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Dan's View From Center Ice - March 28, 2012

by Dan Rusanowsky / San Jose Sharks

One thing has never changed in twenty-one memorable seasons in San Jose Sharks history: there is absolutely nothing like the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Over the course of the Sharks’ timeline, there have been some remarkable games, incredible series, unforgettable moments, and extra excitement. With their qualification for Stanley Cup playoff action in 2011-12, Sharks Hockey will embarks on its 15th trip to the post-season party, and a chance to sip champagne from the most glorious trophy in professional sports.

Of course, as of this writing, the Sharks have a lot of work to do before planning the schedule for the Western Conference Quarterfinal Round. As of 9:00 AM on March 28th, they found themselves in first place in the Pacific Division, holding the third seed in the playoffs. However, what is true at 9:00 AM may not be true at 10:00 PM on the same day, because of the craziness in the playoff race.

Is this good or bad for the Sharks? Will the effort be so daunting to qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs that there will be no fuel left in the proverbial tank for the actual post-season games? Well, in the past, such a notion may have been true, but it is not as absolutely true this time around, for a variety of reasons.

First, this Sharks group is battle-tested and experienced with the post-season challenge. The core group has led the way to the Conference Final round in each of the last two seasons, so the grind is a familiar one to them.

Second, this team has, knock on wood, been relatively durable during the season. Yes, there have been some injuries, and those have served as mileage restrictors for a few players who will be very important pieces of the puzzle come springtime.

Third, the depth on the roster is rounding out quite well, after some adjustments to a changing group surrounding the core of the team. It all seems to be trending in the right direction at precisely the right time of the year.

Instead of expending all of their energy to claw their way back into the playoff hunt, the Sharks have not been really all that far behind the fray. This fact has served as a motivating factor and a challenge that the team has embraced. They’ve stayed energetic, have fought through the challenges, and have furthered their preparation for the ultimate test yet to come.

As of today, the Sharks are battling it out with Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Colorado, and Calgary for a playoff spot. That’s six teams fighting for three spots: the third seed to the Pacific Division winner, the seventh seed, and the eighth seed in the conference.

In the final days of the season, San Jose has the best opportunity to succeed. They have all six of their remaining games against the very teams they’re battling: two against Dallas, one against Phoenix, and two against Los Angeles. There is one additional game with Anaheim that victory can provide a bit of breathing room for the race at hand.

Let’s not belabor ourselves with the head-exploding exercise of considering every permutation of the remaining games. The Sharks are gelling at the right time, are reasonably healthy, and are trending in the right direction.

In this space, we’ve gone through former Sharks’ captain Bob Errey’s 16 points for playoff success, which were originally scratched on a napkin late in the 1993-94 season, after Jamie Baker’s two-goal performance in Los Angeles sealed a San Jose trip to the post-season party for the first time. The reason why Errey jotted down 16 points was because it takes 16 wins to capture the Stanley Cup. Since I’ve written on this topic in the past, here they are without additional comment for your review:
  1. It takes 16 Wins to Win the Stanley Cup.
  2. 4 Wins per series.
  3. Never dwell on the past (good, bad, win, lose).
  4. Never take anything for granted.
  5. One shift is as important as 20.
  6. Rest.
  7. Confidence.
  8. Momentum.
  9. Throw statistics out the window.
  10. Luck.
  11. Play bigger.
  12. Never Retaliate.
  13. Get pucks out, get pucks deep.
  14. You’re never out of a game (major penalty = 5 min. PP)
  15. Have fun.
  16. Heart is more important than skill.
In the leadership department, Joe Thornton is at the top of the NHL scoring list on the road as of this writing, which is one of the least talked-about notes of his season. He is playing excellent hockey, and he is showing some of the most important qualities needed at this time of year:
  1. Leadership.
  2. The skill to win.
  3. The will to win.
  4. Having a thick skin.
  5. Neutral zone play.
  6. Special teams.
  7. Goaltending.
  8. Take nothing for granted.
  9. Overcome.
  10. Have fun.
But ultimately, what will be needed to qualify, and succeed, at this tremendously challenging time of the season? Incredibly, the answer has been sitting in front of the players’ noses all season, provided in the form of a framed quote from Sir Winston Churchill inside each players’ locker stall at HP Pavilion:

“To every man, there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique and fitted to his talents. What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared and unqualified for the work that should be his finest hour.”

Yes, Todd McLellan knew the answer all along. The place is here, the time is now, and the San Jose Sharks are being tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing, unique and fitted to their talents. By the look of the process, all of the individuals in the locker room will be prepared and qualified for the work that all of San Jose hopes will be their finest hour.

It’s here. It’s now. It’s going to be a lot of fun to tell you all about it on the radio. See you there.

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