It may be time to re-write the old narrative about the San Jose Sharks. For the last decade the Sharks have been known as a good-to-very-good regular season team that can’t get it done in the playoffs.
It’s only one round, but the Sharks got it done on Friday night. The Sharks beat the Los Angeles Kings 6-3 on Friday to, surprisingly, win their first-round series in five games.
The last time the Sharks were in the playoffs was in the 2013-14 season when these very same Kings staged an epic comeback from 3-0 down to beat the Sharks in seven games en route to winning the Stanley Cup.
There were moments on Friday when it looked like something eerily similar to that series was going to happen. The Sharks roared out to a quick 2-0 lead in the first and got it to 3-0 early in the second. Then the Kings came back. (Sound familiar?) The Kings scored three times in the second to tie the game. No doubt, a lot of Sharks fans started to panic.
But proving they are not the Sharks of old, they took control again in third. Joonas Donskoi scored his second of the game four minutes in, then Joe Pavelski scored a goal Jonathan Quick would really like to have back.
The Sharks must feel like they’ve exorcised some playoff demons with this win. The Kings were considered by many to be Cup favorites this season, but given the impressive nature of their series win, that title should be given right to the Sharks.
Sure, it’s only a first-round playoff win but it speaks volumes about the Sharks under first-year coach Peter DeBoer. The Sharks flew a tad under the radar in a very tough Pacific Division during the regular season. They finished third behind the Ducks and Kings, had the 11th best record in the NHL but were a Top 10 possession team. They have a hungry, veteran core mixed with some young stars, and have gotten good goaltending from Martin Jones, the former Kings backup. Joe Thornton, at 36, had a Hart Trophy-worthy season and continued his fine play in the first round.
The Sharks, however, have been here before – it’s getting to the next step that has always eluded them. Since 2003-04, the Sharks have lost in the first round three times; lost in the second round four times; and lost in the conference final three times. They’ve since been labelled as a team that can’t win the big one.
Again, it’s only the first round, but this was a big one. The swiftness with which they cast aside the Kings should do wonders for their confidence, too. But their road won’t get any easier. They will face either the Ducks or Predators in the second round.
One has to wonder a little bit about the future of the Kings. They have been one of the best teams of the decade, having won two Stanley Cups. But since their Cup win in 2014, they have missed the playoffs and followed it up with this year’s quick first-round exit from the playoffs.