Year of the Shark?

Over the past 14 years, the San Jose Sharks have participated in 12 playoff tournaments [1].  Within the past 8 playoff runs, the Sharks have held the Pacific Division Title 6 times [2].  They have had 17 all-star player appearances since 1997 [3].  4 Sharks played for the 2010 Gold Medal winning Canadian national hockey team (Boyle, Thornton, Marleau, Heatley), which is more than any other team [4].

Yet with each fantastic season, the Sharks have yet to win a Stanley Cup.  Injuries, under performance, and bad luck have plagued each tournament run.  Dallas has plagued the team, Colorado has torn apart the defense, and Anaheim had a lucky run.

Dismal Playoff Record

Is this season any different?  YES.

Can Niemi prove to be the difference?

The key difference?  Antti Niemi.  Niemi has just come off a Stanley Cup winning team, and knows how to increase his level of play into playoff caliber…something Nabokov was never able to do.

In addition, the team has veterans such as Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dany Heatley.  Joe Pavelski, Ryane Clowe, and Devin Setoguchi are three younger players that provide solid depth to the team.  Lastly, with the emergence of Logan Couture, the Sharks have a scary offensive attack.

The teams main weakness?  A knack for penalties when the game is on the line.  Although they were middle of the pack in PIM/G during the season [5], the team illustrated earlier this week that they are not disciplined when an important series is on the line (Game 2 of the current LA series).  With LA still to beat and Vancouver on the horizon, it will be a tough hike to the cup finals.  However, if the team can remain focused and in control of their attack while maintaining the drive to win, then this year will finally become the Year of the Shark.

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