The end of the Sharks' home-and-home series with the Anaheim Ducks tonight also marks the end of their schedule for the calendar year of 2013, coming as it does on New Year's Eve. It's been a good year for the Sharks, or at least a better one than 2012, which featured the team scraping their way into the playoffs as a seventh seed, suffering their quickest playoff exit ever then sitting through three months of canceled NHL games courtesy the lockout. In contrast, 2013 had in store the team's first-ever sweep of a postseason opponent, an entertaining seven-game series against their biggest rival and the first half of a season that could be the club's most promising yet. Here's our look at the ten best moments that defined the year that was in Sharks hockey.
10) Sharks start the season with six straight wins...twice
I guess this one is sort of cheating since it refers to a collection of twelve separate moments but, whatever, I'm making the rules here. It isn't often a team begins two NHL seasons with six-game winning streaks in the same calendar year mostly because it isn't often a team begins two NHL seasons in the same calendar year. But the lockout gave the Sharks the opportunity and they seized it, becoming the first team in league history to start consecutive campaigns with winning streaks of six or greater as they began the lockout-shortened
2012-13 season with seven wins in a row before rattling off six straight to open 2013-14.
9) Sharks force a Game 7 in Los Angeles
This moment might rank higher if it weren't for the fact that the feeling of imminent doom was palpable almost immediately afterward, given the way the Sharks and Kings' second-round series had not been kind to the visiting team. And while the Sharks did indeed end up dropping a tightly-contested Game 7 in Southern California, successfully staving off death in Game 6 (with Harrison Ford in attendance, no less) was still an enjoyable moment.
8) Dan Boyle walks through the Minnesota Wild and scores
Rumors were swirling prior to the 2013 NHL trade deadline that Dan Boyle could be traded to either the Philadelphia Flyers or New York Rangers. 12PM came and went that day with Boyle mercifully still in teal but the veteran defenseman decided to go coast-to-coast anyway for one of the prettiest goals any Shark scored this year:
7) Doug Wilson deals away Douglas Murray, Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe
Speaking of the trade deadline, the deals Doug Wilson did make were perhaps unusual ones for a team that still considered itself a playoff contender but they were necessary, and terrific, ones all the same. Dealing away underperforming veterans Douglas Murray, Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe, all of whom were on expiring deals and big parts of the Sharks' struggles throughout the season, in exchange for draft picks allowed the Sharks to hit the refresh button while still remaining competitive. These were the holy grail of deadline deals: they allowed the team to build for the future while simultaneously improving in the present.
6) Logan Couture returns from injury, wins Game 3 against the Kings
Despite sustaining an injury midway through the second period of Game 3 of the Sharks' second-round series against Los Angeles, Logan Couture returned to the ice and helped ensure the team wouldn't go down three-games-to-none by scoring the overtime winner:
5) Raffi Torres gives the Sharks a 2-0 series lead on Vancouver
There are still understandably mixed feelings as to Raffi Torres' existence on the Sharks roster but those feelings were suspended like Torres following a borderline hit to an opponents' head when the longtime franchise nemesis converted a 2-on-1 in overtime of Game 2 against the Canucks to give San Jose a two-games-to-none lead in the series.
4) Brent Burns transforms from a defenseman into a forward
If San Jose was a major hockey media market, this might have been one of the biggest stories of the season league-wide. With the Sharks struggling to score at even-strength and defenseman Brent Burns returning from an injury that limited his effectiveness on the blueline earlier in the season, Todd McLellan made a bold move in converting his top-pairing, two-way defender back into the forward Burns was initially drafted into the NHL as. It paid off big time, changing the course of the Sharks' 2012-13 season and fueling their resurgence as a five-on-five offensive powerhouse in 2013-14.
3) The NHL lockout ends
It was almost a year ago at this point but the end of the NHL lockout was obviously a big one, considering the other nine moments on this list wouldn't have happened without it.
2) Tomas Hertl scores four goals in his third NHL game
Has there been a more fun regular season game in Sharks history than their 9-2 clobbering of the Rangers earlier this season? I would argue no and the biggest reason was rookie forward Tomas Hertl scoring four goals in just his third NHL game, capping off his night with one of the most beautiful goals in franchise history. It's almost depressing to think about now, given the uncertainty surrounding Hertl's injury status (thanks Dustin Brown!), but this game was something special even if the stakes weren't as high as some of the other moments on this list. There was also Joe Thornton's defense of Hertl's fourth goal from idiots, which almost deserves to be a separate moment here.
1) Patrick Marleau dusts off the first sweep in franchise history
I'm pretty sure this is all that needs to be said about this one:
It's been a fun year. Here's to an even better 2014. Share some of your favorite Sharks moments from the past year in the comments and stay safe tonight!
|25-8-6, 56 points
||28-8-5, 61 points|
|2nd in Pacific
||1st in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
James Sheppard - Bracken Kearns - Tyler Kennedy
Freddie Hamilton - Andrew Desjardins - Mike Brown
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart - Jason Demers
Projected Ducks Lineup
Dustin Penner - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey - Mathieu Perreault - Teemu Selanne
Andrew Cogliano - Saku Koivu - Daniel Winnik
Patrick Maroon - Nick Bonino - Jakob Silfverberg
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler - Ben Lovejoy
Bryan Allen - Sami Vatanen