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Why the Sharks will win: From failure, success

by Dave Lozo
If the foundation for Stanley Cup championships are built on playoff failures, then the San Jose Sharks are poised to bring home the franchise's first title this season.

It's tough not to associate postseason heartbreak with the Sharks. After winning the Presidents' Trophy last season, they were ousted by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round. Two years ago, the second-seeded Sharks needed seven games to beat the feisty Calgary Flames in the first round, but then fell to the fifth-seeded Stars in Round 2.

Entering this season's playoffs as a top seed yet again, the Sharks should be ready to face the challenges that have vexed them in the past.

One big difference is Dany Heatley, whom the Sharks acquired from the Ottawa Senators just before the start of the season. He's been nothing short of sensational, posting 39 goals and 43 assists while playing alongside Joe Thornton, one of the game's premiere playmakers.

Scoring won't be a problem for the Sharks, who had the third-most prolific offense in the West in terms of goals scored. Patrick Marleau has looked like a new man since he losing the captain's "C" before the season. His 44 goals lead the team and rank him fourth in the League. U.S. Olympian Joe Pavelski is also among a fantastic supporting cast for the Sharks.

Between the pipes, the Sharks have Evgeni Nabokov, who is having one of his better seasons at the age of 34. His goals-against average is a steady 2.43, but his save percentage of .922 is the second-best of his career, showing he's stopping pucks better than ever.

And when it comes to Stanley Cup experience, the Sharks have it along the blue line. Rob Blake, 40, has been to a Cup Final twice, winning with Colorado in 2001. Niclas Wallin, who was acquired at the trade deadline from Carolina, was part of the Hurricanes' championship in 2006. Kent Huskins was a member of the Anaheim Ducks' Cup-winning team in 2007. And Dan Boyle (15-43-58), one of the highest scoring defensemen in the League, helped Tampa Bay win the title in 2004.

Blake and Boyle are in their second season with the Sharks, but Huskins and Wallin are new and could be the difference between an early exit and drinking from the Cup.

At some point, the talent level of this team has to make a difference. The only question is whether the Sharks have learned their lessons from the past two seasons. If they have, there's nothing that can stop them from bringing home the franchise's first Stanley Cup.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter at: @DLozoNHL

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