Saturday, May 28, 2016

San Jose Sharks: Redemption After a Quarter-Century of Heartbreaks?

Plain, old-fashioned justice demands that San Jose Sharks win the Stanley Cup against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Penguins won the Cup in 1991 and 1992, powered by the legendary Mario Lemieux and ably supported by Jaromir Jagr. In 2009 they won it again, led by Lemieux's protege, Sidney Crosby.

Three times have the Penguins etched their name into NHL history.

But the Sharks? In the 25 years of their existence, not only have they never won the Stanley Cup, they never even reached the final, in spite of a profusion of talents. 

How come?

Because individual talent is never enough. If there is no chemistry at the highest level, if there is no catalyst that can holistically unite the talents, it is bound to be one heartbreak after another.

And that's what happened to the San Jose Sharks, and to their long-suffering fans.
But the new Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, hired only in May, 2015, seems to have found that elusive ingredient that prevented the Sharks from reaching their full potential. In his very first year, with deep changes in player roles and an altered philosophy about playing the game at its most elemental level, he has brought the Sharks to the penultimate match-up.

It's about time.

Of course, what stands in the way of the Sharks winning the ultimate prize in NHL is Sidney Crosby and company.

It falls on the shoulders of the two Joes, Thornton and Pavelski, and Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture, Brent Burns and youngsters like Thomas Hertl to check (literally) Crosby, Malkin and friends to deliver the goods.

Sharks have to match the Penguins in speed, power play, hustle and hand-eye coordination and then have something left over to win.

And the only way they can do that is to win at least one game in Pittsburgh as they open the series.

It will be tough but it can be done. The Sharks flounder so badly at times that a fan has difficulty believing it is a team that contains world-class players. But when they play to their strength and to their natural abilities as a cohesive team, no one can stop them. When Martin Jones, the Sharks goalie, is in his groove, the puck stays put.

But a Penguins fan can make the same points and conclude that Pittsburgh will win the Cup for the fourth time in its Lemieux-laden history.

So what does it all come down to? 

Surely the thunderous win by the Golden State Warriors against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 'Win-or-Die' Game 6 in Oklahoma City on May 28 - a win for the ages mostly due to the impossible heroics of splash brothers Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry - will be hugely motivational and inspiring.

But in the final analysis it will come down to one advantage in which the Sharks are peerless in the NHL this season.

Facial hair.

Ultimately, it is the team with the most facial hair that will hoist the Stanley Cup in June, 2016. 

And that will be the hirsute San Jose Sharks.

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