, and Devon Setoguchi. The Canucks have the Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Alexander Burrows, Mason Raymond, and their defenseman all putting up solid numbers this postseason.
It is going to be a great series and has the potential to go the distance; but at the end, it will be the Canucks – not the Sharks – who are headed to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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