A Date with Destiny? Could the Cup Final be in San Jose's Future?
This was certainly a surprise that shocked the entire sporting world.
Now we all know, Detroit is a playoff team. Year in, and year out, they are going to be the team to beat in the Western Conference. Well, this year they have been beaten. San Jose did the unthinkable, when they eliminated the Red Wings with a convincing, 4-1 series win, no less.
Now, I’m sorry, but is this the same San Jose that had been cursed with bad luck in the playoffs.
The team seems familiar, but it’s not the same. Oh no, this is definitely not the same team. This is a team that has swagger, that is confident, that is playing like their first place, selves. For those of you who believe in curses, I think this one has officially been lifted.
Maybe there was never a curse at all. Maybe it was just playoff nerves on the part of the Sharks, maybe they were just not built for the playoffs, maybe, maybe. ... I could go on forever, but there’s a point in this. The point is that no matter the reasons for their unsuccessful playoff performances in the past, this year they are the real deal.
One of the stories about the "new" Sharks has been the rise of a different Joe in San Jose, as Joe Pavelski is proving to be quite the dangerous player in this year’s playoffs. When you talk San Jose, you talk about the Big Three of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley. Then there's the team's other Joe— Pavelski.
Pavelski’s playoff play has been crucial in San Jose’s winning ways, which may result in great things to come for San Jose in the Western Conference finals and beyond.
So, maybe the Sharks should officially change the Big Three to the Big Four. It's time to give Pavelski the credit that he so richly deserves, because I do not know if the Sharks would be where they are if it wasn’t for him.
A big presence on the blue line has also been felt. Captain Rob Blake, and assistant captain Dan Boyle, have contributed greatly to the Sharks' success this year.
Obviously, this cannot be said for the OT game that was lost because of Boyle, but that aside, the Sharks have been solid in the playoffs. With continued great play from the blue line, San Jose can pose a serious threat for the cup.
The offensive weapons that the Sharks possess certainly won’t hurt, either. Thornton, Heatley, Marleau, Pavelski, Devin Setoguchi, and Manny Malhotra are just some of the players that other teams should be keeping an eye on. If they don’t, they’ll be skating with the puck, and lighting the lamp in no time.
San Jose was the first team to move onto the conference finals this year. The rest of the teams are going to play, while the Sharks get some well-deserved rest. They also get a chance to watch and see who they will be facing in the Western Conference finals.
That question will be answered soon enough, as the Chicago Blackhawks a win away from a trip to the conference finals. Still, even though it appears it will be the Blackhawks, you can never count out the Vancouver Canucks.
If the Sharks were to meet the Blackhawks in the final, then they would have to work their butts off, night in, and night out to get the series win. If there is an area that can be exploited for the Blackhawks, it's in net with goalie Antti Niemi. The Sharks are dangerous in the offensive zone, and have to teach this rookie goaltender a thing or two about playing a powerhouse.
A Blackhawks-Sharks series would likely go the distance in seven games, and if were, San Jose would come out as the victors. They have all the talent to match the Blackhawks' play, and as long as the nerves don’t return, they should do just fine.
Then again, they could be facing Canada’s other best hockey team, the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks won the Northwest Division this year, and started the playoffs off against the Los Angeles Kings. The Canucks proved they were playoff-ready this year as they eliminated the Kings in six games.
Despite their 3-1 current series hole to the Blackhawks, the Canucks have unlimited potential and loads of talent on their squad, with the centerpiece of their success being none other than captain goalie Roberto Luongo.
Luongo is a world-class goalie, who got a great taste of big-level success as he backstopped Canada to the gold medal this year. He hopes to bring that feeling of success to the playoffs this season.
If the Sharks and Canucks were to face off in the conference final, I would have to again give the edge to the Sharks. I think they could easily outplay the Canucks, and book themselves a ticket to the Stanley Cup final.
San Jose fans have been waiting for their team to break out and finally show their true colors in the playoffs. And right now may very well be their time. So many things are going right for the Sharks, that I think it’s almost unfair not to see them in the Stanley Cup final.
So Sharks and NHL fans had better be ready for these group of talented guys. They’re ready, and they have their eyes set on one things and one thing—Lord Stanley's Cup!
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