I settled down into my couch, laptop in front of me and turned on the TV. Excited? Not really. Nervous? Yeah, that fits more snugly. The puck dropped in SAP Center a little after 6 p.m. Pacific Time and I sat in my living room in Southern California absolutely dreading the next 60 minutes of playoff hockey.
San Jose burned us so many times in the past and the past two game sevens went against the Sharks. None of that impacted this particular game seven of course, but it provided the logs the nervous fire in my chest required to keep on roaring. Then something amazing happened: the Sharks dominated. I don't know if dominated actually covers it. San Jose played its best game of the season in a 5-0 dismantling of all that the Nashville Predators hold dear in front of a roaring, raucous (and yes, late arriving) San Jose crowd.
Every single one of the five goals the Sharks scored on Thursday brought the same emotion: defiant excitement. Hands raised, Wookiee noises blaring and fist pumps aplenty filled SAP Center in a game that felt like it gave us a lot more than a second round series victory. Don't let other fans critique your jubilation — games like this remind us why we fell in love with hockey in the first place.
We put up with pain, sometimes in seemingly endless quantities, for moments like this. This is why you read this website and this is why you threw down $200 for a big teal sweater you can only acceptably wear at a handful of locations. Logan Couture's beautiful saucer pass to Patrick Marleau followed by a roof job so pretty it should be featured on HGTV. All of the Sharks' heroes performed on the biggest stage of the postseason after a game where the stars fell short.
Couture led the team with four shots on goal, one of eight Sharks who put multiple shots on the Nashville net. His three points also stand as the game high, while Marleau and Joe Thornton each tallied a pair of points. Thornton and Marleau, the duo Tim Kawakami blocked us all for supporting, came up big in one of the biggest games in their careers. The two just about always do well in the playoffs and both long ago earned their spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame (shut up, yes they did) but it feels particularly good to see the pair shut the damn haters up so emphatically.
Only a Stanley Cup will truly silence those chirps from columnists, coworkers and rival fan bases, of course. The Sharks took care of win number eight on Thursday night and now head to St. Louis where they face off against the Blues in the Western Conference Finals. San Jose went 0-3 in its previous three conference finals, but after the game seven victory against the Predators put the Sharks within eight wins of Lord Stanley's Cup I won't begrudge fans the giddy feeling we all woke up with this morning.
After all, this feeling is why we keep coming back.