Posts Tagged "Stanley Cup"

Conference Finals 2011: Sharks v Canucks

The Shark vs The Canuck

Quick Round 2 Recap

After Game 3 with the Sharks leading the series 3-0, I was looking like a genius with my analysis of the series. Turns out the Red Wings gave the Sharks all they could handle and more, bringing the series to 3-3 and a monumental Game 7. The Sharks got it done though, preventing what could have been the lowest point in franchise history, choking away a 3-0 lead for only the 4th time in NHL history.

But the important thing is that didn’t happen and the Sharks eliminated the Red Wings for the second year in a row, moving on to face the Canucks for the privilege of playing in the Stanley Cup Finals!

Conference Finals …again

The Sharks are in the Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row! This time last year, they had just disposed of the feared Red Wings in 5 games and Sharks fans like me were confident they would be able to eliminate the 2nd-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. It turns out we severely underestimated players like Niemi, Bolland, and Byfuglien. The Sharks were swept by the future Stanley Cup champs. This time around the Sharks are the 2nd-seeded underdogs against the President’s Trophy winners Vancouver Canucks.

The Canucks were the President’s Trophy winners for good reason: they dominated the regular season: 1st in goals for, 1st in goals against, 1st on the power play, 3rd in the penalty kill, 2nd in plus-minus. Despite being such a powerhouse in the regular season, they haven’t steamrolled the competition in the playoffs like everyone expected. The Sedin twins, scoring leaders in the regular season, are inexplicably struggling in the post-season: a minus-8 so far. The Canucks played 7 games against 8th-seeded Chicago, and despite expectations, did not have an easy time with Nashville. San Jose is a much better team than either of their opponents thus far, and should give Vancouver a much bigger challenge.

The Captain Joe Factor

The Sharks are playing the best hockey that I have seen them play since I have been a fan. Joe Thornton has shed his “No Show Joe” nickname, setting the example as captain with hard work in all areas of the ice. He has been playing top minutes and despite linemate Patrick Marleau having an off-series, the Sharks’ top line was the best line against Detroit.

“People have criticized Joe Thornton, said he’s not a playoff guy, but the passion he played with [in game seven] is just a clear example of what Jumbo brings to our team. He’s our Captain, he’s got to be our catalyst. It’s going to start with him. He worked extremely hard and it rubbed off on everyone else.”
–Devin Setoguchi after Game 7

Joe Thornton’s performances so far in the playoffs have silenced critics for now–and has earned him attention of a different kind.

Sharks, the Underdogs

Whereas in the series against the Red Wings, opinions were split, nobody is picking the Sharks to win this one. That doesn’t mean anything though. In years past when the Sharks were huge favorites to win it all, they have fallen flat, exiting in the 2nd–even 1st round! Maybe the all that expectation and pressure, now on the Canucks will work to the Sharks’ favor. The Sharks are in for a long, tough series against a team that is on paper is better than they are. However, I think the Sharks are actually playing better, and have gone up against tougher opponents in these playoffs, and I truly believe they can pull it off.

Going further, I believe the Sharks have all the pieces in place for a Cup-winning team: a captain who is showing he knows what it takes to win, a Cup-winning goaltender that the Sharks defensemen are actually playing for, an underrated defense that has been performing well recently, and a team that has overcome adversity and keeps fighting to find a way to win.

Prediction: To the detriment of my heart health, Sharks take it in 7 and go to the Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history! In their 20th anniversary year!

History Will Be Made

The Sharks earned a few more “History will be made” spots out of this series:

Semifinals 2011: Sharks v Red Wings

The Shark vs The Red Wing

Quick Round 1 Recap

The Sharks got it done against the Kings, though it wasn’t the cakewalk we all thought it would be. After that series, I have even more respect for the young Kings team–especially Jonathan Quick who stole Game 2 and was down right amazing in Game 6.

The Sharks’ forwards did what they have been doing all season long–scoring was spread out between all four lines, and when the Sharks were playing their game, the Kings had no answer for the 2nd and 3rd lines. The Sharks showed a resilience I’ve been seeing since the 2nd half of the regular season, coming from behind a 4-0 deficit in Game 3 and clutch performances under pressure, winning 3 games in overtime. And we got 2 History Will Be Made commercials out of it:

Next…

So the Sharks advance to the Semifinals to face their arch-nemesis Red Wings. Unlike last year when I was very, very afraid to be facing the Red Wings, I feel really good about this matchup. Both are very good teams, but the Sharks this year seem to have the Wings’ number. During the regular season, they beat them 3 out of 4 times. In those 3 wins, the Sharks outscored the Wings 12-6. In fact, since landing the starting job as the San Jose netminder, Niemi has not lost to Detroit.

So what, the regular season is much different than the playoffs, you say? If include last year’s playoffs in those numbers, that makes the Sharks beating the Wings 7 out of 9 times. If you look at playoff history between the two teams, this year will be their fifth playoff meeting. Right now it’s split: Detroit won in 1995 and 2007, San Jose in 1994 and 2010.

I was actually at the HP Pavilion for the last game these two teams played. I was confident but my game companions were not. I brought up all the points mentioned earlier and how this year’s Sharks are pretty strong against the Wings. The only argument they had for fearing the Red Wings was, “but it’s the Red Wings.” The Sharks went on to win that game pretty easily, 3-1.

Just like it’s time to take the “choker” label off the Sharks, it’s time to shed this irrational fear that we Sharks fans have of the Red Wings. I’m not saying the Red Wings are incapable of beating the Sharks, but we Sharks fans have no reason to fear Detroit just because it’s the Red Wings. This year’s Sharks team can stand toe-to-toe against them, and if we don’t beat them, we’ll give them a good fight.

I think we’ll beat them.

Prediction: Sharks in 6. Big Joe has a great series, Lidstrom doesn’t retire after the end of the season.

More in-depth matchup analysis on NHL.com

Quarterfinals 2011: Sharks v Kings

Sharks v Kings

I love this time of the year: the Stanley Cup playoffs! Just like last year, I’m going to give my predictions for every round the Sharks are in.

The Western Conference was so close this year that even with all but 1 day left in the regular season, we didn’t know who the Sharks would match up with in the first round until the Blackhawks lost to the Red Wings earlier this morning. For the first time in NHL history, all three California teams are in the playoffs. And another first: the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings meet in the playoffs in a Battle of California quarterfinals.

It should be a good series to watch…for us! Sure the Kings have a cooler NHL Guardian, but the team isn’t the same without their number one and number two leading scorers. The Sharks match up well against the Kings and though the series series is tied 3-3, the Kings won 2 of those 3 in shootouts–they’re a great shootout team. Unfortunately for them, no shootouts in the playoffs.

The Sharks have more size, more speed, more talent, more depth. The only thing the Kings have on the Sharks is their defense and a dangerous goaltender. The only way the Sharks can lose this series is if they underachieve big time, and I’m hoping that they’re past that now…

I actually like the Kings. They’re a good, likable young team and I picked them to have more success in the regular season. When the Sharks vs Kings match was first announced, I knew how we Sharks fans felt, but headed over to various Kings forums to see what they thought. Most Kings fans recognized that they’re the underdogs in this series and was surprised to see that they also have a mutual respect for Sharks and their fans. Just like us, they absolutely hate the Ducks and Stars. Of course, this respect for each other will all change after this first-ever playoff series between the two teams.

Sharks in 5. Quick steals a game and for tradition’s sake, Pavelski dominates the first round.

A more in-depth analysis of the matchup at NHL.com.

Congratulations Sharks on a Great Season


From the Sharks website

The Sharks played well but were ultimately swept by an unshakable Chicago Blackhawks team. In past seasons of disappointing playoff exits, the Sharks didn’t live up to their full potential, earning their reputation as playoff chokers. This year was different. They rallied in the 1st round to beat the Avalanche, steamrolled the Red Wings in the 2nd round, and played a great series against Chicago, who proved to be the better team in the end, sweeping the Sharks in 4 hard-fought games.

Despite the sweep, anybody who actually watched the games – ‘Hawks fans included – will tell you that the sweep wasn’t indicative of the play on the ice. The Sharks outshot the Hawks in 3 out of the 4 games and looked to control most of the games. But no matter what the Sharks threw at the Hawks – and freakin’ Niemi, they just couldn’t win the games.

Congrats to the Blackhawks–they played a great 4 games, coming from behind to win in a couple and never playing dirty.

Before Game 3, when the Sharks were only down 2 games in the series, Tim Kawakami of the Merc predicted the Blackhawks would win simply because they were the better team:

It would be simpler and snazzier to conclude that the Sharks are choking now as they choke always, but they are not.
Nope, the Sharks are not losing these games to Chicago because of bad luck or regrettably callow performances. In contrast to recent playoff torments when the Sharks had the most talent but the least gumption, this time they’re just flat-out losing.

Justin Bourne of Puck Daddy, wrote about the Sharks’ exit from the playoffs:

The San Jose Sharks played a fantastic series for a team that got swept. With the pedal to the floor from the drop of the puck (for the second straight night), nothing they could muster seemed good enough.

Given all of this, I don’t understand is how people can label this years Sharks as chokers. Is anything less than the Stanley Cup “choking” now? Even with the Sharks’ great play, the Blackhawks came out on top – but there’s no shame in losing in the Conference Finals to the #2 seed. How is that choking? Especially when there are far better examples of choking this year in the Eastern Conference: Pittsburg, Washington, and most awesomely, Boston.

As any die-hard fan of any sport knows, you bond with your team, celebrate when times are good, and lose sleep over hard losses. Even though I would have loved to have seen my Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, I’m proud of the Sharks this year and what they accomplished.

This is a far better end-of-the-season post than last year, when I angrily wrote a post on the President’s Trophy Sharks losing to the 8th-seeded Ducks (before this year’s Bruins, that, my friends was a fine example of real choking).

I’ve updated my pretty graphic from last year’s post:

  • 1997-98: Lost to Dallas in the Quarterfinals
  • 1998-99: Lost to Colorado in the Quarterfinals
  • 1999-00: Lost to Dallas in the Semifinals
  • 2001-02: Lost to Colorado in the Semifinals
  • 2002-03: didn’t make the playoffs
  • 2003-04: Lost to Calgary in the Conference Finals
  • 2004-05: Stupid lockout
  • 2005-06: Lost to Edmonton in Semifinals
  • 2006-07: Lost to Detroit in Semifinals
  • 2007-08: Lost to Dallas in the Semifinals
  • 2008-09: Lost to Anaheim in the Quarterfinals
  • 2009-10: Lost to Chicago in the Conference Finals

Next Year…

Marleau
Paddy Marleau, turning up the speed
From mercurynews.com

So what’s in store for the Sharks next year? There will be the usual roster shuffling and changes, but the core will probably stay the same. The only big questions are Marleau and Nabokov, who are up for grabs as free agents.

If this was Marleau’s last year as a Shark, he definitely saved the best for last, scoring a career high number of goals and showing up strong in this series against the Blackhawks. A lot of teams would be happy to pay Marleau piles of money to come play for them. I hope he stays though–Marleau has always been one of my favorite players because of his skill and his humility (I can’t stand athletes that are full of themselves). He may have been questionable as a captain, but he is still one of the foundations of this Sharks team, a “franchise player.” He has done so much for the Sharks organization that I think that his number will be the first that they retire.

Nabby has been a great goalie for the Sharks for years, but now that his contract is up, I think it is a good time to look to find another goaltender for a different direction. I don’t believe Greiss is up to the task, so we’ll have to wait and see what the Sharks organization does.

You can bet on the Sharks making another playoff appearance next year and after shedding their choker rep this year, I’m hoping they’ll go all the way. Thanks Sharks for a great season!

Semifinals: Sharks v Red Wings

Sharks vs Red Wings

Even though my prediction of a mere 5-game series didn’t come true, the Sharks still handily eliminated the Avalanche in 6, after bouncing back from a demoralizing fluke goal on a baffled Nabakov. The Red Wings upset the Coyotes tonight in a blowout 6-1 game 7, which means the Sharks face the Red Wings in round 2 of the playoffs.

As any Sharks fan knows, the Sharks have a bad record when facing the Red Wings. And in recent playoff history, I remember the sleepless nights of anger following the Sharks blowing a 2 games to 0 lead over the Red Wings in the 2007 semifinals. I had nightmares of game 4 when within seconds of the winning, the Sharks allowed the Red Wings to tie it (video)…and of course the Red Wings proceeded to win in OT. There went the momentum of the series, and the rest is Ducks history.

But that was 2007 and though it was a great Sharks team (grumble, grumble), it was a different Sharks team. Like Peterson of the Merc said, Sharks should want to face Red Wings and banish their demons.

The Sharks have a 2nd and 3rd line that have stepped it up in the playoffs, so if the 1st line could just get going, they’d give that rookie goaltender a nice barrage of shots as they did on Anderson. Thornton who has been working hard all series, should have things start up for him against the Red Wings. Heatley has had a lot of time to heal up, and Marleau, who has struggled so far, has just scored his first of these playoffs, so hopefully that was the spark he needed to start his more typical playoff scoring.

So tomorrow, the rested Sharks will play game 1 against the weary Wings, who are just coming off battling through 7 games.

Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus

My prediction: Like this epic depiction of Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, it’ll be quite the battle, but Sharks win it in 6.

GO SHARKS!

Sharks v Avalanche

Sharks vs Avalanche

It’s that time of the year again, Sharks playoffs. There’s really never any doubt that the Sharks will make it in–they’ve made the playoffs virtually every year for the last 10 years (see my nice graphic), so the playoffs are when we see what they’re made of.

First up: The Colorado Avalanche. They’re not as good of a team as the 8th-seed Ducks were last year.

My prediction: Sharks win it in 5.

Come-on Sharks, don’t make me wrong! (Unless you want to sweep the series. I’m ok with that)

It’s Tough Being a Sharks Fan


Photo from sjsharks.com

Well that series was craptastic.

And a lot of good being number one in the regular season did you, Sharks. Put the shiny President’s Trophy on your shelf because you were destroyed by worst possible team to be eliminated by…in the first round!

I used to be a somewhat of a starry-eyed optimist, but I’m now joining the ranks of longtime, jaded fans. The stats from the last decade really illustrates the frustrated Sharks fan’s plight:

  • 1997-98: Lost to Dallas in the Quarterfinals
  • 1998-99: Lost to Colorado in the Quarterfinals
  • 1999-00: Lost to Dallas in the Semifinals
  • 2001-02: Lost to Colorado in the Semifinals
  • 2002-03: didn’t make the playoffs
  • 2003-04: Lost to Calgary in the Conference Finals
  • 2004-05: Stupid lockout
  • 2005-06: Lost to Edmonton in Semifinals
  • 2006-07: Lost to Detroit in Semifinals
  • 2007-08: Lost to Dallas in the Semifinals
  • 2008-09: Lost to Anaheim in the Quarterfinals

I guess no further commentary is needed–there’s plenty of that around the ‘net (a good rant by Mac, if you’re looking to read one).

Go Red Wings!