Stop us if you've heard this before: The San Jose Sharks have the look of a team capable of going on a long playoff run.
This has not been an uncommon sentiment over, oh, the past decade or so, as the Bay Area squad has been one of the most successful regular season teams since the lost 2004-05 season, with a pair of Western Conference finals appearances to their credit.
However, the Sharks entered into a state of complete disarray following a calamitous first-round collapse in a 2014 series against Los Angeles, and failed to even qualify for the playoffs last season, with cornerstone centers Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau seemingly destined to be jettisoned in favor of building around a younger core.
But lo and behold, the Sharks have just kept swimming, and appear well poised to take a serious bite out of the competition this spring.
Formidable goaltending tandem
That appears to have been well placed, as the 26-year-old has risen to the occasion in his first season as a starter at the NHL level.
In a savvy pre-deadline move, general manager Doug Wilson looked Toronto's way and reeled James Reimer into the fold. While his role is expected to be supportive, he's played well enough early on in his tenure with the Sharks to warrant starts down the stretch and possibly in the playoffs.
Don't forget Reimer is set to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end, giving him all the motivation in the world to make good on this opportunity with the Sharks, especially as the member of this tandem who brings playoff experience to the mix.
Jumbo Joe's as good as ever
At age 36, Joe Thornton remains a force to be reckoned with.
Sitting second in assists (52) and eighth in total points (70) through 72 games, Thornton performing basically on par with his career average of 0.98 points per game. Throw in his 50 penalty minutes and a wicked beard, and he's showing off the kind of bite that has made him one of the game's premiere centers.
One could argue that Thornton already boasts a Hall of Fame worthy resume, with a Stanley Cup being the major team award still missing. With one year remaining on his contract, this could be Thornton's last best chance to with in San Jose, and we have to think he'll do everything he can to make good on it.
Don't believe the "too laid back to win" knock on his playoff performance; his 82 points in 97 postseason games as a Shark belie that myth.
Young blood complementing veteran experience
The Sharks' roster features only seven players over the age of 30, all of whom have experienced their fair share of playoff battles and, let's face it, failure.
Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Brent Burns have been around for the bulk of San Jose's disappointments, while Joel Ward got a taste of it in recent years in Washington and Paul Martin joined Pittsburgh after the 2009 run to the Cup.
The last of the over-30 crowd, Dainius Zubrus, went to the final with New Jersey in 2012, a team coached by Sharks' current bench boss, Pete DeBoer.
These veterans, motivated as they may be to shake off the past, have the benefit of playing with some fresh young talent in San Jose this season, a healthy Logan Couture - still only 26 - certainly not least among them.
Make no mistake, this team is led by Thornton, Pavelski, and Burns, a trio that ranks 8-9-10 in league scoring. But it's the likes of Tomas Hertl, Joonas Donskoi, Chris Tierney, Matt Nieto, and Melker Karlsson that are infusing the forward ranks with an extra boost, giving San Jose a fourth-ranked 211 goals to date.
It's not rocket science, at the end of the day. Heading into Monday's action, the Sharks had the NHL's third-best goal differential (plus-29), behind only Washington and Los Angeles. If Jones and/or Reimer can keep the puck out of the net enough to allow the revamped offense to do its thing, the Sharks could be a surprise team to come out of the West.
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