San Jose Sharks Are Playing Their Best Playoff Hockey since 2004

Andy BenschSenior Writer IApril 24, 2010

SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 22:  Dany Heatley #15 congratulates Patrick Marleau #12 of the San Jose Sharks after scoring against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period of Game Five of their Western Conference Quaterfinals at HP Pavilion on April 22, 2010 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won 5-0.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

After out-shooting the Colorado Avalanche 148-73 in Games 2 through 4, the San Jose Sharks finally got rewarded in Game 5, dominating on the scoreboard as well as the shot clock.

Despite controlling the play throughout the majority of the first four games, the Sharks were only able to manage a 2-2 split heading into a pivotal game 5.

But upon their return home, the dominance at both ends of the ice finally paid off for the Sharks where it mattered most, on both sides of the goal column.

Not only did San Jose score five goals in Game 5 but it also recording a shutout. With that performance, San Jose was able to have all of its parts come together to finally win a playoff game in convincing fashion.

Now why is such a complete performance important? 

Because, realistically, the Sharks hadn't put together strong playoff performances like this since the first two games of the 2004 Western Conference Semifinals, which coincidentally also came against Colorado.

San Jose won both home games by 5-2 and 4-1 to start that series.

Patrick Marleau and Vincent Damphousse powered the offense. Brad Stuart, Kyle McLaren, and Scott Hannan led the defense. Evgeni Nabokov was playing his best hockey.

The Sharks ended up winning the series for their first berth in the Western Conference Finals.

Unfortunately, despite having more talent on the roster in recent years, the Sharks haven't been able to instill that same confidence from 2004 over the the last few playoffs.

Until now, that is.

While the Sharks have won just three games out of the 16 necessary to win the Cup, the sheer dominance from top to bottom of the roster hasn't been seen since before the lockout.

Even the two five-game series victories over the Predators in 2006 and 2007 weren't as lopsided shift in and shift out as the current series with the Avalanche has been.

Plus, this lopsided play has come with the San Jose's big guns not even contributing half of what they are capable of.

Thornton, along with Marleau and Dany Heatley, make up San Jose's "big names," and yet so far, they have combined for just one goal and seven assists between them in the series.

These "stars" have yet to carry the majority of the load, nor even their fair share of it in the series.

But with the depth the Sharks have at both forward and defense, San Jose appears to be a team that will never need to be carried by their top dogs.

However, if said players started chipping in their fair share of the work, the Sharks could make quick work of their next-round opponent once they finish off the Avalanche.

Even without the top line being the top line, the Sharks have  been able to overwhelm Colorado in four of five games.

In fact, their level of play has made it clear that of all the Western Conference playoff teams, the Sharks are out-playing their opponent by the largest amount.

Each series in the West is now guaranteed to go six games, but unlike the other seven teams, San Jose is the only club playing at a level where it can be argued that their series should already be won.

And when all is said and done, that is how things should be. The top seed in the Western Conference should dominate the eighth seed.

The No. 1-seeded Sharks have a hot goaltender in Nabokov who is stopping everything in sight, and an offense that is getting scoring from up and down the lineup.

By winning in this fashion, each potential Sharks opponent better be aware that confidence is running high in San Jose.

After all, strong goaltending and secondary scoring are the two biggest keys to long term playoff success.

And right now, the Sharks have the best combination of these keys of any of the remaining 15 playoff teams.

Now if their primary goal scoring ever kicks in, who knows just how good this team could become.

If that happens, 2010 could be the year the Sharks' playoff demons disappear for good.


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