In previous seasons a physical game with the San Jose Sharks would go something like this:
Sharks: Hey guy, that was dirty hit. That was really mean of you.
Opposing Player: Get over it man, we’re playing hockey. Oh is that your captain? I’m going to hit him in the back.
Sharks: You know what I think I should stand up for myself. I’m going to—oh looks like we already lost the game. Next time, I guess. Say, is Jeremy Roenick still playing?
And that’s how it has been for the last nine years. Every year, the Sharks would march in to the season with a ridiculously talented roster and then lose in the playoffs to a scrappy underdog whose only real accomplishment was leading the league in courage. This year, however, the Sharks are coming out with an edge and mowing down each opponent like it’s Chuck Norris versus the Teletubbies.
Take the Canucks tonight. Cheap shots galore. Early lead by the Sharks cut down to one on a bad luck deflection. Canucks pressing and causing a lot of turnovers in the Sharks’ zone. This would be where you expect the Sharks to begin to unravel.
But then Ryan Clowe sets the tone by wreaking havoc and racking up more penalty minutes in one game than what Lady Byng finalist Patrick Marleau usually gets in an entire season (35 on the night!). Big man Douglas Murray takes on Aaron Volpatti for his cheap shots on Matt Irwin and Logan Couture. Desjardins finishes off fight night at the HP Pavillion by fighting Bieksa for the cheap shot on Scott Gomez.
Oh and Marleau nearly sets an NHL record for most consecutive multigoal games to start a year.
Put on the league’s hottest line with Joe Thornton (scored once today) and Joe Pavelski (scored twice today), Marleau looks like a man on a mission. Forget the talk about the core of the Sharks being over the hill; the league leaders in scoring looks like a trailer for Jaws.
Overall, the whole Sharks team had a solid game offensively and defensively, looking great while killing off all of the Canucks’ numerous power play opportunities. And the end result was a satisfying 4-1 win over last year’s President’s Cup Trophy winners.
It is obviously far too early to take too much from any game, but Sharks fans have to be excited about what they are seeing on the ice. This Sharks team has, early on, fought hard and looked every bit as sharp as people believed that they could be. That alone is more than enough reason to celebrate. With any luck, the Sharks could become the true contender people have been waiting for.