The NHL's Perpetual Wingmen: Sharks and Blues
Maybe the Maple Leafs have it figured out more than they've been given credit for.
Everyone understands their annual April golf tournament is a fixture. Cut and dried. No hopes raised for hoisting a Cup. Thus, no bitter disappointment every spring.
The sort of bitter dissapointment that happens in St Louis and San José every spring. And it's happened again.
Ultimately, it didn't matter that the Blues traded to get an Olympic gold medalist between the pipes in order to acquire that extra je ne sais quoi that would finally put their names on the Stanley Cup. Even though Ryan Miller's statistical performance was virtually identical to the netminder with whom he swapped teams -- at a signficant salary hit for St Louis -- the club was convinced he was the missing piece to accompany its solid corps of blueliners and promising forwards.
Well, he wasn't. After taking a two-games-to-none first-round lead for the second straight playoffs, St Louis crashed for the second straight year:
Then there are the Sharks. They're strong, well-balanced, in the running for the President's Cup every season, but only treading water when the playoffs roll around.
San José outdid itself this time. After literally carpet-bombing Jamie Quick's crease in the first two games and jumping out to a 3-0 series stranglehold, the Sharks should have done what their namesakes do best, and that was a lesson well conveyed by legendary Viking Ragnar Lodbrok:
And with the aplomb of a team that knows what it's like to win the Cup, the Los Angeles Kings became the joined the 1942 Red Wings, the 1975 Islanders, and the 2010 Flyers in coming back from the ultimate brink. When they finally saw their chance in Game 7, they never hesitated:
Next season, both St Louis and San José will be contenders again. Both will undoubtedly have strong seasons. And, come April, both will most likely be again battling their playoff demons as much as battling whomever they're facing.
Maybe 2015 will be the year one of them never hesitates. Then again, maybe not.