After years of playoff heartbreak, the San Jose Sharks will play for a Stanley Cup.
The Sharks took a 4-0 lead over the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday, ultimately winning 5-2 to advance to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
The Sharks have been one of the most consistent teams in hockey for two decades. They’ve made the playoffs in 16 of the last 18 years but have always flamed out in the postseason. In fact, they lost in the conference three times – in 2004, 2010 and 2011 – before finally breaking through against the Blues.
For Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton, both 36, this is a dream come true.
“Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton were drafted 19 years ago,” CBSSports.com NHL writer Chris Peters said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Now, Thornton didn’t come to the Sharks until (2005), but those two guys have been chasing Stanley Cup from the very beginning. Now they’ve got an opportunity. They’ve never even been in this position where they can clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final in their careers. So I think those two guys are the guys that you particularly want to see have success – guys that have had that playoff-choker moniker hung on them unfairly. Both of those guys have produced throughout their career in the playoffs. It’s really never been their fault that the team didn’t do very well. There’s a lot of different layers to this here with this Sharks team and the narrative that they can’t get it done in the postseason. They’re looking like they’re going to kill it right now.”
The Sharks will face either the Lightning of the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final. Those teams will square off in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
At this point, San Jose fans probably don’t care who the Sharks play. They’re just happy to be here.
“I think San Jose’s got a really underrated fan base, they’re extremely passionate, they do very well attendance-wise,” Peters said. “The Shark Tank is widely considered one of the toughest places to play. So this has been a long time coming.”
The Sharks made short work of the Kings in the opening round of the playoffs, taking the series in five games with the only loss coming in overtime. Nashville provided a stiffer challenge in the second round, but the Sharks won Game 7, 5-0.
Then along came the Blues, who won Game 1 of the conference finals. San Jose, however, won Games 2 and 3 by a combined 7-0 and Games 5 and 6 by a combined 11-5.
Now the Sharks are playing for a Stanley Cup.
“I don’t know if this was the expectation coming into he season,” Peters said, “but they’ve certainly proved that they’re among the best teams in the NHL right now.”