VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Fairly or not, Vancouver and San Jose face off in the Western Conference finals as perennial playoff underachievers. Fairly or not, it's a label only one team - and several star players - will shed with a long awaited chance to play for the Stanley Cup.
With trophy cases full of awards as the NHL's top team, scorers and players in the regular season, the Sharks and Canucks are mirror images of each other.
The Sharks have come closer of late, getting to the Western Conference finals a second straight season, but are still looking for their first trip to the Cup finals. Vancouver has played for the Stanley Cup twice in 40 years, but Game 1 on Sunday will be its first trip to the NHL's final four since 1994.
Both teams flirted with ghosts of playoffs past by almost blowing 3-0 series leads - Vancouver to nemesis Chicago in the first round, and San Jose to Detroit in the last round - before recovering to win pressure-packed Game 7s. But both sides also know that isn't enough to shed a reputation for tight collars in the postseason; that only one trophy - the Stanley Cup - will end that talk.