In what will go down as one of the greatest wins in San Jose Sharks’ history, the Sharks avoided just that and advanced to the Western Conference Finals on Thursday night.
There were sweat and tears in this series, and that was just from the fans sitting at home in front of their televisions. Thursday’s Game 7 epitomized what this series was all about, what the Sharks/Detroit Red Wings rivalry is all about and what hockey is all about.
The Sharks avoided what could have been an epic collapse that would have gone down in history, after being up 3-0 in the series, only to see the Red Wings battle back and win three straight games to force a final Game 7.
But just as we saw in each and every game this series, one goal separated these two teams, and it was Patrick Marleau’s goal at 12:13 in the third period that was the difference in Game 7.
It did not come without turbulence, though.
Ryane Clowe was a game-time decision heading into Game 7 to start off, but it was what happened in the game that had this team seeing the building crumbling down upon them once again.
When the Sharks scored, the Red Wings scored. Twice that happened. Even after the Sharks were up 2-0 in that first period, the game never felt like it was in the hands of the Sharks
Down to the very last penalty kill, this game was not over. But two penalty kills in the final 10 minutes of regulation brought this team together, and the gritty team that we saw for the majority of the regular season showed up once again just in time
The Sharks are heading to Vancouver.
Sure, it took longer than everyone expected, especially with the Sharks being up 3-0 to start the series, but this was one of the most evenly matched series you will ever come across.
Chokers, they are no longer.
This was a franchise-defining game for the Sharks. If they lose, it sets the team back several years. There were even talks of blowing the team up by trading away core players and starting next season with a new product, which seemed like the only viable option for a historic meltdown in such a crucial series.
But win, and the Sharks continue their climb in the playoffs and as a franchise with heart and determination after so many years of lacking just that.
The win accomplishes that.
This win was for years of failure and being dubbed a team that cannot play well when the game gets tight.
But when the game got tight in Game 7, Marleau scored, the defense stood strong, the back checking picked up and Antti Niemi was electric in net.
Yes, the Sharks will go down in history, but not for the reason that everyone around the country may have hoped for going into Game 7.
The Sharks are heading back to the Western Conference Finals in search of their first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.