The San Jose Sharks are currently putting their playoff demons of years past to rest.
San Jose has rolled off six straight wins to take a commanding three games to none series lead over the defending Western Conference Champion Detroit Red Wings.
But was this suppose to happen? Aren't the Sharks the team that always falls apart this time of year?
In the past, that may have been the case. However, anyone following the team this postseason has noticed a much more determined and resilient group.
That never say die attitude, and "sticktuitiveness," as coined by Sharks color analyst Drew Remenda has seen the Sharks put together consistent efforts night in and night out.
What did Remenda mean by "sticktuitiveness?"
Simply that the Sharks are sticking with what has proven to work despite whatever adversity that comes there way.
Instead of getting rattled, the Sharks have continued to play the same game because they truly believe that it works.
And that belief is being paid-off in playoff victory after playoff victory.
Even when the star players like Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley struggled in the first round, other players stepped up their game.
And now in the second round, those star players are starting to contribute more and more.
But that said, who have their biggest performers been thus far?
The "big three" are starting to contribute at their expected levels, but are either of the top-three guns amongst the team's top five playoff performers?
Let's find out, shall we?
Without further ado, here are the Sharks' top five 2010 playoff performers thus far in the playoffs.
That's right, there will be representation from the "big three" on the list of San Jose's top five performers, and it's probably not who you'd expect.
While Marleau's game-winner was just his second goal and fifth point of the playoffs, one might have thought Thornton would make the top five after providing dominant performances in each of the last three games.
But despite the fact Thornton has five points in his last three games and eight points overall in the playoffs, it is Dany Heatley who has been the most consistent of the trio of stars.
Even though he has played one fewer game in the playoffs than Thornton (due to a undisclosed injury in Game Three against Colorado), "Heater" has one more point—nine to "Jumbo's" eight thus far.
Furthermore, Heatley's the only one of the three to post a three-point performance in a single game and his even plus/minus is the best out of all three.
Now the first year Shark may only have one goal in eight games, but the puck seems to just flow in his direction, and most of his assists have been tallied on rebounds off of his powerful shot.
Why is that the case? Why does the puck follow Heatley around? Because unlike Thornton or Marleau, Heatley is one of the few pure goal scorers in the league.
And for whatever reason, pucks always seem to follow these players around.
Heatley is no exception, and if the Sharks continue to move on in the playoffs, you can count on Heatley to start finding the back of the net on a more consistent basis.
Dan Boyle may not score at the same rate as the presumed Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith in the regular season. But there is one thing Boyle has that Keith doesn't: a Stanley Cup ring.
And wouldn't you know it, the more seasoned Boyle leads all defensemen in playoff scoring with nine points in nine games (Detroit's Brian Rafalski has nine points as well but with one more game played).
Watching Boyle play, he sometimes looks like a forward because he can dangle with the best of them.
In fact, while Keith picked up more points for Chicago, Boyle tallied one more goal during the year and it is hard to argue against his being the most dynamic defenseman in hockey.
Of all the "puck-moving defenseman" in the league, guys like Keith, Brian Campbell, Scott Niedermayer, and others may in fact be better pure skaters and passers.
But when it comes to a one-on-one rush, there is nobody better in the league than San Jose's Dan Boyle.
I mean, name another defenseman in hockey who can consistently make a power move between the legs of a bigger opponent and then finish off the goal as good as anybody in the league?
There are none.
And right now, Boyle is simply playing at the level we are accustomed to seeing him, which is amongst the best in hockey at his position, if not the very best.
Boyle's nine points and stout defensive play has helped his team to a 3-0 second round lead. Keith, on the other hand, has just three points in the playoffs and his team is staring at a 1-1 tie going on the road for game three.
Give me Boyle any day of the week and twice on Sundays.
Whenever I am compelled to write positively on Evgeni Nabokov, I feel it necessary to point out that the Sharks netminder will never be one of my favorite players.
Personally, I will always be tired of his tendencies to let in goals through the five hole and to seemingly fall asleep at times and be way out of position.
But I also have to give credit where credit is due, and for the first time in his career, Nabokov is having a strong postseason after carrying a heavy load during the regular season.
Nabokov started 71 games during the regular season, plus three in the Olympics and many fans were worried that he would once again be out of gas for the playoffs.
Fortunately for Sharks fans, nothing has been further from the truth.
Nabokov has been up to the task in all the key moments. In eight of nine games in the playoffs, Nabokov has been absolutely rock solid.
And in the one game he wasn't solid, Nabokov ended up coming through in the clutch, making three gigantic saves in overtime to allow his team the chance to win (which the Sharks did, in Game Two of the opening round).
His .916 save percentage may only be fourth amongst the still-active starting netminders in the playoffs but his 2.14 goals-against average leads all playoff goalies.
Case in point: Nabokov is coming up big when the team has absolutely needed it.
He had huge saves in each of San Jose's OT wins against Colorado, and so far against Detroit, the 10-year veteran has come up with three remarkable glove saves against the three best shooters for the Red Wings.
Henrik Zetterberg was denied with the glove on a penalty shot in Game Three, and both Pavel Datsyuk and Valtteri Filppula were denied on one-time feeds back in San Jose.
Before Joe Pavelski became the poster boy for postseason success, his linemate Ryane Clowe was far and away having the best playoff of anyone on the team.
The 6'2", 225-pound winger was the driving force behind San Jose's dominant play throughout the six-game opening round series with the Avalanche.
Colorado simply had no answers for Clowe's brute strength and puck handling abilities along the boards at both ends of the ice.
While both Clowe and Pavelski finished with eight points a piece during the series, if there was a Conn Smythe Award for the first round, Clowe would have been arguably more deserving than even Pavelski.
"The Big Pavelski" may have scored more of the big goals against Colorado, but shift in and shift out, Clowe's dominance and puck control was second to none.
Without his play, most of the Pavelski goals don't even happen, as it was Clowe's ability to keep control of the puck during cycle's along the boards that led to most of the Sharks' goals in the series.
Or as he is now known: The Big Pavelski.
Or as he should be known: The Great Eight.
I think Alexander Ovechkin may have to find a new nickname if the Sharks go on to win the Stanley Cup this year.
That is how flat out phenomenal Joe Pavelski has been in these playoffs.
I mean really, what else is there to say about a player whose nickname changed from "lil Joe" to "The Big Pavelski" during a span of just seven games?
The only skater outscoring him thus far in the postseason is Sidney Crosby. And nowadays I'm pretty sure that Crosby is aware of Pavelski, the man who won the key faceoff that led to Team USA's last-minute tying goal against Canada in the Olympics.
I mean even if you aren't a fan of the Sharks, you have got to be on the Pavelski band wagon. In all honesty, he his making his case to be known as the best all-around American born player in hockey.
At this rate, Pavelski's success alone will do so much for USA hockey, let alone the Sharks.
But that's what this piece is about, how clutch Pavelski has been for San Jose in the playoffs.
Well, let's see.
Not only does he have nine goals to lead all skaters in the playoffs, but he has three game-winning goals including an OT winner, and a game-tying goal in the last minute that forced an OT.
Essentially, Pavelski's late heroics have accounted for over half of the Sharks' playoff wins thus far. That's not just sizzling, that's mind boggling.
However, arguably the greatest part about Pavelski's game is that similar to baseball's Tim Lincecum— Pavelski's smallish in stature.
Standing at just 5'11" and 195 pounds, Pavelski isn't the biggest guy around, isn't the fastest skater, and he doesn't have the hardest of shots.
But what he does bring is an elite set of intangibles to go along with a quick release on his insanely accurate wrist shot.
"Joepa" as I like to call him, is an absolute beast in the faceoff circle, goes to the body as well as any sub-six foot players in hockey, and has an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time.
Not to mention, defensively, he his one of the hardest workers in the NHL, as time and time again he wins those 50-50 battles in his own zone.
Bar none, Pavelski has been the top guy for San Jose during the postseason and there was really no other choice for the top spot.