In a way, the San Jose Sharks
' first-round playoff series turned out to be a coming out party of sorts for Joe Pavelski
, who was anything but an ordinary Joe against the Colorado Avalanche
While the Avalanche often leaned on another Joe -- as in Sakic -- during their two Stanley Cup runs, the Sharks did the same this time around with their 5-foot-11, 195-pound center.
The top-seeded Sharks might not have advanced past the eighth-seeded but pesky Avalanche in the Western Conference Quarterfinals without Pavelski and his linemates, Ryane Clowe
and Devin Setoguchi
Colorado limited the Sharks' Big Three of Joe Thornton
, Patrick Marleau
and Dany Heatley
to one goal in six games, but Pavelski and Co. came through in the clutch time after time and finished the six-game series with nine goals and 13 assists.
"I thought that line played very well," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "When you lose a series, someone's going to beat you and it was that line. They were opportunistic. They played well. It's a good mix and they were probably the difference, one of the main differences in the series, that's for sure."
Pavelski was especially dangerous, perhaps not so surprising since five of his 25 regular-season goals were game-winners; he could have had even more, but missed 15 games with a lower-body injury.
"Joe has talent, first of all," Sharks coach Todd McLellan
said. "You can't do what he did in the series and not have talent, so he has the ability to do it. He's got a real good drive to do it and the will to do it.
"He wants to be up to bat in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. I guess that's probably the best way to put it."
Pavelski, who won a silver medal for Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics, delivered the winning goals in Games 4 and 6, and his goal with 31.3 seconds left in regulation in Game 2 preceded Setoguchi's overtime winner.
In all, the unit combined for 80 of the Sharks' 245 shots on goal in the series.
While acknowledging he had a hot hand, the soft-spoken Pavelski preferred to give much of the credit to his linemates.
"Clowe and Seto worked so hard in this first series," Pavelski said. "It's going to be kind of an example of what still needs to come. It only gets harder from here and so we can enjoy it for a little bit, but we realize that a lot of us have only been to the second round and a few of us a little bit further. It's important that we established ourselves."
Now, regardless of the second-round opponent, Thornton, Marleau and Heatley will need to establish themselves as elite postseason performers if the Sharks are going to make a serious run for the Stanley Cup.
The trio did combine for nine assists, but the only goal came from Marleau on a power play in what was essentially garbage time in the third period of the Sharks' 5-0 rout in Game 5.
"I thought they would have to get on the scoreboard for us to have success, and Patty did," McLellan said. "They were probably not at the top of their game. I actually liked the last 15 minutes that they played (in Saturday's 5-2 win). I thought that was some of their best hockey. They looked real strong and fast. They got themselves through it and they'll be fine."
Defenseman Dan Boyle
came through fine as well after his Game 3 miscue in overtime, when the Avalanche's Ryan O'Reilly
tipped his attempted pass around the boards into the San Jose net.
Boyle responded with big goals in Games 4 and 6 while logging major minutes and playing solid defense.
"It's officially behind me," he said. "We showed some heart and we worked and came back. I certainly grew from that. Now it's gone and not even in the rearview mirror. I'm sure it will be on some highlight reels for years to come, but it's just a growing and learning experience."
Nor does Boyle want to hear anymore talk about the Sharks' past playoff failures. They were upset in the first round last year by eighth-seeded Anaheim and haven't gotten beyond the second round since advancing to the conference finals in 2004.
"The media likes to talk about past playoff failures, but this locker room doesn't talk about that," Boyle said. "We were just focusing on this series. It's nice to win it, but I see the big picture and there's a lot more work to do."
Said Sharks captain Rob Blake
: "We talked about it all year that this was a new team. The organization might have lost in the past, but this team hasn't. That was put behind us early and we moved on.
"It's one down and we have three more to go. We have a lot of things ahead of us. We're excited, but we have more work to do."