The nice thing about San Jose’s advancement into the Western Conference finals is that there are quite a few heroes responsible for the Sharks finally dumping their choke artists reputation. Here are five thank yous the Sharks need to express:
Thank You One: Coaching
First of all, you have to thank coach Todd McLellan, who has kept his team calm throughout the playoffs. I made fun of McLellan (and his players) for de-emphasizing the importance of winning post-season games, but it seems it was a smart coaching technique.
Thank You Two: Joe Thornton
Also helpful was Joe Thornton finally coming alive in the playoffs. I’ve always felt Thornton’s greatest curse was that he’s a low-key guy who takes everything in stride. It looked like this post-season, he was determined to show he could personally take his team to the next level. And against Detroit, he really did.
Thank You Three: Dany Heatley
The Sharks also need to thank Dany Heatley, who took a lot of pressure off of Thornton. Instead of Thornton being the guy, he was one of the guys, and I think that let him relax and focus on the game a bit more. Heatley has played very well in the playoffs, but his main contribution is being another high profile player to draw some of the spotlight off of Thornton.
Thank You Four: Secondary Scoring
Speaking of guys, the post-season emergence of Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi have made the Sharks very, very tough to defend. They throw a lot of offense at opposing defenses and it’s truly hard to know who’s going to be hot on any given night. If you focus on Pavelski, you have to worry about Patrick Marleau. If you focus on Thornton, Heatley will burn you.
Thank You Five: Dan Boyle
Finally, the Sharks need to thank Dan Boyle, whose freak goal seems to have solidified the Sharks resolve. That goal shook the Sharks out of their own heads, because, I would argue, it made them feel less responsible for their winning. Once they saw that crazy things are going to happen, and these crazy things are sometimes unavoidable, I think they were able to relax and focus on doing the best they could with whatever hand they were dealt. After the freak goal, the Sharks focused on playing well rather than winning and that subtle shift is what got them into the conference finals.