SAN JOSE -- Now that the San Jose Sharks have reached the Stanley Cup Final for the first time, they can't wait to get back and write a better ending.
One day after their season ended with a 3-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 at SAP Center, the Sharks were still reeling from coming up short of winning the Stanley Cup. But they're also optimistic after making such a deep run.
"We were planning on getting on a flight to Pittsburgh," Sharks center Joe Thornton said on Monday. "We have such a good group. You just don't want this thing to end. We really thought we could get this thing to Game 7 and you never know what could happen. It's just a weird feeling that all of a sudden you're done with hockey. It just comes to an end. You're just disappointed that way.
"You know how much fun we had as a group. We just realized what kind of special group and special guys we had in this locker room. We just enjoyed the ride and the fans were a big part of that. We fed off their energy. You could feel this was a special year and it could have been even more special. It's going to sting for a little bit, but we'll be back."
Defenseman Brent Burns savored the long postseason run the Sharks went on and is hungry for another chance to win the Cup. Burns had seven goals and 17 assists in 24 playoff games.
"It's disappointing when you lose but this has just been a great journey," Burns said. "You earn the right to play for two months after the season, and it's just a special experience to be a part of that. Obviously you want to win. That's what we play for. You don't dream of losing when you're 3-years-old. You want to win. To earn a spot, to fight for that. There's 28 teams that would kill for it. It's hard to get there.
"We talk about it's hard to make the playoffs in this League, and it is. Every night is a battle. Then that first round is always hard, second round, third round. You get to that fourth round, and it's a pretty special group to be a part of. Just the way this team was together. Every day was fun. We enjoyed the work, we enjoyed being at the rink. Just a special year."
Most of the Sharks' core players are under contract for next season, and there's a large group of recent high draft picks pushing to earn a roster spot. Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said his team is well positioned to make another run at the Cup.
"There's lots of competition, lots of young players within our organization," Wilson said. "We expect, we all expect of ourselves to be a top team in this League. We got back to that level and we expect to stay there."
Wilson made one thing clear: coach Peter DeBoer and assistant coaches Bob Boughner, Steve Spott and Johan Hedberg will all be back next season.
"That's as good a job as I've ever seen coaches do, right across the board," Wilson said. "That's the thing about Pete, is he delegates. He built an outstanding staff. So yes, they'll be back."
In his first season with the Sharks, DeBoer led them to the Final. He's eager for another trip.
"You get that close, you want to get back there again," DeBoer said. "That's the taste that gets left in your mouth. That's the goal. Short summer, World Cup, fatigue, those kind of things we're going to have to manage.
"Then you you've got to start the marathon again in October, and it's never an easy hill to climb. The fact the guys got a taste of it this year I think will be helpful."
by Eric Gilmore / NHL.com Correspondent