Arturo Hilario / El Observador
It’s finally happened. The San Jose Sharks have moved onto the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in their history.
Coming after a big win in game 5, taking a 3-2 lead against the St Louis Blues, the Sharks had the opportunity to take the series in the following game and thus cement this team as arguably the best unit ever assembled. A mix of veterans and fresh faces, along with new coaching staff, took the base of what the team was and turned it up a few notches. This team is fresh, gritty, fast and defensive, traits that have come and gone but have never been unified in the history of the Sharks up until this season.
After missing a playoff spot last year for the first time in more than a decade, the Sharks were in the midst of a change. General Manager Doug Wilson called it a “rebuild”, but many were weary of just how long that would take. Suprisingly enough, with ex-New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer in his first year as head coach it took just a couple months. By trimming the fat, and switching out to new goaltenders, the Sharks core remained the same. It was DeBoer’s theory that if you focused on the veterans, had them rest more, and honed them in to help the younger guys, there would be success.
By the time the season rolled around, the Sharks were settling in well, and sparks of what the team is now were definitely showing. I doubt anyone would hold their breath for the playoffs though.
But it’s here, and on May 25, 2016 in front of a roaring sold out SAP Center on W. Santa Clara St the 2015-2016 San Jose Sharks beat the St. Louis Blues, securing their spot against either the Tampa Bay Lightning or Pittsburgh Penguins. This also meant the Sharks won the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, which was awarded immediately following the game at SAP Center.
Top Blues forward Vladmir Tarasenko was without a single point this series until game 6, where after a 3-0 lead he scored twice on Goaltender Martin Jones. In the end though the Sharks were an offensive machine, scoring again twice more and ending the game with a score of 5-2.
Now though, here lies the crossroads: although the Sharks have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in their existence, there is still much work to do. Whichever team comes out of the Eastern Conference final will be just as hungry as the Sharks are.
The stats are almost overwhelming looking at the players in the team. Captain Joe Pavelski was a finely tuned wrecking ball this post season, even tying Wayne Gretzky’s personal record of most goals (13) through the first 3 rounds. Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Joe Thornton lead the NHL in playoff points, showing exactly why this team is razor focused. On top of that, the other veterans acquired like Joel Ward, Dainius Zubrus, Paul Martin and Nick Spaling helped catapult their respective lines to create a stacked roster for the Sharks. Younger guys like Tomas Hertl and Chris Tierney stepped up in responsibility and created great energy in times where it was needed.
And that is one of the reasons why this team has finally found this groove of success. The camaraderie and fun these guys have as a team is inescapable. The fondness these guys have on and off the ice is a great point as to how a hockey team needs discipline but brotherhood to create the environment to win.
Minus the new acquisitions, the pieces were already there. Yet by Coach DeBoer adding new veterans, grooming the younger players, and focusing on the core the San Jose Sharks came out chomping this season, and will continue onto the Stanley Cup Finals on Monday.
Regardless of who they end up playing and the outcome of it in “the big dance”, good luck to those guys, the best version of ‘the Tiburones‘ to grace the ice thus far. What a hell of a 25th Anniversary season it’s been.