San Jose’s top players brought it in Game 7 and the result is a date with the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final.
When the San Jose Sharks’ best players are on top of their games, it’s certainly a sight to behold.
They were on point in Game 5 and the result was a resounding 5-1 victory. However, in Game 6, they were held in check by the Nashville Predators, forcing a Game 7.
Heading into that contest, team teal knew their top guns would have to step up and lead the way if this Sharks group was going to advance.
Boy, did they ever.
From the moment the puck dropped at center ice until they were done acknowledging the crowd following their 5-0 demolition of the Predators, San Jose’s best players owned the night.
It began with who else but the captain as Joe Pavelski set the tone with his first period, power-play goal which would tie him for the NHL lead with Tyler Johnson in Tampa with nine postseason goals.
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To showcase how important Pavelski’s contributions are to this team, the Sharks are undefeated during this postseason run when he’s scored a point and they’ve failed to win a game when he’s been kept off the scoresheet.
Next up, big game Joel Ward added to his reputation for showing up when it matters most when beat Roman Josi to a bouncing puck, deked out Pekka Rinne, and slammed the puck in between his legs.
It was similar to his goal in Game 1 and provided another reason why Doug Wilson went out and acquired him this offseason.
Then, the MVP of the series for San Jose took center stage and buried Nashville early in the second period. Logan Couture capitalized on a brutal turnover from Shea Weber and scored his team-best sixth goal of the series as the Predators had no answer for him.
Couture was just getting warmed up however as early in the third, he poke-checked a drop pass from Mike Fisher and led a 4-on-1 break. Couture decided to shoot and although Rinne made the save, Joe Thornton was there to pounce on the rebound.
Finally, the most long-standing, and probably the most criticized, member of team teal decided to join in on the fun. After setting up Pavelski’s opening tally, it was Patrick Marleau’s turn to find the back of the net as he worked a perfect 2-on-1 with Couture for his fourth goal of these playoffs.
For Couture, it was the best playoff series points-wise in franchise history as he recorded 11 points (six points, five assists) over the course of the seven games, surpassing Igor Larionov’s 10 points back in 1994. After battling multiple injuries throughout the year, Couture is finding his groove at just the right time for this San Jose team.
It was a simply dominant effort from the Sharks leadership group and they did all this without Brent Burns even registering a point, although he was firing pucks from everywhere and ringed one off the post in the first.
They smothered Nashville from the opening puck drop and let their teammates know they weren’t going home on this night.
The key for this group moving forward is bringing that same effort and compete level in Game 7 to this series against the St. Louis Blues. The Blues are a strong, deep group that will provide a different set of challenges, but their Game 7 performance showed the Sharks can rise to the occasion.
Their next opportunity to prove that comes tomorrow night in Game 1 where San Jose’s leadership group will be at the forefront of the conversation yet again. Let’s see if they can seize the moment and take this franchise to the next level.