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The Sharks' best players must show up to validate their 4-1 semifinal win from a year ago, where they dispatched the Red Wings with relative ease.
Following an offseason of turnover and key decisions in keeping the team basically intact, San Jose faces their nemesis once more.
Redemption and validation will be the prize for this Sharks squad, who have long suffered the unkind label of choking in the playoffs. Even after advancing to the Western Conference Finals a year ago, the Sharks may still need to validate their status as contender in the eyes of many.
Validation after bouncing back from last year’s unfortunate bounce against Colorado, or the 7-1 embarrassment in Game 4 against the Red Wings. Validation after dropping Game 2 at home in ugly fashion this year, or the unmerciful five minute major at the end of Game 6 against the Kings.
Could Joe Thornton be putting his unfair label of playoff underachiever to rest? After scoring the overtime game-winning goal against the Kings in Game 6, he may just be the Sharks hero again vs. Detroit.
The Sharks' top stars shone in the series clincher against Detroit last year, responding after being dominated in Game 4.
Joe Thornton enjoyed an awesome series against the Red Wings a year ago, and in Game 5, the "Big Three" delivered in convincing fashion.
Thornton won the faceoff and tied the game after Detroit had taken the second period lead. In the pivotal third period, Dany Heatley stole the puck, leading to Patrick Marleau’s goal setup by Thornton. All three played a huge role in ushering the Detroit Red Wings out of the playoffs, and San Jose needs a repeat performance from the trio this year.
Could we be witnessing Joe Thornton’s postseason coming out party this year? It would be poetic justice against the Red Wings given the similarities between Joe Thornton and another captain who wore No. 19 for Detroit.
An offensive dynamo who struggled through years of disappointment before transforming into a total two-way player before finally winning the Cup?
We’ve seen this movie before, haven’t we? Sharks fans sure hope so.