A New Rivalry Is About To Be Born

I don't know how much rivalry was created in the 2nd Round with the Canucks and Predators but from where I sit I am going to say "not as much as I anticipated." It kind of quietly went by (besides Kesler, heh) and a tense ending ensued. There wasn't a lot of animosity. Not a lot of rough stuff. No past playoff history. No real hate, from me anyway.

San Jose is a different scenario in several areas.

1) First off a minor bit of Sharks history. Like the Predators, this is the first time that the Canucks and Sharks have met in the playoffs, which is surprising. The Sharks have made the playoffs 14 times since their inception on May 5, 1990. The Canucks have made the dance 14 times since that date as well. Amazingly, the Sharks have made the playoffs every single season since the 2004-05 Lockout, (6 times to the Canucks' 4) making it past the first round 5 times and past the 2nd round twice: this season and last season. They are known as the usually good or great team that can't get it done in the playoffs. In each of the years since expansion the Sharks have finished top 5 in the Western Conference, including two 1st place finishes in the last 3 years. Think that fan base is tired of

their team folding in the playoffs? You know they are, and I don't blame them.

 

Joe Thornton has made the playoffs every year since joining the Sharks in the 2005-06 season. But he has been labeled a playoff "no-show" over the past several years. I thought he looked better in last year's playoffs (even though he only had 1 assist in the Blackhawks' 4-game sweep of them in the Semi-Finals) and even better this year. He's floating less and looks way more aggressive in both zones with the odd exceptions. He has 2 goals and 9 assists in 13 playoff games this season. Both goals are game-winners, including the series clinching goal in OT to eliminate the Kings. He had no goals and 6 assists in the 7-game series against the Wings. The fail moniker is passing and it has to in order for the Sharks to go the distance. (I know Jumbo Joe likes to dish the puck a lot but I am surprised he doesn't score more goals, or even try to.)

So there is some recent Sharks' history and why do I bring it up?

a) So you can know your enemy. More "getting-to-know" the Sharks posts are coming soon.

b) Because the Sharks have just as much or more heat on them from their fans, from themselves and from the media to erase the playoff failure tag. They have been sitting on the cusp for years and have failed to capitalize. The Canucks, as we all know, haven't been this far since 1994, but the expectations for them come from finishing first in the West this season and like the Sharks in the past 2 seasons, from the fans and media because of it. It's only natural.

c) Because the Sharks should be a more formidable opponent than Nashville and (unfortunately) Chicago were.

2) The Sharks are a bigger team than the Preds in general and are bigger and meaner up front than the Preds and Canucks are. I think it's fair to say they are deeper than the Canucks up front, but the Canucks have deeper D. Honestly, I mostly agree with Dan Murphy on the goalie assessment. Who would you rather have between the pipes: an excellent Roberto Luongo or a solid Antti Niemi who won the Cup last season? The Sharks can get their defence involved in rushes but can also dump the puck in and grind it out along the boards. So can the Canucks though. These battles, plus the general overall physicality on the rest of the ice are going to create a lot of animosity and anger. Expect scrums. Expect dirtiness. This series going to be awesome.

3) Why are the regular season matches between the Sharks and Canucks in the past more memorable than several other opponents? Maybe it's because of the Sharks usually being the big dogs in the standings.This year, the Canucks were 3-0-1 vs the Sharks. In 2009-10: 1-3. In 2008-09: 1-3-1. In 2007-08: 0-4. Yeah. Not cool. Those losses stick in my mind. The worst? In mid-April of 2006 the Canucks played the Sharks in back-to-back nights. They lost the first game in OT and flat out lost the second one in regulation, eliminating themselves from the playoffs.

Kevin Bieksa said today: "Yeah, they have been really good games in the past, fun to play in. Even in the regular season it seemed like there was a little more emotion when we played these guys. I can remember a few wars in their arena, a couple in ours, but there's two teams that for some reason kind of don't like each other and two pretty evenly matched ones."

A rematch against Antti Niemi gets my juices flowing. Christian Ehrhoff and Kyle Wellwood playing against their former teams...m'eh. However, expect both to make a noticeable impact.

Aside from all of the above there is not much animosity here. There is some hate between the teams but not much of a rivalry. That will come about as the series goes on, between the players and the fan bases. Maybe some video footage of instances between the 2 teams will help create some anger in me...or you:

A chippy affair in April 2010:

Aaron Rome clobbers Joe Pavelski:

Keith Ballard hip checks Niclas Wallin:

Tanner Glass decks Pavelski and then answers the bell against Douglas Murray (Sept 2010):

Dan Hamhuis hip checks Douglas Murray:

Torrey Mitchell skates by/through 4 Canucks to tie the game at 3 (March 2011):

Canucks spank Sharks 6-1 in November:

Blast from the past-Preseason-2007-FIGHTS!

I find this thing the Sharks fans do to be silly..and stupid:

Alexander Edler smacks Joe Thornton:

Can you feel your blood boiling or temperature rising yet? Not me. But that is about to change, and I think a new and healthy/bloody rivalry is on the verge of being born much like the Canucks-Blackhawks. Hell...yeah! May it be so! For now, these are the new super powers in the West. From now on, when this series is all said and done, any regular season matchup between the two will be that much more intense.

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