Tonight’s game is the most important game in the history of the San Jose Sharks franchise.
Like many fan bloggers out there, I can be fairly accused of hyperbole when describing the San Jose Sharks, their games and their players. I have evoked everything from Indiana Jones and various (often tenuous) pop-culture references to roundly accusing Logan Couture of turning the Calder Trophy into a hookah pipe, Jumbo of surfing with Bodhi from Point Break and Patrick Marleau of telling the Holy Buddha himself to chill out.
I have done this often during the season, and I make no apologies.
Part of this style derives from the passion that I share for the San Jose Sharks, and part of it is because that is exactly what the highly inclusive internet publishing sphere offers—a forum to hatch an original opinion or angle, have a little fun while you’re doing it, write it down and hit send.
Besides, if you’re looking for shot count total or game statistics, my guess is that you will head to ESPN.com which does a nice job versus BOT. If you don’t, you should. They really do a great job over there, almost as if they had unlimited funding or something.
As so perfectly put recently by uber-curmudgeon and Huxtable sweater aficionado, Ray Ratto, the San Jose Sharks playoff history is the classic tale of the Little Engine That Could, But Doesn’t. To take Ratto’s biting assessment a step further, if the Sharks lose tonight to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7, they will be the little engine that just never did. Then, said engine will be ripped off the tracks, taken apart at the rivets by six pairs of Jaws of Life and scrapped to make way for the Sharks version 2.0.
A loss would be an absolute gut punch, as San Jose would be only the fourth team in NHL history (1942 Red Wings, 1975 Islanders, 2010 Bruins) to blow a 3-0 series lead—this has been well chronicled recently. But, as much pain as a loss tonight would generate, I believe that a loss would further set into motion a rebuilding process that frankly would spare nobody from the potential axe.
Honestly, you name a player or coach, and I will name a possible trade or release scenario if they lose tonight—it’s just that dire right now, and not just for guys whose names rhyme with the words, hat, stick and harlow.
GM Doug Wilson is the soul of this organization, and has been an anchor of stability for the franchise since his playing days when he rocked the perfect coiffure at the Cow Palace. And, if anybody remembers how he set up the open Q&A / sit-there-and-take-your-medicine apology session for players after being defeated in the first round in 2009, you also know he takes this game and this team’s success or failure as serious as a heart attack.
Nobody likes to lose, but Doug Wilson stays up nights and has probably lost years off his life because of it. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he is quite literally the Dothraki battle lord of the NHL, and losing must be purged like a disease and removed from the DNA.
I can promise you if the Sharks do it to him again tonight, you may not recognize this team next year.
Gone are the days of the plucky South Bay underdog playing over their heads for the San Jose Sharks—young castoffs just fighting uphill against overwhelming favorites, and simply hoping to eek out a win. In actuality, over the past several seasons now, the San Jose Sharks have been an absolutely dominate team, so ducking behind that old description is both ludicrous and impossible these days.
But, there is another, shinier side of the coin to consider.
Tonight’s epic game also offers the equal opportunity for full, franchise redemption that could swing the San Jose Sharks into another echelon of the NHL. It could be the start of a dynasty, and the beginning of an annual top-four contending NHL team with multiple Stanley Cups in its’ future.
A win tonight, against all odds and snarky public opinion would evidence a true maturity that the Sharks are being pilloried right now for lacking. If they can defend home ice tonight and beat the Detroit Red Wings in Game 7 of the NHL Western Conference Semifinals, they will simply show the intestinal fortitude of a champion. A champion in sports is a team able to fight against negative momentum when called upon, and just win—see Red Wings, Detroit.
The only way for the San Jose Sharks to take the throne of the Western Conference away from the multiple Stanley Cup winning Detroit Red Wings and scatter the haters is by winning this game this evening—you must beat the king to be the king.
A win tonight would quiet scores of detractors, who might be able to float a “they almost did it again” dig at the Sharks for a day or two, but honestly, that would all go away faster than Donald Trump’s relevance after President Obama dropped the birth certificate hammer on him (with a little help from the iconic Seth Meyers).
Rather, the narrative of the San Jose Sharks team, if they can draw upon the best crowd in the NHL this evening and their own superior skill and beat the Red Wings tonight, would be of a maturing team on the verge of greatness. A team who has learned from past mistakes, become stronger because of them and proven through deeds that they would not repeat the follies of the past.
Personal bias aside, I think they do it…I really do.
I think they quiet the rabble and move on to face Vancouver, but either way, we are only a few hours away from finding out and I’m starting to get a stomach ache.