2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Can the San Jose Sharks Pull Off a Kings-Like Run?

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2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Can the San Jose Sharks Pull Off a Kings-Like Run?
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

What the Los Angeles Kings were doing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at this time last year was remarkable. They became the first team in NHL playoff history to win the first three games of each series.

What made the feat even more stunning was that the Kings were the eighth seed in the Western Conference—a true underdog.

We have all heard the story a million times over the past year, and some of us are still having trouble wrapping our minds around what happened. So, naturally, hockey fans have been asking: Which team could pull off that type of run in this year's playoffs?

Well, here is the thing. The only thing more unlikely than an underdog going on an absolutely dominant run through the NHL playoffs, is an underdog going on an absolutely dominant run through the NHL playoffs two years in a row.

We may never see anything like that again.

Tthere almost certainly will not be another run like the one the Kings pulled off in 2012. However, there is another low-seeded team that has already laughed in the faces of those who wrote it off. A team that, after years of disappointment as one of the NHL's favorites, has "regressed" or "seen its championship window close," according to some.

We will see about that.

That team is the San Jose Sharks, a team once known as the biggest group of chokers in the NHL.

San Jose has had trouble in the playoffs in the past. The Sharks failed to get out of the first round after winning the President's Trophy in 2009. They were swept in dominating fashion in 2010 by the Chicago Blackhawks.

San Jose then coughed up a 3-0 series lead against a resilient Detroit team in 2011, only to win Game 7 and get stomped by the Vancouver Canucks in the next round.

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2012 was even worse, as they had to fight just to make it into the playoffs. Once there, the Sharks looked as if they didn't belong in the same arena as the St. Louis Blues, who trounced them in five games.

At the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2013 season, the Sharks took the league by storm by winning their first seven games. After that, however, they went through a slump so detrimental that they temporarily fell outside of the Western Conference's top eight.

After a few more hot streaks, the Sharks pulled into the sixth spot in the playoff standings and were ready to take on the third-seeded Canucks.

The consensus reached by many hockey writers and fans was that the San Jose-Vancouver series would be the best of the eight first round battles. Nobody could agree on anything other than the fact that the series would last no less than six games.

Wrong.

Is it fair to say the Canucks underachieved in getting swept by the Sharks? Sure. It is not like that is something they haven't been told before. But you have to give some credit to the Sharks as well.

Five San Jose players averaged at least a point per game during the series, while goalie Antti Niemi allowed less than two goals against per game. Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, two players who always seem to come around this time of year, averaged two points per game.

It doesn't matter how bad the Canucks may have played. They are an NHL team—a playoff team—and they were the favorites. But the Sharks completely owned them.

This was not the first time this year that we have seen the Sharks play like this. The team has been nearly unbeatable at HP Pavilion the entire year, going through some of the best teams in the NHL without much of a problem.

The San Jose Sharks have proven that when they catch fire, there is nobody in the NHL that can beat them. Not Chicago. Not Los Angeles. Not the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Nobody.

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The Sharks are a team with a lot of potential. They are undoubtedly one of the most experienced teams in this year's playoffs, boasting a plethora of talented veterans like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Brad Stuart, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns.

Couture is one of the most underrated forwards in the game, and Niemi is a proven playoff goaltender who won a Stanley Cup during his rookie season with Chicago.

This team has the potential to make something special happen in Northern California, but it will only get there if it continues to play like it did against Vancouver.

Even if you are on the East Coast like me, do yourself a favor when the second round begins. Drink some Red Bull or coffee (your choice) and strap yourself into your seat to watch the San Jose Sharks play some hockey until the wee hours of the morning.

You won't regret it.

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