Sharks

Things get weird when the Sharks play the Sabres

pavelski-joe-teal-shot-sabres.jpg
AP

Things get weird when the Sharks play the Sabres

The San Jose Sharks didn’t win their first game against the Buffalo Sabres until their fifth try.

That set the tone for a matchup that’s been entirely one-sided since, in favor of the Sabres. It doesn’t matter if they line up against Pat LaFontaine or Jack Eichel, if the Sabres are wearing blue and gold, red and black, or blue and gold again: San Jose has not been able to beat Buffalo consistently.

It’s been the perfect storm, really. Take a small sample size (37 matchups over 25 seasons), throw in the league’s parity, and the sport’s inherent randomness and you get one logic-defying stretch over a quarter-century. 

With that in mind, here are some facts that best epitomize just how much the Sharks have struggled against the Sabres. 

The Sharks have given up four or more goals 20 times 

No team has scored more goals per game against the Sharks than the Sabres (3.79). In 20 of those 37 games, Buffalo has scored four or more goals. It’s hard to win when you give up four goals every other time you play a team. 

And get this: every permanent coach in Sharks history has coached a game in which Buffalo’s scored five or more goals. Even one-year wonders Jim Wiley and Al Sims! It’s essentially a rite of passage at this point.

The Sharks have a losing record when they outshoot the Sabres

Your eyes do not deceive you: San Jose’s outshot Buffalo 18 times, and only won four times. Shots aren’t the end-all, be-all, and there were no doubt games in which Buffalo dominated and the Sharks outshot them after failing to mount a comeback.

But only four wins over that stretch? Meanwhile, the Sabres have had no problem beating the Sharks when they get the edge in shots, winning 10 out of 16 times. 

Are we completely sure there isn’t a curse at play? 

The Sharks have never won consecutive games against the Sabres

This is the granddaddy of them all. The Sharks have simply never pulled off a winning streak against Buffalo.. Last season was the first time they’ve picked up points in consecutive games, losing the first in overtime and winning the second in regulation.

The Sharks have managed to win consecutive games against all but one franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas also didn’t play a game until last week and didn’t exist as a franchise a year-and-a-half ago. 

The Sharks have winning streaks against the old Jets and the new Jets. They have winning streaks against the Coyotes, who were the old Jets, and the Thrashers, who are the new Jets. How absurd is that? 

That can all change tonight at SAP Center, since the Sharks won the last match-up in March. If the history of this series has showed us one thing, though, it’s to expect things to get weird. 

What winning the Stanley Cup means to Capitals fans

capsfansus.jpg
USATSI

What winning the Stanley Cup means to Capitals fans

It’s been 26 years since Washington last celebrated a championship.

Twenty-six long years.

Washington has four major sports teams yet none has won a championship since January 26, 1992 when the Redskins won Super Bowl XXVI. That’s an entire generation of fans that have never known a championship, that have never gotten to experience what we got to experience on Thursday.

I’m in that generation.

I fell in love with sports when I was three years old. My parents took me to a Capitals-Winnipeg Jets (the old Jets) game at the Capital Centre in Landover. I remember the chill in the air, the crack of the puck of the sticks and, most of all, the celebration whenever the Caps would score. It was incredible. I’ve been hooked ever since.

Back then, I didn’t know about playoffs and championships. The Caps played a game, they won or lost, you were happy or sad, and you moved on. When the Redskins won the Super Bowl, I knew there was a game being played, but I didn’t know what it meant. I spent most of the game playing with other kids while our parents watched. I didn’t know that was the football team I would grow up cheering for and I certainly didn’t know that would be the only experience I would have with a championship team.

Until now, that is.

Since that last Super Bowl, Washington fans have had to endure bad seasons, coaching changes, management changes, and heartbreak with the Caps, Redskins, Nationals and Wizards.

Through it all, you always heard the phrase “Same old Caps,” but it didn’t feel that way to me. Each year was different. Each year carried a new team with new hopes and potential. When each season seemed to end prematurely, it wasn’t just the same old Caps, it was a new heartbreak each and every time.

Have you ever tried to explain your fandom and emotions to someone who doesn’t like sports? It has to be one of the most infuriating feelings in the world.

“Why are you so upset? It’s just a game.”

“It doesn’t really matter.”

“There’s always next year.”

No, stop. You don’t get it.

READ MORE AT NBCSportsWashington

Capitals, Alex Ovechkin finally win first Stanley Cup Final

caps.jpg
USATSI

Capitals, Alex Ovechkin finally win first Stanley Cup Final

BOX SCORE

LAS VEGAS -- After 43 seasons, the Washington Capitals are finally sitting on top of hockey.

Lars Eller broke a tie with 7:37 to play, and the Capitals raised the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history after a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 on Thursday night.

Devante Smith-Pelly tied it with a full-stretch goal midway through the final period of the Capitals' fourth consecutive victory over the Golden Knights, whose incredible expansion season finally ended in the desert.

So did the Capitals' agonizing wait for their first championship since the franchise's debut in 1974. After so many years of postseason flops and crushing disappointment, these Capitals won their fourth consecutive closeout game with a tenacious third-period comeback.

Captain Alex Ovechkin, who scored an early power-play goal and was the playoff MVP, and his teammates are Washington's first championship hockey team - and the city's first champion in a major pro sport since the Redskins won the Super Bowl in early 1992.

After Vegas won the opener, the Capitals capped their four-game surge by rallying from a third-period deficit in Game 5, banishing so many years of playoff failure with big goals and tenacious play across their lineup.

Ovechkin scored his franchise-record 15th goal of the postseason in a cathartic victory for the Capitals, who had never been this close to the NHL's ultimate prize.

Braden Holtby made 28 saves in Game 5, outplaying three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury in the other net one final time.

The Caps couldn't win a title without a little weirdness, however: The game clock stopped working on the T-Mobile Arena scoreboards during the final minutes, and the Capitals angrily protested while they played on. Vegas never got close to a tying goal.

Reilly Smith scored a go-ahead goal late in the second period for the Golden Knights, who won seven of their first eight home playoff games before dropping the last two.

Nate Schmidt and David Perron also scored in the second period, but Fleury's 29 saves included a stopped puck that dropped underneath him where Eller swept it home for the Cup-winning goal.

Washington's Cup-clinching win was its 10th on the road in this postseason, tying the NHL playoff record and illustrating the superior toughness of this team. While past editions of the Caps created their team's reputation for postseason flops in part by losing five playoff series in which they had three of the first four games, Ovechkin's latest group promptly closed out all four of its series this year on the very first try.

And the remarkable Golden Knights hadn't lost four consecutive games in their entire inaugural season before the Caps rolled them.

The Capitals had thousands of red-clad fans in the Vegas crowd and a building full of supporters watching back home along with countless thousands outside in the crowded D.C. streets.