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Why They Will Win

Sharks won't fall short this season

Brent Burns, experience from last season's run puts San Jose over top

by Lisa Dillman @reallisa / NHL.com Staff Writer

A year after losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games in the Stanley Cup Final, the San Jose Sharks will take the final step and win it all this time.

The veteran team, supplemented by the trade-deadline addition of versatile forward Jannik Hansen, knows how to navigate the ups and downs of the long playoff grind.

The top of their lineup possesses plenty of scoring punch. San Jose had four players with at least 25 goals: Forwards Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, and defenseman Brent Burns.

 

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Burns was in the Hart Trophy conversation and among the League scoring leaders for three-quarters of the season. And last year he had 24 points (7 goals, 17 assists) in 24 playoff games.

Couture, who was hit in the mouth by a deflected puck March 25 in Nashville and missed the final seven games of the regular season, led all players in the 2016 postseason with 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in 24 games.

On April 2, forward Joe Thornton, their all-world playmaker, sustained a knee injury but he said he would be ready for the start of the playoffs.

Key injuries can undermine the playoff aspirations of just about any team, but the Sharks have enough experience in the lineup to soldier through, even against challenging odds.

If Thornton and Couture miss any time, Pavelski and Marleau, who normally play the wing, easily can shift to center. Tomas Hertl, who returned Jan. 26 from a knee injury that kept him out for 32 games, also can move back and forth between center and left wing.

So there is versatility to the lineup that few teams can duplicate. 

Many of the elements that made them great last spring, among them the playoff-leading 14 goals from Pavelski and the strong play from the top defense pair of Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, remain in force this year too.

Video: EDM@SJS: Burns buries long-range shot through traffic

The playoffs frequently are described as a marathon and veteran coach Peter DeBoer will keep the focus on winning one round at a time, which would give Couture and Thornton time to heal and get their games back to playoff speed.

The Sharks won't mind going in as an underdog because that's what they were a year ago before embarking on their two-month push to the Final.

They defeated higher-seeded teams in the first round (Los Angeles Kings) and the third round (St. Louis Blues) and were pushed to Game 7 in the second round against the Nashville Predators, winning it on home ice at SAP Center in San Jose.

The Sharks will take a page out of last year's playbook, follow the script, only with a rewrite of the final pages.

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