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Time to turn the tables
Young Sharks can take a page from their own history
5/2/04 - by Mike Lee

As frustrating as the last two games have been for Sharks fans, there's a good chance things will get crazy in San Jose over the next few days. This is actually an easy prediction. Just when you think you know this team, they do exactly the opposite. Nobody game them a snowballs chance in Hades to even crack the Pacific Division cellar this season, so they go out and win the division. The pundits figured they would be an easy target for a first round upset in the playoffs, so they polish off the St Louis Blues in five games. Colorado was supposed to steam roll San Jose in round 2, so the Sharks win the first three games.

So what happens next? A week ago, San Jose was on the verge of a sweep of the mighty Colorado Avalanche, but that turned out to be just another incorrect call. The Sharks have two chances to finish off the Avalanche, and by all accounts, the Sharks won't do it. The pundits believe that the Sharks have sealed their own coffin and will become only the third team in NHL history to cough up a 3-0 lead in the playoffs.

Consider that every one of these predictions has been wrong so far. Or maybe it's just that the Sharks choose to take the contrarian's approach.

In any case, if the Sharks do happen to win one of the next two games, it's only going to happen if they take a page out of their short history. In fact, all they need to do is reach back to October 28th of last year. That was the day they were pounded by the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0. You may recall that the team called a players-only meeting after the contest to air out the things that stank in their play.

Six months later, they were the third best team in the NHL.

The meeting, as it's been told by some that attended, was the day many of the Sharks grew up. Or as Sharks GM Doug Wilson likes to say, it was the day the training wheels came off.

That meeting placed the spotlight clearly on younger players such as Patrick Marleau, Marco Sturm, Jonathan Cheechoo, Nils Ekman and Alyn McCauley. These were the players Sharks management brought to San Jose to build a franchise around, and it was time for them to step up.

Marleau in particular was a second overall draft pick who many felt had all the talent to lead the Sharks, but he was always sheltered by veteran players. Marleau led by example after that meeting in October, and subsequently led the Sharks to their second division crown in team history.

Fast forward seven months later and you have a situation that is remarkably similar. Turmoil abounds, but a unified approach could cure their ills if they simply band together as they did in Carolina. This time, they won't be able to sneak up on the league, because all the hockey world is watching.

If they are really ready for the training wheels to come off, the young Sharks have the opportunity to shock everyone all over again. But this time, the rewards are bigger. Perhaps a victory now will make those who have predicted the worst, think twice about what the Sharks are capable of and how the outcomes will play out.

Hopefully San Jose will turn the tables on the pundits once in the next two games.

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