The Vancouver Canucks eliminated the San Jose Sharks in double overtime of game five tonight, securing their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 17 years. The Sharks are once again left with the thought of what could have been, the ghost of missed opportunities, the mirage of an oasis that is always just a stone's throw away. And when they get there, only the dry sands of the Sahara will quench their thirst.
It tastes like poison. But once that poison that has begun to coarse through your veins subsides, the promise of what could be will reign supreme. For some it takes days. For others, weeks. And for a select few, tonight will be the night that broke the camel's back. The pain and longing too much to take, horshoes and shuffleboard their new sport of choice.
Wherever you stand, we bid you adieu.
These are the most difficult stories to write throughout the course of a season for the sole fact that they are the most difficult games to watch. This year, it's different. In a subtle way, but in a meaningful one nonetheless.
Tonight the San Jose Sharks played their best game of this entire series, putting 56 shots on net without an answer for the ever-maligned and completely under-appreciated Roberto Luongo. Joe Thornton led the team in ice time, playing 32:15 with a separated shoulder sustained in game four, and all four lines poured it on the Canucks defensive zone. It was their best performance since game seven against Detroit, and definitely was one of their best front to back games in the entire postseason.
Where this series was lost was in game four. That was the game that got away, the one where the Sharks blew an opportunity to put themselves in a position to win. Instead, they put themselves in a position to be subject to a fluke bounce off the stanchion in the second overtime in Vancouver. The circle was complete. Or perhaps it was game five against Detroit, where an opportunity to end the series was ripped apart with a third period meltdown. But wherever that great unraveling began, whatever the origin of another failed season that came up just short, those trite and fatigued cliches that populate the sporting world were on full display in game five.
There was nothing left on the table tonight. They emptied the tank, yanked out their hearts, and played with a conviction that you didn't believe was possible.
San Jose didn't deserve the fate they got tonight. But life doesn't pay attention to such conventions, and sport, well sport most certainly does not.
Some will hoist a bag of sour grapes over their shoulder and march towards the inevitable talking points-- blown icing calls, missed high sticking penalties, 5 on 3's that came like the Grim Reaper, conspiracies and complaints-- but that bag of grapes is exactly that. Sour and insincere. A way to alleviate the pain by giving yourselves a new burden to carry, pain transformed into another form in order to make the end of an era acceptable. Equally painful, equally debilitating, but all of a sudden it is now of your own choosing. You hold on to that all summer because it makes your feelings easier to understand.
But at the end of the day, you're still holding on to something that can never be. You're still holding a bag of empty dreams no matter what you fill it with. And really, it doesn't matter where you decide to divide the blame, because you have brought it upon yourself. You are the one who has decided to care enough about a game that you have no control over, cared enough to let it dictate your moods and change your outlook on life.
Ultimately, the anger you have is anger for yourself. It's a little too philosophical, and it doesn't change anything, but it's something to keep in mind when the inevitable wave of soul-sucking psychopaths attempt to siphon every smile off of this site. You don't control what happens, but you control what happens next. That's an important lesson to learn, especially for a fanbase that supports a team which always finds a way to come up short.
This season was a failure. There is no denying that. The players, the coaching staff, the fanbase, the media, the organization, the management, the owners, they'll all tell you the same thing. This loss cuts like a well-sharpened knife, its edge brutal and unforgiving. You cannot escape it.
But this organization, despite all of its failures, has proven time and time again to be one of the most successful in the entire NHL. Second highest point total since 2003. Seven straight playoff appearances. Two straight Western Conference Finals appearances. The list goes on and on. Twenty nine other teams experience a painful death at the end of the season with only one reaching the summit at the end of the year. Those are incredible odds, even for a team with expectations like San Jose. And sometimes, it just takes a bounce, one measly little bounce, to push a team over the top.
It's easy to fall into the trap of self-loathing and misery at this time of year, but know that the players themselves are experiencing something that goes beyond whatever you are feeling from the comfort of your couch. It's an idea I say too much of course, but that's something that will never change.
I suspect we will see a big change this offseason. The roster won't be blown up, it makes no sense to do so, but cap space will be cleared in order for it to be filled again. And San Jose will once again head into the postseason with an excellent and competitive roster, one whose skill set and depth will give them another chance to win a Stanley Cup.
Congratulations to the Vancouver Canucks for advancing to the Stanley Cup Finals. Kudos to their passionate fanbase for being classy individuals deserving of a successful team. Thanks to my writing partners Matt Taylor, Ivan Makarov, and Ann Frazier for yet another excellent season here at Fear The Fin. And of course, a hearty pat on the back to the moderators who make it all happen, the unsung heroes behind the veil. We couldn't have done it without you.
But most importantly, thank you dear reader for being a part of this experience. Without this community we probably wouldn't get up in the morning, let alone write about the Sharks on a daily basis. No matter what anyone tells you, all of our success and passion is due to you. You are the reason we exist. And we can't thank you for that enough.
Get yourselves ready for a long offseason ladies and gentlemen. They're always rough, but they're always easier with you by our side.
Until we meet again...