Shark Week: The 2nd Most Important Goal in Franchise History
Nothing went right for the Sharks on the ice over the first two years of the franchise's existence. San Jose lost more games than any other team in the league in both the 91-92 and 92-93 seasons, setting a league record for futility with 71 losses during the latter campaign. The team's laughable ineptitude was cushioned only by the fact that, hey, a terrible professional hockey team in the Bay Area is better than no professional hockey team in the Bay Area. Also it probably wouldn't have made a lot of sense for a winning team to call an arena named the Cow Palace home.
But when the Sharks moved to the San Jose Arena at the start of the 93-94 season, things started to change. Not immediately, of course, as the team didn't win a game that year until October 26th, their tenth contest of the year. They were able to recover, though, eventually winning eight of their final eleven games of the season and clinching the franchise's first-ever playoff berth, an eighth seed. They were slated to face the powerhouse Red Wings and were understandably not given a chance in the series but that was fine--they were legitimately happy to be there and not setting another ignonimous NHL record.
What ended up happening is a story every Sharks fan is familiar with regardless of whether they were there to see it unfold. San Jose and Detroit split the first four games of the series before San Jose took a 3-2 series lead at home in Game 5. The series shifted back to Joe Louis Arena for Games 6 and 7. Detroit trampled the Sharks 7-1 to stay alive and the smart money remained on the Wings to close the fledgling Sharks out in seven. With the score tied 2-2 in the third period, forever overrated and mediocre goaltender Chris Osgood decided to leave his crease for an adventure and the rest is history:
It's impossible to overstate the importance of that goal, and Jamie Baker's place in Sharks lore as a result of it. The Sharks' triumph over Detroit, one the franchise wouldn't be able to repeat in the playoffs for another 16 years, was the first definitive argument that they deserved to be taken seriously as an NHL team and remains one of the greatest upsets in league history. At the same time, it's important to keep in mind that, as much as everyone loves a good underdog story, the Sharks have been a vastly better team since the 2005 lockout than they were those first few years and there have been plenty of memorable moments approaching the significance of the Baker goal. But, for whatever combination of reasons, none of them seem to stick in anyone's memory or represent a franchise-defining moment quite like this one.