Sunday, April 3, 2011

5 Reasons the San Jose Sharks Can Break the Curse and Reach the Stanley Cup Finals

When you think about curses in sports, what teams do you think about?

The Chicago Cubs? Cleveland sports? The late Red Sox before they won it all? Maybe the Detroit Lions or Toronto Maple Leafs?

How about the San Jose Sharks?

You wouldn't think it because of all the NHL playoff appearances and being legitimate Stanley Cup favorites year in and year out, but the Sharks are cursed.

Cursed by what?

There's a new one every year.

The bottom line: The San Jose Sharks have yet to hoist the Stanley Cup since they became apart of the NHL.

The Sharks haven't even made the Stanley Cup Finals.

All those years of being the favorites, and nothing to show for it.

And what makes this year any different?

Changes to the team, changes in demeanor and a change in net.

All possibly changing history.

5. The Sharks Are Clutch

"Clutch" and "San Jose Sharks" are probably not two things that seem to go together in recent years, but I assure you - the Sharks are clutch.

It's something we have not seen in recent years, which is why this is one reason why this year is different.

What defines "clutch?"

The ability to produce when the game gets tight.

It has been a tale of two seasons for the Sharks. A terrible first half, by previous Sharks' standards, followed by a climb up the Western Conference standings in the second half of the season.

Being clutch is what they thrived on in that second half.

The Sharks' record in overtime this season was 5-9. But, again, it has been a tale of two seasons. The Sharks went 5-0 in overtime in the second half of the season.

When the game got tight, they produced.

You can thank Patrick Marleau for most of that.

As far as I'm concerned, the second half is all that matters right now because that was when we saw the real Sharks, or the Sharks that are currently third in the Western Conference standings.

Will that carry over into the playoffs?

History and the curse say no, but then again "clutch" has never been a word associated with the Sharks before.

4. The Sharks Have Added Weapons

As if the Sharks don't have enough weapons, they have actually added a few more compared to last season.

I'll give them Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. These are name we know.

But how about Logan Couture with a full season under his belt? Or Joe Pavelski, who we know can produce in the playoffs?

The Sharks have added talents like Ben Eager, Kyle Westwood and Ian White. All very crucial to the team's resurgence in the second half of the season.

In previous seasons, the Sharks have relied on Thornton, Heatley and Marleau to carry them to the Finals. In the past, they have failed.

Now, not only do the Sharks have those weapons, but also players like a more mature Couture, a finally producing Devin Setoguchi and a playoff-ready Pavelski, not to mention other potential weapons like Torrey Mitchell, Ryane Clowe and Dan Boyle.

The Sharks seem more equipped with talent this year than in past seasons..

3. Antti Niemi

Before this season, goalie Antti Niemi had appeared in one NHL season and has been apart of one NHL playoff, in which he has won one Stanley Cup.

One for one, right?

That has to count for something. In fact, it does.

As far as the world is concerned, Niemi is a stud in the playoffs.

And why not?

The way he shut down team after team, including his current team, was amazing last season, considering he was a virtual unknown.

Now, Niemi is playoff-proven. And he carries that with him into the 2011 NHL playoffs.

For the first time in their history, the Sharks have a goalie in net that has proven to produce in the playoffs.

A hot goalie, like Niemi has been, can make all the difference.

2. The Sharks Are Not the Favorites

That honor belongs to the Vancouver Canucks, and for the past couple of seasons, being the Stanley Cup favorites is not something to want.

The Sharks are always the favorites, or at least these past several seasons. Yet, nothing to show for it.

Maybe not being the favorites and not having the best record in the NHL could help?

Shark fans will take anything right about now.

It looks as though the Sharks will be either the two or three seed heading into the Western Conference playoffs.

The main thing here is that they are not #1.

Honestly, an underdog role seems refreshing. Although, a #2 or #3 seed is hardly considered an underdog.

I'm sure the Sharks feel that way too, after all those years of being top dog.

There will be no pressure to win, and that may relax these players that have had such pressure put upon them every year.

The pressure is on the Canucks and not the Sharks for once.

1. No Evgeni Nabokov

This is hard to say because Nabokov has been such a Sharks' staple over the years, but possibly the biggest reason the Sharks could go all the way this season is because Nabokov is not playing for them anymore.

For years, the Sharks had the Stanley Cup Finals dangled in front of them only to lose to a team that had no business beating them. Was it because of Nabby?

That is where the finger has been pointed towards since, what seems like, the beginning of time.

Arguably one of the greatest regular season goalies of all-time, Nabokov was anything but in the playoffs. He was constantly doubted when the games became crucial and it seemed like that had affected the play of the Sharks throughout the years.

It didn't matter how great the Sharks were during the season. They were not going to win the Stanley Cup because Nabokov was going to choke in the playoffs.

Whether that is fair to Nabokov or the Sharks is beyond me, but it seemed like that was the mindset of the Sharks and their fans throughout the years.

Enter Antti Niemi -- Proven to win in crucial games.

Will the curse end because of one player?

We'll find out.

But something has changed in this team.

A change in their mindset? A change in their demeanor?

All possibly equalling a change in history, and an end to the curse.

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