It started in Game 3 in San Jose’s first round series with Colorado. It was as if we were looking at a different group of guys who were
somehow swapped for our regular San Jose Sharks. It seemed like a magic trick
to some of us however it was not an illusion, the San Jose Sharks are actually
playing ‘playoff hockey’.
This is where I will lose most of you: “What the heck does
this guy mean? Of course they are playing playoff hockey, they are in the
That is very true but the hockey that the fans of San Jose
have been watching during the playoffs since 2005-06, (unpleasantly defined as
the Joe Thornton era) has been anything but playoff hockey. The past several
seasons have actually given the San Jose Sharks the most incredible roller
coaster ride as fans. The Sharks coaster would take us very high and speeding
very fast through various curves and turns. That same ride, however, took us
quickly off the coaster track and giving us a feeling as though we have flown
off the coaster completely.
It was consistently up and down for Sharks fans
since 2005. One game we would see the teams immense talent playing their hearts
out and the next game would see the team’s talent completely vacate the
building. There was no consistency except for the fact they were inconsistent.
This created a very uneasy feeling in the pit of Sharks fans
stomachs whenever the playoffs would roll around. A distinct certainty and
expected gloomy outlook that was defined by waiting for the other shoe to drop
at any given moment. Most often it dropped directly on our heads with a thud
that gave us migraines.
This time around it’s been different. The Sharks team is now
playing a game that correctly ignores the future. Every second of the game they
are playing in at the moment, is getting the team’s full attention. No longer
do they get comfortable when they have a lead and stop using the strategy that
gave them the lead in the first place.
Something that has had devastating
results for the team. The second round against the Oilers in 2006,
losing the series after being up by two games and the second round in 2006-07 against the Red Wings, less than a minute away from taking a commanding
3-1 series lead it all starts to fall apart and the Sharks lost the remaining three games. Even beyond the realm of believing that they had the game in hand, the
past two playoff seasons had their own level of annoyance attached to them.
Finishing with the league’s best record or being in the top three had instilled
it’s own level of expectation that the Sharks path to glory would somehow be
easy. The Sharks had plain and simple either expected that the team they were
playing against would not show up, or they thought that the level of effort
they needed to bring to the game was minimal because of their incredible talent.
It has bit them in the rear for the past four playoff runs.
During this particular post-season we are seeing a different team and it is
creating a new environment for Sharks fans in San Jose.
Each game is getting a
full 60-minute effort. Each shift has potential for something to happen. Each
player is assuming their role of responsibility and doing everything they can
to fulfill it. The casual fan needs to understand that although this is
something they naturally expect from their team in the playoffs, Sharks fans
have not been exposed to this type of playoff hockey for the last four years. We
are happy to be getting reacquainted with it.
The most important thing for Sharks fans of the Joe Thornton
era is not that the team achieves the ultimate prize, although obviously none
of us would come even close to complaining about it should it happen. Rather what’s most
important for us right now is that our team gives it their all in the game we love. Losing when your team has given up is 100 times worse than losing when
team gave it their all. No matter
what the outcome of the game may be, Sharks fans want to hold their heads high knowing that their hockey players were doing their best for the entire game.
Whatever problems the Sharks currently have, with their defensive
issues and minimal scoring from it’s big guns, Sharks fans are absolutely
ecstatic to be watching their team play a full 60 minutes and not assume for
even a second, that the outcome of the game is known.
They are playing until the final
This is something new and believe it or not, the Sharks are right now, finally learning what it means to
play, playoff hockey. No longer are they relying and waiting for a team leader to come
through. They are learning the team game that is needed for playoff hockey.