To say the Sharks' 2019 playoff run had its ups and downs is a bit of an understatement. Heck, they went through rollercoasters of emotions in single games. But after all the work to rally back against adversity, they still couldn't punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final.
That's what Sharks coach Peter DeBoer pinpointed as the thing that upset him the most. Not that the season was over and that changes to the team are on the horizon, but that the struggles his team went through to get where they were in the playoffs didn't get a different result.
"My disappointment isn't thinking about next year," DeBoer said when he addressed the media following San Jose's 5-1 loss to the Blues in Game 6. "Mine is in the group we have this year and the adversity we faced and the people we had and the work put in. And the number of times they were written for dead and buried and the number of times they kept getting off the mat and the things guys played through."
He isn't wrong. The Sharks had their backs against the wall multiple times in their 20-game postseason run and found ways to come out on the other side. They were on the brink of being eliminated after just four games in the first round before Martin Jones reinvented himself and became locked in for the rest of that series against the Golden Knights. San Jose's struggling power play was about to get them eliminated before it exploded for four goals in just over four minutes in Game 7 to propel the Sharks into the next round. They were getting outskated by a speedy Colorado Avalanche team before an amazing return to action from their injured captain helped push Team Teal into the Western Conference final.
In every situation, the Sharks were expected to flounder, yet they found a way to work out of it. The fact that effort won't receive a reward is what disheartens DeBoer the most.
"That's the disappointing part for me," DeBoer continued. "The stuff that you don't see should get rewarded and it should be. But, it's a harsh league and it's a hard trophy to win."
San Jose faced its toughest battle yet in Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues with Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson all out of the lineup with injuries. While San Jose's depth proved to be its bread and butter when the team is healthy, missing three top players -- and who knows how many others playing were also battling injuries -- was enough to hamper how the Sharks competed against St. Louis.
Logan Couture -- who puts a lot of responsibility on his shoulders when it comes to his team's success -- insisted the loss of big players shouldn't hinder the team's ability to win games. "You can't win in the NHL with one player," he said. "There are so many elite players in the league. It hurts when (one of) your top guys goes down, but other guys have to step up and fill that void. I thought we did a decent job, just not good enough."
With their season now moving into the review mirror, San Jose is set up to have an interesting offseason with several players entering free agency -- including Pavelski and Karlsson -- plus the uncertainty of whether Joe Thornton, who turns 40 in July, has played his last NHL season. Couture admitted this part of the job is a sad one and that the uncertainty of the future isn't fun, but that the team isn't thinking quite that far ahead just yet.
"You play with guys for eight months, every day," Couture explained. "You get a schedule, you come to the rink, you see the guys, go on the road. And then it comes to an abrupt end. You don't know what to do with yourself, and then changes are made. Some of the guys you may not see until you play them the next season. It's the worst part about playing in this league -- there are many positives, that's probably the biggest negative. We expect there's going to be change next year, (but) I think right now it's a little too early to think about it."