Last week, we explained why the Stanley Cup playoffs this year are superior to the NBA Playoffs for a myriad of reasons.
Ater a dominating 5-1 performance over the Nashville Predators in Game 5 of the Western Conference semifinals, we are now convinced that the San Jose Sharks playoff games only add to that sentiment. Let me explain.
The seasoned Sharks center is better known for his grizzly playoff beard than his bark. Instead of throwing bows, he generally goes quietly about team business without getting too embroiled in on-ice disputes. Fans love him for his stoic nature and his steady hand, but they were treated to a rare glimpse of his temper when he exchanged words and stick taps with Predators defenseman Barret Jackman.
If Joe Thornton really whacked Barrett Jackman in the stones here, how does Jackman not react? https://t.co/sfPZ8dTfVC
— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) May 8, 2016
“He’s emotionally invested every time he puts his gear on,” said head coach Peter DeBoer. “That’s why he’s a big part of our team, a big part of our leadership.”
A fired-up Joe Thornton was one of the reasons the Sharks were able to outplay the Preds and take the 3-2 lead in the series.
Another reason the Sharks had the Predators back on their heels was the line change management head coach Peter DeBoer made in an effort to shake things up and keep Nashville from becoming too familiar with his team’s play. The decision to move Patrick Marleau from third-line center to second-line wing paid off, as the Sharks' longest-tenured player opened up scoring halfway through the first period with a goal off a backhand pass from Joonas Donskoi, who finished with two assists.
“I thought it was Patty’s best game of the series," said DeBoer post-game. “That line was excellent all night. Some changes work, and tonight that change worked.”
DeBoer also brought center Dainius Zubrus in on the fourth line in place of Tommy Wingels, giving the veteran Lithuanian his first playoff minutes of 2016. It was another smart move by the head coach, as Zubrus brought a physical element to the game, including six hits and one blocked shot.
Keen coaching is just another example of the Sharks keeping it real, doing it live or continuing to be lit — as the kids say — making them more fun to watch.
A very wise TSFJ writer told his colleagues prior to the puck drop Saturday night that Sharks center Logan Couture would be the difference maker in Game 5 against the Preds. Hats off to Dillon Friday, who didn’t just call the shot — he called the game.
Couture’s goal 35 seconds into the second period put the Sharks up 3-1, effectively setting the tone for the rest of the game. Couture finished with four shots on goal, but more than that, he has been the Sharks’ most generative and dependable player in this series against Nashville. He has scored four goals and tallied seven points and is currently tied for the team lead in overall playoff scoring with Brent Burns (and tied for second in the NHL) with 13 points.
Plus he does it for the Gram.
Couture with the smooth finish. #SmashNash #SJSharks
A video posted by San Jose Sharks (@sanjosesharks) on May 7, 2016 at 9:25pm PDT
Hockey playoff games are notoriously raucous and loud. This is not surprising given the passionate fan bases that surround the sport. And while SAP Center may not be the loudest of them all, it has become a special place for both fans and players of the Sharks franchise.
“The crowd was great tonight,” said Couture of Saturday’s fans.In fact, he described them as a major factor in keeping the team’s energy up, something the Sharks desperately needed after the heartbreaking triple-overtime loss in Game 4.
Turning up in teal can mean showing up to the Tank in your favorite turquoise jersey or waving your rally rag in the air like you just don’t care. But it always involves getting loud when the team needs it the most. The decibel meter doesn’t lie, and SAP moves the needle during playoffs.
In lieu of courtside celebrities, hockey revels in former players who come back to cheer on their teams. Case in point: It was rumored that the San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence would be the guy to open the San Jose locker room door Saturday night, but a 13-inning outing at AT&T Park left Pence stranded at home. Luckily Owen Nolan, a former Sharks captain, stepped in and performed the honors. He took his job one step further by tweeting out a challenge to the entire arena, which paid off as the sellout crowd of 17,562 stayed loud all night, playing a role in keeping the team’s energy up.
I keep hearing that Nashville has the loudest rink in the @nhl. I don't think so! @SAPCenter @SanJoseSharks Tank is by far. Bring the noise!
— Owen Nolan (@OwenNolan11) May 7, 2016
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