The San Jose Sharks, for the second straight season, ended it with a game against the Los Angeles Kings. For the second straight season, the Kings left the ice victorious.
For the second straight season, the Sharks final game started with a score by a Sharks defenseman. A year ago, it was Matt Irwin, this year it was Brent Burns. As with last year’s finale, it would be the last goal of the Sharks’ season. The Kings would hit the Sharks and steadily take over until they physically dominated the game.
The final score was different, though only because the Kings would score just 1 empty net goal this season instead of the 2 empty net goals they scored last year. A 4-1 finale instead of 5-1. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick would make an unconscious save or two along the way. Shark defensive breakdowns would leave their own goalie exposed and the great game-saving saves, well, they just were not there for the Sharks. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, the Sharks top defenseman would miss both games.
There were more similarities. Both games were broken open by the Kings with a 3 goal outburst in the 3rd period. In both games, 3 Kings goal would be scored by players under 25. If the Sharks want to know what a youth movement looks like, they do not need to look far.
In many respects, this year’s finale was unlike last year’s finale. This year, the Sharks and Kings had nothing to play for beyond pride. Last year, the series winner went on to win the Stanley Cup. This year, tee times were in the immediate future for both teams. In last year’s finale, the fans left the Shark Tank is dismay. In this year’s finale, the Kings fans stood and cheered as their team ended the season, even if it was without a chance to defend their title.
As the two teams move into offseason mode, it is clear that both teams have plenty of roster issues to address. The Kings have confidence in their captain, confidence in their core players, confidence in their coach, confidence in their front office. This team was never built and managed for great regular seasons, they were built and managed for the season that begins with game 83. Los Angeles will tinker with their roster, knowing what needs to be done in order to be a Stanley Cup contender a year from now, starting in game 83.
The Sharks were built and managed for an 82 game season. The Sharks also have plenty of roster issues to address, but there is little confidence in the core. There is little confidence in the coach, little confidence in the front office and there is no captain to have confidence in.
Last year, the Sharks and Kings ended the season heading in different directions. The Kings would win the Cup, the Sharks would head into a tailspin. Once again, the two teams end the season heading in different directions, with the Kings rightly confident in their off-season and near-term future, and with the Sharks questioning every aspect of the organization, trying to find all that is missing.
This year was very different for both the Kings and Sharks. But in at least one sense, the way it ended, not as different as a Sharks fan might have hoped.
ZEKE is a native of the DC area where he witnessed the birth of the Capitals franchise. After graduating from Cornell University, which had seen hockey glory before he arrived, he moved west to San Jose. There he witnessed the birth of the Sharks franchise. His wait to witness a Championship from any of these teams finally ended in 2018.