April 23, 2019, will go down as a prominent chapter in Sharks history.
What happened at SAP Center on Tuesday night during the Sharks' 5-4 overtime win in Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights might have been the franchise’s greatest win in their three decades of existence. There’s really only one other kind of victory which would top it at this point … but let’s leave that for the road ahead.
Here are five observations from San Jose's monumental comeback:
Talking about the infamous “reverse sweep” brings bad recent playoff memories for Sharks fans. And while this wasn’t the full extent of that, coming back from a 3-1 series hole and a 3-0 deficit in Game 7 felt equally monumental.
Individually in the series, Martin Jones went from a “goat” after Game 4, to literally the “G.O.A.T.” by Game 6. Kevin Labanc revealed earlier this season that coaches had motivated him by specifically questioning their trust in him for a then-hypothetical Game 7 versus Vegas. All he did was score or assist on all four goals in the third period.
And lastly, Barclay Goodrow was benched most of the third period in Game 7. But with tired legs on both sides, Pete DeBoer gave him another shot, and a fresh Goodrow made all the difference by netting the overtime winner.
#WinForJumbo, and #WinForPavs
The sight of a concerned Joe Thornton holding a bloodied towel to the back of Joe Pavelski’s head should be enough to rattle anyone with a pulse. If Pavelski couldn’t see what was unfolding during his absence, there’s no doubt the captain (below the lower deck) could hear how his injury became the rallying point as the SAP Center erupted four times in four minutes.
The gruesome scene, and the five-minute power play it offered were a huge opportunity for San Jose, which was quickly noted by the Thornton. According to multiple teammate accounts, Thornton became very vocal and motivational on the bench.
First off, the cross-checking major resulted in an unprecedented four straight power-play goals, which was probably more detrimental to Vegas than the call itself.
But for your consideration of officiating, I present Brent Burns' disallowed goal in Game 2 which would have given San Jose a 4-3 lead and tremendous momentum. Also, Joe Thornton was suspended for Game 4 after his hit on Tomas Nosek … not debating the play or call, only the extreme lack of consistency in the NHL’s levels of discipline this season. Also, consider Game 6 when Goodrow was in the penalty box for a less-than-obvious double overtime slashing call when Tomas Hertl netted the game-winner shorthanded. And there were other questionable calls in Game 7. Was Eakin’s goal a high touch?
I’ll rest my case in saying that questionable calls went both ways in this series, and can’t be used as an excuse by either side.
Timo, Tomas and Clutch-ure
Two of the four comeback goals Sunday night were scored by Logan Couture. I’ve had the privilege of watching and covering almost every NHL game he’s played in during the last ten seasons, and it must be said: he’s one of the biggest heartbeats of this team. When they’re struggling, he’s accountable. When they’re surging, he’s usually involved. I also want to single out Tomas Hertl and Timo Meier as being absolute beasts in Game 7, and the series as a whole. Hard to say any kind of “window” is closing in San Jose with these three continuing to emerge.
Nice road ahead
This is not to suggest or predict or imply anything, just an observation: the playoff brackets stack up well for whoever was going to advance in this series. Calgary, Winnipeg, Nashville — they’re all out in the West. Toronto, Tampa, Pittsburgh — they’re all out in the East. Sure, the teams that upset their counterparts have to be taken seriously, but it’s not the heavy-hitting survivors that most expected.
In addition for San Jose — yes, there may be some mental and physical fatigue to guard against starting Friday night against Colorado. But what they’ve already gained in facing elimination three times, and galvanizing as a group, you’d think would have to pay off greater dividends in time.