The San Jose Sharks are no strangers to the Stanley Cup playoffs. The team has qualified for the postseason every year since 2003. (Excluding 2005, when a lockout caused the cancellation of the entire NHL season.)
The team often enters the playoffs as a favorite to hoist the Cup. Just as often they’re escorted out early. The Sharks have never even played in the Stanley Cup Finals.
David Pollak covers hockey for the San Jose Mercury News and writes the Working the Corners blog. Pollak joined Bill Littlefield to discuss the Sharks’ odds this time around.
BL: The Sharks are going into Sunday’s game behind 2 games to 3 against the L.A. Kings in the second round of this postseason. Are San Jose fans thinking, “Oh no, not again!”
DP: I’m pretty sure there’s some of that going on. There’s actually probably a lot of that going on because fans are conditioned to that’s how these things end up every spring.
BL: Sharks center Joe Thornton was dominant in Game 4, not so much in Game 5. Is it fair to say the Sharks will need two epic games from him if they’re going to advance to the Western Conference Finals?
DP: I think it’s not just him. After the loss in Game 5, Logan Couture talked about (how) the best players were far from the best players and he was including himself in that group. But Joe certainly took control of things in that (Game 4) win and they’re going to need a much better game out of him than they got this time around.
BL: Let’s try and stay positive. Who else has been contributing when things have gone well for the Sharks?
DP: It’s actually like Logan was saying. Their best players have been their best players. And it would be different guys on different nights but they were a familiar cast of characters: Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle. You have to include Logan Couture in that group now, he’s probably taken a bigger share of the national spotlight away from those other guys than he has in the past, although the coaches here and the fans here know that Logan’s been doing a lot of the heavy lifting for a while now.
BL: The NHL suspended San Jose forward Raffi Torres through this entire series after his illegal hit to the head of Jarret Stoll in Game 1. San Jose was fined $100,000 after general manager Doug Wilson’s criticism of that discipline. How have the fine and the suspension gone over in San Jose?
DP: Hockey’s such a strange sport because you’ve got a guy that you’ve watched for years and you think, “What a nasty guy that is.” And he’s the worst kind of villain and then he wears your jersey and suddenly you come to his defense. I’ve seen it happen elsewhere. I think that happened a lot here with Raffi Torres. He has tried to clean up his act this year. He has been very successful at that until this one hit. Fans like the energy brought to the team, he had goal scoring skills they didn’t expect, there was actually a kind of pro Raffi Torres movement underway. And I don’t think this hit necessarily deters that, and I think if anything the general manager, Doug Wilson, curried favor with the fans by coming strongly to the defense of his player.
BL: If San Jose was able to win the Stanley Cup, how would their fans respond?
DP: I think it would be the same as any place except maybe more so than some. It always bothered me that Colorado won a Stanley Cup the very first year the franchise moved there from Quebec. I always thought fans are supposed to suffer for a while before they get the joy of winning a Stanley Cup. The Sharks have suffered for a while and again its because they have high expectations every year. I think it would be kinda nuts there.