Playoff Series Vs. Nashville Is Underway
It seems like only weeks ago that the Sharks were wrapping up training camp and ready to start the 2006-07 season.
But now, the Sharks find themselves back in Nashville once again, battling in a first round series against the Predators, just as they did one year ago. And if Game One is a sign of things to come, then hold on to your hats.
But what a year it has been leading up to this point.
The Sharks started off the 2006-07 season on the prowl. It was only October, but the boys in teal were hungry for a Stanley Cup Championship. And as the playoffs are underway, they can taste it now more than ever.
Knighted as Stanley Cup contenders from the beginning, the Sharks went on a tear to start off the season, going 6-1-0 in their first seven games, the best start ever in franchise history. Of course, with the reigning Art Ross, Hart and Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winners, Joe Thornton
and Jonathan Cheechoo, should one have expected less?
Thornton, who played in his 100th game as a Shark on Jan. 6, skated in all 82 games, despite battling a variety of early season injuries, and became only the third player in NHL history to have consecutive 90-assist seasons (Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux). He finished the season strong, scoring 114 points (22-92=114), good for second in the NHL.
Cheechoo, who began the season with somewhat of a rocky start, got rolling towards the second half of the season and looked reminiscent of the “Rocket” Richard winner we had seen last season. The Moose Factory native registered his 200th career point with an assist on Matt Carle’s game-tying goal on Feb. 21 at Washington. “Cheech” also led the team in goals, finishing with 37, including a natural hat trick on Oct. 12 at Edmonton – one of three hat tricks he recorded on the season.
Not far behind Cheechoo with 32 goals was Captain Patrick Marleau
, who finished second on the team with 78 points. Marleau also had his name scripted in Sharks history, as he went on to break four franchise records. On Dec. 12, Marleau skated in his 672nd game, passing former Shark Mike Rathje on the all-time games played list. Marleau then went on to start the New Year off right. On Dec. 31, Marleau passed former Sharks Captain Owen Nolan as the all-time assist leader in franchise history. Within the next two weeks, he also passed Nolan for the franchise record in points and goals. The following month, Marleau became the eighth youngest skater to play in his 700th career game.
While the star forwards were putting up points and breaking down records, the two goalies behind them were keeping the back of the net empty.
Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala showed critics that a rotating goalie system can work. While Nabokov was busy shutting out other teams (including the New Jersey Devils, whom the Sharks had not shutout in 23 lifetime meetings), Toskala was extending his franchise record longest winning streak to 12 games. Both goalies finished strong with Nabokov (25-16-4) posting a 2.29 GAA and a .914 save percentage and Toskala (26-10-1) holding a 2.35 GAA and a .908 save percentage.
Follwing the trade deadline acquisitions of Bill Guerin and Craig Rivet, the Sharks finished the regular season with a 13-2-3 record.
But all of this has led us back to square one, which resides in Nashville, Tennessee.
This is Sharks Playoff Territory!