The NHL Experts blog is a collaboration of voices from around and inside the game of hockey. With viewpoints ranging from the press box to the front office, the Experts blog will offer unique perspectives through the playoffs to keep readers informed of significant storylines in all aspects of the game.
"We have to play our hockey, and we have to play it longer and stronger than the other team," said San Jose Sharks winger Patrick Marleau, looking ahead to the conference finals against the Vancouver Canucks. In the playoffs, when each team is playing like it's their last day, finding their games can be tough. Both the Sharks and Canucks have blown 3-0 series leads in these playoffs, exposing weaknesses that could keep them from hitting their full stride. These two teams, though, will likely bring out the best in each other, and whichever provides more answers than questions will come out on top.
Whose underachievers will finally overachieve?
For years we've been talking about San Jose getting over the playoff hump. That means reaching the finals. Despite winning six Pacific Division titles since 2002 and the Presidents' Trophy in 2006, the Sharks have been unable to reach the final round. They lost to the Calgary Flames in the Western Conference finals in 2004, then made a bunch of conference quarterfinal and semifinal exits, then lost to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks in the conference finals last season. Now, the hump they have to get over is the Vancouver Canucks. Like the Sharks, the Canucks have never won a Cup, but this year's Presidents' Trophy winners have reached two finals, in 1982 and 1994.