Last season, the San Jose Sharks missed the Playoffs for the first time since 2003. It was a year surrounded by controversy. Before the season the team announced that Joe Thornton would be stripped of his captaincy and the position would be left vacant. Long time Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle was released prior to the seasons start, leaving a hole in the team’s back-end. The team never meshed and missed out on the playoffs by four spots, finishing as the 12th seed in the competitive Western Conference.
This season, the Sharks pulled a complete 180. Sharks’ General Manager, Doug Wilson, did a great job creating a team ready to win now. Over the offseason, the Sharks acquired defenseman Paul Martin, forward Joel Ward, and goaltender Martin Jones, who were each big factors in the Shark’s success this season. The team brought back the Captain’s C, and gave it to one of the franchises’ all time greats, Joe Pavelski. Led by their two Joe’s (Thornton and Pavelski) and a surprise stellar performance from goaltender Martin Jones, the Sharks secured the 3rd seed in their division and 6th overall.
Unfortunately for them though, they would have to face everyone’s Championship favorites and cross-state rivals, the LA Kings in the first round. Last time the two met in the playoffs, the Sharks held a 3-0 series lead only to allow the Kings to come back in the win the series. Their loss fueled the Kings to win a Stanley Cup and began the Shark’s decline. This season would be different though, the Sharks held on to their early 2-0 series lead and finished the Kings off in only 5 games. Every series gets tougher and tougher in the NHL playoffs though. On April 29, the Sharks kicked off their second series against the Nashville Predators. The Predators are one of the most balanced teams in the NHL. The Predators depth at the forward position is followed by one of the leagues best defensive cores and backstopped by arguably the league’s best goaltender. If game 1 is a measure of how this series will go, which by no means is it, the Sharks will once again breeze through their competitors. The Sharks offense poured it on in 3rd period last night and carved up Predator’s goalie Pekka Rinne en route to a 5-2 victory.
If the Sharks do best the Predators in their series, they can expect to play either the Dallas Stars or St. Louis Blues, two teams who currently look unstoppable. Dallas has been going through a Renaissance period. Thanks to players like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, the team is back to it’s dominance it last had in the late 90’s. Benn and Seguin are this generations Hull and Modano, which does not bode well for the rest of the Western Conference. The Blues on the other hand, have had a history of collapsing in the playoffs. This year though, the Blues proved everyone wrong and defeated the NHL’s new “dynasty”, the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. Thankfully for the Sharks though, their team blends the best of both of their possible opponents. The speed of the Stars and physicality of the Blues are aspects that the Sharks combine perfectly.
The window on Joe Thornton and Partick Marleau’s playing time is closing and there has never been a better chance for the Sharks to win their first cup on their 25th year anniversary.
Dylan Botelho is a contributing writer & editor for gmbsports.com. He is also a contributing writer for riphort.com. Follow him on Twitter @D_Bowey, “Like” him on Facebook and add him to your Google network.