2011 NHL Playoffs: San Jose Sharks, Hope and the Tao of Point Break


The term tao describes a concept having ineffable qualities that prevent it from being defined or expressed in words.  It is something subjective—a feeling— that must be experienced or felt.

The movie Point Break is one of the finest pieces of American cinema of the latter 20th Century.  A surfing-themed epic spinning the somewhat threadbare tale of  bank robbing with sky diving surfers, the beauty of the perfect wave, and how an undercover FBI agent named Johnny Utah was able to bring an entire bank robbin’, beach football playin’ utopia to its’ knees.

Contained within its’ numerous memorable quotes uttered so masterfully by the likes of Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, the chick from Tank Girl and Gary Busey are profound kernels of wisdom, that, when viewed just right, may possibly hold the key to the San Jose Sharks winning the Stanley Cup.

A tao of the first order, Point Break’s teachings cannot be articulated especially to the uninitiated, but rather, must be experienced.  So, how can the Sharks use this sage advice to their advantage?

Let us begin.


"Bodhi: If you want the ultimate, you’ve got to be willing to pay the ultimate price. It’s not tragic to die doing what you love."

Though Bodhi drifts dangerously close to a cliché here, his statement nonetheless proves effective.  For the Sharks to win the Stanley Cup, they must exhaust themselves and work tirelessly to control the things they can during the NHL playoffs.

They must sacrifice.

This means, among others, that every shift is skated to exhaustion, every check finished, that constant focus is maintained in defensive positioning, that face-offs are won more than lost, and that the team appears at all times to be in the business of selling out for one another.

To their credit, the Sharks played this way last postseason, and though their eventual loss to the Chicago Blackhawks stung, you would be hard-pressed to find a critic or fan who could claim the Sharks did not demonstrate total effort and dedication last postseason.


At the beginning of the movie, our impetuous undercover agent played by Keanu Reeves has an encounter with the “locals” upon whose waves he is attempting to learn to surf on.

"Johnny Utah: Okay. I get it. This is where you tell me that “locals rule”, and that Yuppie insects like me shouldn’t be surfing your break, right?Bunker Weiss: [smiling] Nope.Surf gang: That would be a waste of time…Lufton “Warchild” Pittman: We’re just gonna f— you up!"

The Sharks cannot walk into this postseason with any arrogant airs about them, and need to be cognizant of the fact they could easily be knocked off by any of the teams in the 2011 NHL Playoffs. Any dismissive attitude that takes teams for granted will end up in disappointment.

Any attitude that misses the fact that every team skating against them this postseason is not just thinking about or trying to beat the Sharks…but rather are inclined to walk right into the Teal bully’s yard and f— them up (to quote Warchild) will be a mistake met with bags packed full of squandered chances.


"Pappas: I’m so hungry I could eat the a– end out of a dead rhino, I should have had you get me three of these things!"

This is a line from Johnny Utah’s wise elder FBI handler character, Pappas, played by Gary Busey. The original line actually happened to be simply, “I’m hungry,” but what instead transpired can only be described as pure Busey, improvisational magic.

In any series, a team’s ability to improvise can often be the reason for ultimate success or failure. Though the San Jose Sharks are stacked, with Olympians and All-Stars abounding, it does not mean that with a couple of bad breaks, they could also be in the soup rather quickly.

It could be injury, it could be suspension or it could just be a poorly timed cold streak by a star player.  Regardless, in these times, it is the team that is able to pick up for the lost teammate that usually succeeds, and the ones who are too shocked by the loss of a key player, that ultimately fold.

The Sharks have already proven this ability to improvise in how they handled Antti Niemi’s early season struggles.  Signed from the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks, Niemi was expected to come in and lead the Sharks in net, wire-to-wire, from the regular season into the playoffs—that was the plan.

In actuality, Niemi struggled mightily early on, had criticism levied upon him from all sides (including here), endured annoying pining for Evgeni Nabokov (here again) and had words like “bust” and terms like “one-hit wonder” thrown at him (yup).  Doug Wilson was widely criticized for being star struck by Niemi’s Stanley Cup and making, in his signing, an insurmountable mistake that would curse the San Jose Sharks‘ season.

Enter Antero Niittymaki.

Though eventually coming down to Earth, Nitty stepped in for the struggling Niemi and played absolutely lights out, even assuming the No. 1 goaltender duties for a couple of key stretches.  This flexibility allowed Niemi the space and time needed to find his stride, which he did in a big way.  After taking a timeout to get his head straight, Antti Niemi responded by snapping off 27 wins and played every bit the way the San Jose Sharks had hoped for when they signed him.


Respect your opponent, but impose your will mercilessly.

"Bodhi: It’s basic dog psychology, if you scare them and get them peeing down their leg, they submit. But if you project weakness, that promotes violence, and that’s how people get hurt.Roach: Peace, through superior firepower."

Dedication, Humility and Improvisation are all fine, but this is still hockey, and the biggest impact the Sharks can have on their own success and hopes of executing a Stanley Cup winning run will be in making every minute on the ice an absolutely miserable time for their opponents.

Bodhi wasn’t ever after killing people in the banks during robberies (that was Rosie).  That was honestly never his bag—he actually abhorred actual violence—but he was after scaring them to death, because scared bank customers kept their head down and scared bank attendants followed orders and opened safes.

Except for that one guy in the movie that I think hit the secret red button and called the cops—him not intimidated.

The San Jose Sharks must establish a physical presence to compliment their swirling superior offensive firepower and do it early. This means at the start of every game and every series without fail.  Every shift by the opposition needs to be a taxing affair thanks to gritty Sharks play, and there needs to be a point made that this San Jose team is an actual physical force, versus a finesse team of years past trying to act the part.

Certainly no dumb penalties and play must be clean and within the rules, but no opposing forwards dancing through the crease with abandon either, nobody running our goaltender unpunished and every single offense by the opposition met with total and disproportionate punishment.



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