San Jose Sharks Look To Advance to a Cup Opportunity

Jimmy BradshawContributor IApril 15, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 11:  Evgeni Nabakov #20 goalkeeper of the San Jose Sharks sets up to defend against the Los Angeles Kings looks on on April 11, 2009 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The San Jose Sharks go into the first round of the 2008-2009 NHL playoffs with high hopes for success, something past campaigns have suggested before being muted by early round exits.

Coach Ron Wilson was dismissed during this past offseason and G.M. Doug Wilson is hopeful that first year coach Todd McLelland, a disciple of and assistant coach with the "Red Wing" dynasty, will be able to steer this talented squad to a Stanley Cup Final.

The Sharks have a dangerous first round matchup as they draw the Anaheim Ducks, a team playing better of late, and just a few short years removed from carrying the Cup, back to Southern California. This, despite being the eighth seed this year.

The Sharks have a stingy group of blue liners that reinforces the stellar backstop that is Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes.

Dan Boyle, an acquisition procured from Tampa Bay, has enjoyed another fine season, tallying 16 goals and 41 helpers and was assisted by fellow defensemen the revitalized Rob Blake and Christian Erhoff. Their four lines are productive and are led by the Joe Thornton/Jonathan Cheechoo/Patty Marleau whirlwind trio.

Young frontliners Devin Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski have been integral to the efficiency that earned the Sharks the President's Cup, as these players registered point totals of 65 and 59, respectively.

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The one huge hurdle the Sharks must stride over is the perennial power that is the Detroit Red Wings. Their success in playing this storied franchise has been both dismal and abysmal of late.

All opportunities must go through Detroit first.

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