April 20, 2014; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) is congratulated by defenseman Dan Boyle (22), left wing James Sheppard (15) and center Tommy Wingels (57) for scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the third period in game two of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center at San Jose. The Sharks defeated the Kings 7-2. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Is 2014 Finally The Year For The San Jose Sharks?

The 2014 edition of the Stanley Cup Playoffs are just underway, but early on, no team has looked more dominant than the San Jose Sharks. Six dominant periods over the Los Angeles Kings have left hockey fans wondering; is it finally the Sharks’ year, or will it be the same old story?

The Sharks will enter Game Three on Tuesday with a 2-0 series lead on the Kings, as the series shifts to Hollywood, and the Staples Center. Although the Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, and Anaheim Ducks all await their first playoff loss along with the Sharks, San Jose has easily been the most dominant team in the early stages of the playoffs. The Sharks’ 7-2 thumping on Sunday night was the highest goal-differential of the playoffs, after a 6-3 win in Game One of the series. Jonathan Quick, who allowed only 10 goals in seven games when the Kings defeated the Sharks in the 2013 Western Conference Semi-Final, has eclipsed that goals-against total in less than two games.

With an aging core, and one of the most-played goaltenders in hockey, the Sharks seem to be running out of time to make their mark on the post-season. The club has never made it to the Stanley Cup Final, just one of six teams not to do so. The last time the Sharks were in the Western Conference Final was 2011 against the Vancouver Canucks, where the team fell in five games.

Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Joe Thornton, and Antti Niemi are all over the age of 30, prompting concern that time is running out for the perennial Stanley Cup contender. Players like rookie sensation Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels, and Matt Nieto have infused the Sharks’ lineup with some much-needed youth, and the club remains one of the fastest and most skilled in all of hockey.

Although captain Joe Thornton had a career year offensively, Dan Boyle‘s drop in production during the regular season is cause for worry among some Sharks fans, fearing that their leader, as well as most dangerous scorer Patrick Marleau, may be next. Marleau is still as fast as ever on the Sharks’ top line, and Joe Pavelski‘s emergence as one of the Western Conference’s top snipers has dispelled any concerns thus far.

The Sharks have seen production from their depth players like never before, with the fourth line of Raffi Torres-Andrew Desjardins-Mike Brown scoring the Sharks’ first two goals of the night on the same shift Sunday night.

With the depth in place, and an extremely volatile top-six, the Sharks seem poised to make a run at the Cup, but hockey fans have seen this story before.

The Kings were in this exact same position one year ago, down 0-2 to the St. Louis Blues. Just four games later, the Kings walked out of the Staples Center with a series win, after bouncing back with four straight wins. Although Jonathan Quick has never looked so easy-to-beat in recent memory, the 2012 Conn Smythe winner is known for his ridiculous bounce-back efforts.

The Sharks have followed up solid regular seasons with playoff disappointment in both of their last two years, with 7 playoff wins in that time. With only 2 wins down, and 14 remaining before the Cup is theirs, these first two games may be a classic case of small sample size. Nevertheless, the next two (and possibly more) games between these California rivals are sure to be some of the most exciting in the entire Stanley Cup Playoffs this season.

 

 

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