Whether or not the San Jose Sharks had a successful regular season is debatable (sure, they're in the playoffs, but were expected to be a much higher seed), but at least one thing is certain it was interesting. Below are five season-defining moments for the club, for better or for worse, as the playoffs loom.
Did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments section below.
Early (only?) road success The Sharks opened the regular season with a dominant 6-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion, in a game that wasnt as close as the score would indicate. Immediately after that, San Jose dropped three straight to the Ducks (twice) and Blues, with a long East Coast road swing on the horizon.
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It was there that the club put together its longest winning streak of the season of five games, including impressive wins in New Jersey, Boston, Nashville and Detroit. The trip culminated in a 5-2 loss to the Rangers, in which Sharks captain Joe Thornton called New York the softest team they faced on the trip, garnering some national media attention in the process.
The Havlat hop The season wasnt going particularly well for Sharks winger Marty Havlat. The winger missed all of training camp and the first four games of the regular season, and after an initial push, was fairly invisible for the next six weeks.
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On Dec. 17 against Edmonton, it got worse. The oft-injured scorer crumpled to the ice after what should have been a simple line change, missing the next 39 games with a partially torn hamstring. Havlat was much more effective upon his return in mid-March, recording 12 points in the final 13 games, and has been a strong playoff performer in the past. The Sharks will need him to be just that beginning on Thursday in St. Louis.
Wilder in Van They were among the two most entertaining games of the season. Its always notable when a team faces the club that ended its playoff run the previous year, and the Sharks got a chance to end 2011 and begin 2012 with a home-and-home against the Vancouver Canucks.
On Dec. 28, the Sharks fought back from a 2-0 deficit and lost in overtime to the Canucks, 3-2. At Rogers Arena on Jan. 2, the Canucks fought back this time with a goal midway through the third period, only to see San Jose win it in a shootout, 3-2. Even more than earning three of a possible four points, though, was the fact that the Sharks proved they could play inspired and determined hockey (and entertaining, to boot) against one of the best teams in the NHL.
REWIND: Box Scores -- 12.28: Van. 3, Sharks 2 1.2: Sharks 3, Van. 2
Travel issues Things were already trending downward when the Sharks left for a brutal nine-game, 15-day road trip in the middle of February. It promptly got much, much worse.
The club had lost five of nine games before dropping a 3-0 decision in St. Louis on Feb. 12 in the first game of the trip in what was a sign of things to come. San Jose continued on to lose to some of the worst teams in the NHL, such as Carolina, Columbus and Minnesota, while ineffective goaltender Antti Niemi was pulled in two of the final four games of the trip. A 1-0 win over Philadelphia in the first game back on Feb. 28 provided some temporary relief, but the Sharks promptly lost five more in a row after that. The season was slipping away.
Finishing strong The Sharks sat in ninth place out of playoff position headed into their final four games against rivals Dallas and Los Angeles. Furthermore, the club was coming off of two particularly disheartening losses in Anaheim and Phoenix in the two games leading up to a March 31 meeting with the Stars.
The Sharks prevailed in that one, though, 3-0, and followed it up with an equally important 5-2 victory in Dallas. Their playoff position was solidified just before an April 5 meeting with the Kings, in which they beat Los Angeles in a wild 6-5 shootout. The season ended on a high note when Dan Boyle scored in the third period and again in overtime to put San Jose in the seventh seed and allow them to avoid Vancouver for at least one round.