Starting this week, the San Jose Sharks took the ice for the first time since the Olympic break. With just a few weeks left in the regular season, Sharks fans must brace themselves for the turbulent times that lay ahead: playoffs.
For those who are unaware, the last time the Sharks did not make the playoffs was the 2002-2003 season. That means for the last 11 years the Sharks have been in the postseason. However, in those 11 years the Sharks have neither won the coveted Stanley Cup, nor have they contended for it in the finals.
Saying that the playoffs are a hard time to be a Sharks fan is an understatement. During the 2008-2009 NHL season, the Sharks were the most dominant team in the league; they even won the President’s trophy. A rational human being would assume that a team worth of that prestigious title would AT LEAST make it to the second round of the playoffs. At least.
Too bad sports are not rational. Of course, the Sharks still made history that year as they were eliminated in the first round by the Ducks. They became one of only six teams in the history of President’s trophy recipients to be knocked out of Stanley Cup contention in the first round.
The Sharks may not suffer from the same type of drought that the Chicago Cubs or Sacramento Kings do. However, with every passing postseason it starts to feel more and more like it.
So now what? This year, the Sharks are sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference. Meanwhile they are second in their division behind the Ducks, who are leading the NHL in points.
From an out-of-town perspective you may wonder what there is to complain about. If trends continue then they are all but guaranteed a spot in the postseason. But for a team in the Bay Area, making the playoffs is simply not enough. We want championships, we want trophies, and not those of the “participation” persuasion. We want the banner in the rafters. And 2014 is the perfect time to start.
Why? The answer is simple: defense. This isn’t any new age science, logic or reasoning. Defense wins championships. Period. And as of now, the Sharks are only allowing 2.3 goals a game. Only three teams allow less than that. Furthermore, the Sharks rank in the top 10 for three out of four major statistics: goals per game, goals against and penalty kill percentage. Statistically, this is one of the best Sharks teams we’ve seen in a couple years. But when it is all said and done Lord Stanley and his cup do not care about statistics. Only the best will have their name etched in history and subsequently the Stanley Cup.
With just more than a month left in the NHL season, there is still a lot of hockey to be played. Even better, the Pacific Division is still up for grabs with the Sharks only seven points behind the leading Ducks; a team who they have only lost to once all year. So for all you Sharks fans out there make sure to get your popcorn, rally towels and jerseys out because this season looks to be a great one.
All stats are according to ESPN.com/nhl