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The Air is Different in San Jose
Sharks turning in 60 minute efforts
5/3/10 - By David Towers -

It started in Game 3 of the first round series against Colorado. It was as if we were looking at a different group of guys who were somehow swapped for our regular San Jose Sharks. It seemed like a magic trick to some of us however it was not an illusion, the San Jose Sharks are actually playing ‘playoff hockey’. This is where I will lose most of you. “What the heck does this guy mean?

Of course they are playing playoff hockey, they are in the playoffs!!! Hello!!!” That is very true but the hockey that the fans of San Jose have been watching during the playoffs since 2005-06, (unpleasantly defined as the Joe Thornton era) has been anything but playoff hockey. The past several seasons have actually given the San Jose Sharks the most incredible roller coaster ride as fans.

The Sharks coaster would take us very high and speeding very fast through various curves and turns. That same ride however took us quickly off the coaster track and giving us a feeling as though we have flown off the coaster completely. It was consistently up and down for Sharks fans since 2005. One game we would see the teams immense talent playing their hearts out and the next game would see the team’s talent completely vacate the building.

There was no consistency except for the fact they were inconsistent. This created a very uneasy feeling in the pit of Sharks fans stomachs whenever the playoffs would roll around. A distinct certainty and expected gloomy outlook that was defined by waiting for the other shoe to drop at any given moment.

Most often it dropped directly on our heads with a thud that gave us migraines. This time around it’s been different. The Sharks team is now playing a game that correctly ignores the future. Every second of the game they are playing in at the moment, is getting the team’s full attention. No longer do they get comfortable when they have a lead and stop using the strategy that gave them the lead in the first place.

Something that has had devastating results for the team. The 2nd round, ’05-’06 against the Oilers, losing the series after being up by 2 games & the 2nd round in ’06-’07 against the Red Wings, less than a minute away from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead it all starts to fall apart and the Sharks lost the remaining 3 games. Even beyond the realm of believing that they had the game in hand, the past 2 playoff seasons had their own level of annoyance attached to them.

Finishing with the league’s best record or being in the top 3 had instilled it’s own level of expectation that the Sharks path to glory would somehow be easy. The Sharks had plain and simple either expected that the team they were playing against would not show up, or they thought that the level of effort they needed to bring to the game was minimal because of their incredible talent. It has bit them in the rear for the past 4 playoff runs. This playoff season we are seeing a different team and it is creating a new environment for Sharks fans in San Jose.

Each game is getting a full 60-minute effort. Each shift has potential for something to happen. Each player is assuming their role of responsibility and doing everything they can to fulfill it. The casual fan needs to understand that although this is something they naturally expect from their team in the playoffs, Sharks fans have not been exposed to this type of playoff hockey for the last 4 years. We are happy to be getting reacquainted with it.

The most important thing for Sharks fans of the Joe Thornton era is not that the team achieves the ultimate prize, although obviously none of us would come even close to complaining about it should it happen. Rather what’s most important for us right now is that our team gives it their all in the game we love. Losing when your team has given up is 100 times worse than losing when your team gave it their all.

No matter what the outcome of the game may be, Sharks fans want to hold their heads high knowing that their hockey players were doing their best for the entire game. Whatever problems the Sharks currently have, with their defensive issues and minimal scoring from it’s big guns, Sharks fans are absolutely ecstatic to be watching their team play a full 60 minutes and not assume for even a second, that the outcome of the game is known. They are playing till the final buzzer.

This is something new and believe it or not, the Sharks are right now, finally learning what it means to play, playoff hockey. No longer are they relying and waiting for a team leader to come through. They are learning the team game that is needed for playoff hockey. This Sharks fan thinks that these students will have a very high & fast learning curve.

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