2012 Stanley Cup: San Jose Sharks 5-Step Plan

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2012 Stanley Cup: San Jose Sharks 5-Step Plan
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
The San Jose Sharks have their fate in their hands right now

Do not be fooled.

The San Jose Sharks have won both ends of the home-and-home series with the Dallas Stars handily. They have all but clinched a playoff spot—as few as a single point gained or lost could secure it.

But these are the Stars. As much as the Sharks were dominated by teams like Vancouver, St. Louis, Phoenix and Anaheim, they dominated Dallas.

They earned 11 points in the six games to just two for the Stars. All five of their wins were by three goals, and their only loss was in a shootout.

But in their last game Tuesday, Ryane Clowe scored an empty-net goal and Antti Niemi out-played Kari Lehtonen. Sharks skaters were patient and made the most of their chances, making a hard-fought game seem lopsided.

At the midpoint of the game, the Stars were out-shooting the Sharks by better than a 2-1 margin. By game's end, they had five more shots and five more attempts, as well as the wide edge in hits (35-13) you would expect when one of the most physical teams plays one of the least.

The Sharks had three fewer giveaways, one more takeaway, and two more blocks and faceoffs won. But that hardly explains why they were 46 seconds away from leading for half the game and only trailed for 32 seconds. Unlike the first game against Dallas, they did not let up for the second half of the third period, instead closing out the win with two goals in the final five minutes.

The problem is that the Sharks do not play that way against many teams. The frustration is that they can play such smart, blue-collar hockey against good teams and get out-worked by others.

That is why there are only five to eight teams who are real contenders for Lord Stanley's Cup. The San Jose Sharks are not one of them for reasons explored more at that link, but champions play that way consistently.

However, anything is possible. The Sharks certainly have the talent. I keep being reminded by every advocate of these players that they can make the plays needed to win in the playoffs.

I need those reminders because this is not the team I picked to win the Western Conference at the beginning of the year. The point Ray Ratto was trying to make the public PR machine that comprises 80 percent of the airtime of that postgame show is that eventually, a team just has to get it done. 

They have run out of chances. If this team is going to do anything, it has to be now. Most of them have had two or more previous seasons as an elite team to get it done; one has had more than a decade.

That is long enough. And this team looks less-prepared than any under Doug Wilson's tenure. But they are playing well right now (8-4-1 in 13 games over their last 23 days), and have something the others did not.

They get to choose their path. With home-and-home mini-series against their chief contenders for the division title, the Sharks will get as far as their performance allows.

Here is their goal in five easier said than done steps...

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