The Sharks have a reputation of being the NHL's premier playoff choke artists, a big and skilled team that just didn't perform when the going got tough.
But their performance over the last few months went a long way to erasing that reputation.
First, their two premier forwards, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, showed up and not only scored, they played physical on every shift. In the Western Conference finals, Thornton even challenged Canuck Ryan Kesler to fight off the opening draw of Game 1 in an effort to set a tone for the series. Marleau also got into a spirited fight with Kevin Bieksa in an effort to inspire his team. He lost, but it was the effort and willingness to scrap that mattered.
The Shark's other "premier" forward didn't live up to the elevated standards set by Marleau and Thornton.
Dany Heatley coasted through the playoffs, not scoring, skating or checking. He did a great job of taking up a roster spot and devouring cap space though, eventually ending up on the third line.
Heatley was then dumped during the off season in a trade with Minnesota for Martin Havlat.
To add insult to injury, the Sharks lost Game 5, and the Western Conference finals, on a fluke goal.
In double overtime, with the Sharks down 3-1 in the series, a dump in along the boards hit a stanchion on the glass and ricocheted out to the slot. No one, including the TV guys and fans, knew where the puck was.
No one that is, except for Kevin Bieksa, who calmly wired it into the back of the net past a bewildered Niemi to dump the Sharks out of the playoffs.
Out to erase their lingering reputation and avenge that fluke goal, the new look San Jose Sharks have something to prove in 2011-2012.