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The Pioneer

Sharks in franchise’s first Stanley Cup

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Sharks in franchise’s first Stanley Cup

Illustration by Crystal Jeffers/The Pioneer

Illustration by Crystal Jeffers/The Pioneer

Illustration by Crystal Jeffers/The Pioneer

Erik Khan,
Staff Writer

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The San Jose Sharks are in the Stanley Cup finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. While playing for the NHL’s most sought after prize is a feat of its own, they currently trail 3-1 in the series and played well.

Despite facing a 3-1 series deficit, the Sharks and their fans have waited too long for this moment: This is their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals in the franchise’s 25-year history.

This isn’t to say that the Sharks haven’t had success in the past. Prior to this year, the team had been to the Western Conference Finals three times in team history, yet they finished 3-12 in those series. The team also earned the president’s trophy back in the 2008-2009 season, which is awarded to the best regular season team, but were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs that year.

The Sharks history of dominant regular season play combined with poor postseason results has led fans to believe that they can’t win the big one. This postseason, though, things just felt different. The Sharks exercised their demons in the first round, as they eliminated their division rival Los Angeles Kings in five games. They then bested the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues to wind up in a battle with the Penguins for the Stanley Cup.

Over the course of this postseason, the Sharks have been true to vintage San Jose form, led by stellar offensive play. Skaters like Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Brent Burns have been phenomenal on the offensive end. However, this year, the Sharks have found their missing piece, as Goalie Martin Jones has been at the top of his game and has clearly performed as the top goaltender in these playoffs.

Game one featured the Sharks rallying from an early two-goal deficit, only to give up the game-winner with less than three minutes remaining. The Sharks entered the second period down 2-0, but goals by Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau evened things up heading into the final frame. While the Sharks were heavily outshot in the game, Jones was brilliant and kept the team in it until the end.

Game two also featured another crazy finish. In a low scoring affair, the Sharks trailed 1-0 when they headed into the third period. Sharks defenseman Justin Braun made sure that the game wouldn’t end in regulation, as he ripped one past Penguins goalie Matt Murray with four minutes left in the game. The game went into overtime where the Penguins struck quick, forcing the Sharks to head back to the Shark Tank facing a 2-0 series deficit.

When the puck dropped in San Jose for game three, the Sharks fortune finally changed. In another incredibly tight game, both teams traded goals back and forth. The Penguins went up 1-0 early on, but Braun answered minutes later. The team entered the third period trailing by a goal for the second consecutive game, but Joel Ward gave the Sharks life, scoring his 7th goal of the 2016 postseason.

For the second straight game, overtime was needed to decide a victor. After a back and forth overtime period, Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi netted one in the top shelf causing the shark tank to erupt. Jones was again a huge reason that the team was still in  the game at that point, he stopped 40      Penguin shots.

In a game four that the Sharks desperately needed, they came out flat. Once more, they fell behind early, eventually trailing 2-0 as the third period began. The Sharks were again able to pull within one goal in the third period, but eventually fell to the Penguins by a final score of 3-1. Melker Karlsson was the lone Shark to put one past Murray.

Even though the Sharks trail 3-1 in the series, there is some positive to pull out of that game four loss: While the Sharks have been heavily dominated through three games and two periods this season, they owned the third period of the game four loss. Finally, the offense looked like the one coach Peter Deboer was accustomed to seeing his team deploy. The team was aggressively attacking the offensive zone and getting pucks on net.  If the Sharks can play the inspired hockey that they displayed in that period, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Bay Area saw their second 3-1 series comeback in 2016.

The series shifts back to Pittsburgh for game five tonight, where the Sharks look to stay alive and force a game six.

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Sharks in franchise’s first Stanley Cup