Why the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks Rivalry Can Be the Best in Hockey

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Why the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks Rivalry Can Be the Best in Hockey
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Perhaps two of the best teams to come out of the NHL's Western Conference in the last decade have been the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks.

During the post-lockout era, the Sharks have yet to miss the playoffs, while the Ducks have only missed the postseason twice. Perhaps what gives their rivalry so much untapped potential is that the two teams, with all that playoff experience, have met only once for a seven-game series.

During the 2008-2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, the Sharks and Ducks met in a series in which the Ducks decisively defeated the heavily favored Sharks four games to two. Backstopped by stellar goalkeeping from Jonas Hiller, the eighth-seeded Ducks became only the fifth team to beat the NHL's Presidents' Trophy-winning club in the first round since 1968.

If the Sharks and Ducks meet again in the postseason before the Ryan Getzlaf and Joe Thornton eras run their course, the 2009 series will be fresh in everyone's mind. That series did a lot to reshape the Sharks moving forward, as it marked the beginning of the end of Evgeni Nabokov's tenure in San Jose.

Adding to the rivalry's spark is the similarity between Getzlaf and Thornton, who are the captains of each team. Both players play the same physical style, are pass-first in their offensive approach and employ similar skating techniques. Both are considered elite franchise centers and have had their respective teams built around them and their leadership.

These similarities encapsulate the competitiveness and animosity between the two clubs, as many argue that Getzlaf is the younger more capable second coming of Thornton. Though Thornton is only 33, he has a lot to prove yet in his own right and career.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

While Getzlaf's contract is up after this coming season, should he re-sign in Anaheim, he and Thornton will continue to spearhead the competition between the two clubs.

 

At this point in their rivalry, the Ducks have the distinction of being the first California team to win a Stanley Cup, while the Sharks have a reputation for delivering solid regular-season performances, but faltering in the postseason. San Jose will continue to be a league favorite to win it all, while the Ducks will continue to be the ultimate dark horse of the Western Conference.

All this rivalry lacks is a couple more hard-fought playoff series. If the two teams meet in the next four or five years, you'll start to see the Sharks and Ducks rivalry take on a substantial history and a far more compelling narrative.

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