The San Jose Sharks are just four wins away from hoisting hockey’s holy grail for the first time in their 25-year history. A Stanley Cup parade down Santa Clara Street is as close to a reality as it has ever been before, yet still so far away.
For as strong as the Sharks have looked in these playoffs, between knocking off their biggest rival in just five games and eliminating the Central Division’s top team in six, it is only natural for the San Jose fan base to be in disbelief.
All they have ever known is heartbreak.
Prior to missing the postseason a year ago, the Sharks qualified for the postseason 10 straight times. During those 10 seasons they ended up losing their final game every single time.
While reaching the conference finals three times during that span isn’t anything to scoff at, the other seven seasons ended far short of expectations. Two of those losses in particular caused some serious soul searching in the offseason. In 2009 the Sharks won the President’s Trophy for the NHL’s best regular season record, only to lose in the first round to the Anaheim Ducks. More recently, the Sharks became just the fourth team in league history to lose a best-of-seven series after going up 3-0 when they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014.
Having been so close for so long but not getting over the hump will make a potential Stanley Cup win that much more rewarding for this fan base. All championship wins for a team you root for are exciting, but there is no sweeter relief than finally winning for the first time after falling just short time and time again.
If only I were anticipating this euphoria.
Rather, I find myself anticipating that inevitable letdown.
I’m sure some of you remember the EA Sports commercial from a few years ago showing a video-game Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. It’s a dream many Cubs fans have gone entire lifetimes without realizing.
Granted, the Cubs World Series drought of over 100 years trumps the Sharks’ quarter-century existence, but the sentiment of that commercial translates to Sharks fans nonetheless.
A seemingly impossible Sharks dream is almost a reality, but there is this part of me that can’t stop anticipating an eventual heart-crushing defeat. On the bright side, my rational side knows this Sharks team has what it takes to get the job done.
Before the regular season started, I picked the Sharks to win the Pacific Division over teams like Los Angeles and Anaheim.
And my Stanley Cup playoff bracket has them winning the Stanley Cup.
The Sharks had a tremendous offseason this past summer. General Manager Doug Wilson added key players at all three positions in Martin Jones in goal, Joel Ward at forward and Paul Martin on defense. It was an offseason reminiscent of the one prior to the 49ers winning their most recent Super Bowl back in 1994. San Francisco added key veterans like Ken Norton Jr. and Deion Sanders to complement an already awesome awesome core led by Steve Young and Jerry Rice.
San Jose doesn’t have the past championship success that those 49ers had but there are many similarities. Linebacker Gary Plummer famously enacted the monkey off the back of Steve Young during the final minutes of a Super Bowl XXIX blowout victory. It would be really neat if a Sharks teammate were to do the same thing for Joe Thornton if the Sharks end up winning the Cup.
This is the best roster the Sharks have ever had. They are deep at forward, deep in goal and feature an elite top-four defense. This is no fluke run. Rationally speaking, it is very believable what they are poised to accomplish. Unfortunately for me, my irrational side has taken over with anxiety trumping my excitement for the final round.