Rob Blake won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001, but he hasn't been to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the last two seasons. He's back this season, his first with the San Jose Sharks, and his experience could be vital if the Sharks finally are to get over the proverbial hump.
Blake recently spoke about that and other playoff-related topics with NHL.com.
1. NHL.com: You've been through the wars before and won with Colorado in 2001. San Jose is a franchise that has struggled to get over the hump in past playoff appearances. What makes you feel this team is ready to take the next step?
Rob Blake: "I just think the depth of personnel, for one. I mean, the past couple of years they have been getting better and better. The core players have gotten better and better. The depth at forward, with Patty (Marleau) and Joe (Thornton) and Ryane Clowe, and you can go on to (Devin) Setoguchi, and then to the experience of J.R. (Jeremy Roenick). Then you get solid goaltending with (Evgeni) Nabokov. I think we're ready to take that next step."
2. NHL.com: What impressed you most about this team when you first arrived for training camp?
Blake: "The speed, and I think a lot of that has to do with the system Coach (Todd) McLellan has put in place. It's a way players want to play. They want to advance the puck and use their speed and this system is built for that. The system and the personnel fit each other."
3. NHL.com: How, if at all, has your opinion changed about this team?
Blake: "I don't know if it has changed. Guys really understood why we want to play this system and why the results are coming from it. You saw in the early part of this season, the first 40 games, we jumped out right away and a lot of that was based on results we got from accomplishing what we were meant to accomplish with our system."
4. NHL.com: You guys hit a rough patch last month but seem to have figured it out again. Can going through some adversity help in the playoffs, or is that a cliché that gets overblown?
Blake: "I think it's a little bit of cliché. Adversity from injuries is most likely what we went through and you're going to be faced with injuries in a Stanley Cup run. We lost Peter Forsberg (in Colorado in 2001) and were able to overcome that. In that respect, we understand. We had eight or nine guys out of the lineup at one point, so the adversity from injuries we have been able to overcome."
5. NHL.com: Detroit still is going to be considered the favorite out West, and probably rightfully so. Is that a rallying cry for the Sharks -- to knock off the big, bad Red Wings?
Blake: "They should be the favorite out here because of what they accomplished over the years and they're Stanley Cup contenders again after last year. Until someone can knock them off, rightly so, they have that (favorite) tag. If we end up having to beat Detroit, it would be in the Western Conference Finals, and then we have done our jobs to get there."
6. NHL.com: Can you describe the atmosphere around the team, both in the dressing room and in the community, right now?
Blake: "I think it's anxious. I think they want to get started. You can tell in practice the different energy and different feel around the community that the playoffs are right around the corner."
7. NHL.com: You won the President's Trophy with Colorado in 2001 and then won the Cup. Is there added pressure to win in the playoffs when you have won the President's Trophy?
Blake: "I don't think so. Obviously it secures home ice throughout no matter who you play and that is something that becomes important because Game 7s in your own building are important. But as far as pressure from winning the President's Trophy, no, there is none. No matter what place you finish in, you expect to do well in the playoffs. And if you don't, you know you feel that little bit of failure. I don't think there is extra pressure."