The Sharks have had one heck of start to these 2019 playoffs, and they looked poised to contend for the ultimate prize…Lord Stanley’s cup. Only the St. Louis Blues and the winner of the Bruins vs Hurricanes series stand in their way. Back in the first round of the playoffs, the Sharks experienced something few teams do, a major comeback of epic proportions, and a critical team bonding experience. What I would say gives them an advantage for the rest of the playoffs. This is stuff that you cannot find on a stat sheet, a video real, or teach, rather it sits in the locker room among these players on the Sharks. This bonding experience started in Game 5 vs. the Vegas Golden Knights and paid off for them in Game 7 with the OT winner by Barclay Goodrow.
In round-one vs the Golden Knights the Sharks went down 3-1 in the series and they started their comeback in Game 5. With their backs to the wall facing elimination the Sharks pulled off a convincing 5-2 win and gained momentum for Game 6 in Las Vegas. Game 6 was another great win for the Sharks, with a double over-time victory and giving the Sharks a foundation for their ultimate comeback. So if you are reading this, you probably know what happened in Game 7 vs the Golden Knights at the Shark Tank, but I will give you a brief recap anyway. The Sharks went down early to a 3-0 goal deficit and things were looking bleak, until the unexpected cross-check heard ’round the world happened. The Cody Eakin cross-check to Joe Pavelski was not advised, because the Knights had a 3-0 lead with just over 10 minutes left in the 3rd period. All you had to do was play clean hockey and you are moving on to the second-round. Well, that did not happen and the Sharks center Joe Pavelski hit his head hit on the ice and was knocked out, bleeding from his skull as a result of the cross-check. The Golden Knights received a 5 minute major penalty that would give the Sharks a man advantage for five minutes, no matter how many goals the Sharks scored. In four minutes of the major penalty the Sharks scored four goals, giving them the lead 4-3, only to have Vegas tie the game with just :47 seconds left in the third period, sending it to OT to decide the series…fitting.
I think you know the rest, Barclay Goodrow beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a beautiful goal to complete the comeback, which gave the Sharks everything they need to make this run for the cup, momentum. Like I mentioned at the beginning, teams that go through something like this gives them an unwritten, untaught advantage. Case in point, the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2010 playoffs had a similar comeback, beating the Boston Bruins in Game 7 after going down 4-0, propelling them to the cup finals. The Flyers did not benefit from an ill advised and untimely cross-check which resulted in a five minute major penalty, but they were down 3-0 to win the series in seven games. That feat had only been done twice before the Flyers did it, 1942 by the Maple Leafs and 1975 by the NY Islanders, not an easy thing to do. So yes, the Sharks had won a game early in the series and yes, the Sharks had the benefit of a five minute major penalty to help with their comeback. But, this team bonded after the Pavelski hit, big time, and something clicked, something special is brewing with the Sharks. They put away the Knights during OT to win the series in dramatic fashion, and will take this special momentum and team bonding experience into round-three.
The Sharks played the Colorado Avalanche in the next round and prevailed in seven games again. This 2019 Sharks has experience and is poised to go all the way, all stemming from a few crucial moments of bonding in the first round against the Golden Knights. The Sharks move into the Western Conference Finals with a chip on their shoulder and face off against a familiar foe in the St. Louis Blues. The Sharks beat the Blues on their way to their only Stanley Cup Finals in 2016, only to lose in six games against the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think it will be different this time around for the Sharks, not that they will lose to the Blues, rather they will be drinking from Lord Stanley’s cup in June. Stay tuned….chomp chomp.