As I mentioned in a previous post, this post season in the National Hockey League was set up to be the best for the San Jose Sharks. As the top seed in the Western Conference, and a crazy home ice advantage, the Sharks were blessed with an alignment of the stars only the Hockey Gods could give in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Awaiting the Sharks in the Stanley Cup Final would be the either of the two lowest seeds in the Eastern Conference.
All the San Jose Sharks would have to do is get past the only real challenge in this post season. The Chicago Blackhawks, who were no push over as the Second Seed.
All I can say Sharks fan is that the Blackhawks were ready for the Western Conference Final this season. They laid the groundwork last offseason that set them up to do one thing: Hunt the Sharks!
The Blackhawks have a super talented team, almost as loaded as the Sharks. However, the management did not want to take any chances this season, and went in search of free agent players who would help in the event they met up with the Sharks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They found three players who together formed the Line that would ultimately prove to be the end of the San Jose Sharks.
Quint is a grizzled veteran who was languishing in the European Leagues for the past seven years. Despite several invites to training camps here in the States, no NHL team had offered him a contract. Chicago brought him in just prior to the drop of the puck this season and were quite impressed. Once Quint was told about the team’s vision of his role, he wanted to make sure his contract reflected this vision.
“I remember saying I would skate on the ice against the Sharks for $5000, but I would beat them for $10000.” recalls Quint during the pre-game skate around prior to game 3 against the Sharks. General Manager Larry Vaughn wasted little time in cutting the check.
Quint wasted no time deflecting credit for the teams’ success.
“I must say that our play against San Jose would be nothing like it is if it was not for Hooper!”
“Hey Quint, Come on Quint! I helped a little too”, pipes up Martin Brody, or Chief to his teammates.
“Yes, you were a big help, but Hooper drives the boat Chief.” Quint replies while sending a puck up ice.
Matt Hooper was all set to retire from hockey. He was cut from the Atlanta Thrashers two seasons ago, and spent the next year trying to catch on in the independent leagues. However, just he was about to return to Canada, Vaughn called him to see if he wanted to come and skate for Chicago. Hooper made the most of the chance, and was added to the roster a week after the season started. He spent most of the season studying the Sharks. His teammates have fondly named him “The Oceanographer”, and his play against San Jose has been just terrific. He has set the table for many of Quint’s “Barrel” shots on goal.
“Quint says they can’t stay down (sticks on the ice) with Three Barrels on them.” says Hooper trying to explain Quint’s term for his style of play.
“Chief” Martin Brody was stuck in the dog house at his last stop in the NHL. He left Calgary with a chip on his shoulder, and hungry for that elusive shot at a Stanley Cup. Brody would be the one to fire the kill shot that sent the San Jose Sharks from the post season.
“I really thought the tide was with us on this day” quipped Brody as he faced reporters after game four’s series clinching win.
Quint offered up his own theory for Brody’s success…
“Well, Chiefy did not forget his rubbers.”
Quint, Hooper, and Brody have been the difference in this series.
The San Jose Sharks blew a true golden opportunity. Next season will have an up and coming Phoenix Coyotes team, a refreshed Detroit Red Wings squad, and the defending Western Conference Champion Chicago Blackhawks. It may never get this good again for the Sharks for a long time.
Meanwhile, congratulations to the Blackhawks for returning to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1992. (they lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins)
The last time the Chicago Blackhawks won a Stanley Cup was back in 1961. I believe that was the same year a modest proposal came before the city of Eureka to convert an old railroad yard lovingly referred to as The Balloon Track into something called the Marina Center.