Well, the inevitable finally occurred. After dropping the first two games at home, we were all almost certain it was over. Another playoff, another disappointment. I promise this is the last time I'll talk about this Sharks season, but humor me and follow along to the biggest heartbreaks (yes, I consider myself lucky to have a game be the source of my biggest let-downs) of the last 15 years of my life.
The 2008-2009 season will just get filed away in the same part of my brain as:
-Garpenlov's cross-bar in round 2 against the Leafs in '94;
-The sweep by the Red Wings in '95;
-The losses to the Stars and Avalanche in '98 and '99;
-The thrashing by the Stars in '00 after upsetting the Blues;
-The loss to the Blues in '01;
-Peter Forsberg's OT winner at the tank in game 6 in 2002 (after Selanne's missed empty netter);
-The debacle of a season that was 2003;
-The loss to Darryl Sutter's Flames in the conference finals of '04 when they dropped all 3 home games;
-The fact that there was no hockey in 2005 to follow up the best run in franchise history;
-Cheech getting absolutely robbed in game 3 by Roloson with a shot to go up 3-0 in the 2nd round of '06;
-Hannan's failed clear with the sharks having a chance to go up 3-1 against the Wings in the conference semi's of 2007;
...and of course...
-Dropping the first 3 games of the Stars' series in exceptionally emotionless fashion and getting eliminated in a 4 OT game in 2008.
If I had to rank which ones linger the most:
1) 2004, one round away from the Conference finals against our old coach and goalie. The closest we ever got to the Cup.
2) Oilers in the second round of 2006. The Sharks were the 5 seed, but seeds 1-4 all lost in the
first round, so we had home ice for the rest of the conference playoffs. After a couple great wins in games 1 and 2, the Sharks battled to hang around in game 3 in Edmonton to force OT. Cheechoo received a pass from Thornton across the slot with half the net to shoot at, hesitated on the release, and Roloson got across to grab the puck out of the top corner. The Oilers proceeded to completely dominate the rest of the series en route to four straight wins. Game 3 save: http://www.youtube.com/v/gOYjXD31DsE
And then there's Drew Remenda's speech after game 6: http://www.youtube.com/v/nR-KwJIaVuc
3) Detroit in 2007. This is the year the curse of the Sharks finally seemed legitimate. I remember sitting by myself at the home games. The Sharks stole the first game in Detroit and traded wins in games 2 and 3. Game 4 at the tank with a chance to go up 3-1 in the series. The Sharks led 2-1 with less than a minute remaining when a Robert Lang shot squirted through Nabokov to force OT. With about 3 minutes left in the first OT, Hannan made a brilliant pass to Mathieu Schneider (yes, Hannan was playing for the Sharks at the time), who teed up a slap-shot from the point past Nabokov. Game, momentum, series. Anyone wanna relive game 4? http://www.youtube.com/v/gIpjhlh9As0
4) The conference semi's loss to Colorado in 2002 (the true beginning of our perennial run as Cup favorites). I remember being in the arena for game 6 when Selanne missed the empty net wrap around in OT (what Sharks fan doesn't?) and then watching Forsberg finish us off. Colorado went back home for game 7 at stymied the Sharks 1-0.
5) Garpenlov's crossbar in '94. Our first taste of playoff success. I remember sitting on the couch of my old house during my First Communion party (was that really 15 years ago?!) watching Jamie Baker receive Osgood's pass and put it in the empty net. That play is why I'm as big a Sharks fan as I am now. I remember listening to overtime of Game 6 in my mom's minivan waiting to pick up my brother from baseball practice. The Sharks were up 3-2 in the series with a chance to close it out, and I still remember Dan Rusanowsky's call as Garpenlov had half the net open and rang one off the crossbar - *clank* I can still hear it today...
In time, I'll think about the Anaheim series, not so much on purpose, and give it its place in history.
Pros: Never appeared to have control of this series. Emotional cushion was a layer thicker (see: above).
Cons: Team was built to fulfill the weaknesses of past playoff failures; Home ice throughout the playoffs; Pronger and Selanne - enough said; lost many hours of sleep this season being 3 hours later on the east coast watching games.
If you're still reading me spewing my heartbreak here, thanks for paying attention. In the style of my favorite hockey journalist, John Buccigross, here's the part where I force hockey and music collide. As I was at the Alkaline Trio concert on Sunday (the night before game 6), they played their song called "Calling All Skeletons" and my mind couldn't help but wander to how fitting it was for the Sharks and their fans:
Here it is again, yet it stings like the first time, seems it never ends...
...Where did you go, when the lights went black?
I've grown to love your disappearing act,
do one more pretty please.
...Now the time has come,
I just wish I could erase
all the damage done, all this pain, all this heartache...
...And to tell you the truth, I've lost my faith in you,
You've gotta stop sneaking up on me,
And these unspoken lies appear at the worst times...
I've grown to love your disappearing act, do one more pretty please.
Shameless plug (Netflix it):
As the years go by and the chances slip away, I start to feel more and more for Red Sox fans pre-2000s. Here's one of my favorite movies, sums up the feelings of being let down by your sports team over and over. http://movies.nytimes.com...ie/318193/Game-6/trailers