The San Jose Sharks have been one of the most consistent teams in the NHL for the last two decades, making the playoffs in 16 of the last 18 seasons. Unfortunately for the Sharks, they’ve never won a Stanley Cup, have never played for a Stanley Cup and have lost in the conference finals three times, most recently in 2011.
This year, however, could be different. Indeed, the Sharks scored three power-play goals in a 3-2 win over the Kings in Game 4 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday. They now lead the series 3-1.
“This is a different team – completely different team,” Sharks analyst and Stanley Cup champion Bret Hedican said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think having Patrick Marleau in that third-line position (is a big advantage). I hate talking about first line, second line, third line, fourth line. I really count first six and second six, and that second six is so important.”
Marleau had a goal and an assist Wednesday and has helped the Sharks to three one-goal wins in the series.
“I think Patrick Marleau was a factor tonight,” Hedican said. “Obviously he had a power-play goal, the game-winning goal, but more important, i thought his line was a definite factor in this game from the get go. Him being in that third-line position allows him to play against another team’s fifth and sixth defensemen, which I think is a mismatch, and I think that’s been a big factor as well in this series.”
San Jose can close out the Kings in Los Angeles on Friday at 10:30 p.m. ET. Hedican, who played 17 seasons in the NHL, can’t wait.
“I loved (playoff hockey),” he said. “It’s the one time of year that’s so fun to not only watch and call playoff hockey, but to be out there, to feel the energy in the buildings no matter what’s going on – there’s no better time. I used to enjoy just soaking it all in, and if I could just be in the moment, I think that’s what you have to be a master of is learning how to get in that moment and enjoy it. Love what you do, love the pressure. I think if you can do those sorts of things – enjoy the moment and love what you do – you play well in those big moments. And I think once you start to have success in those big moments, I think you can kind of replicate it. I just felt like I was a playoff performer and I hope I was. I think you prove it after many years of playing well in the playoffs. That’s what it’s all about.”
While Hedican loves playoff hockey, he hasn’t loved the number of coaches’ challenges and the number of goals that have been overturned. It seems linemen are going to the booth far too often, which slows down the game.
“I’m kind of on the fence on this one,” Hedican said. “I think the offside, I haven’t really liked the call and the challenge for that. I think the goalie interference has been fine with me. Although I’ve said just get the call right, I’m kind of on the fence on it. Our linesmen do a heck of a job. They’ve made some mistakes along the way. I think the biggest thing we could potentially do is – just like players have to go through film and make sure when you’re wrong you get corrected – if linesmen continue to be wrong, then you pull them out and you put linesmen in there that can make the call in real time and make sure they’re right most of the time. That’s what I’d like to see. Get rid of the coach’s challenge on the offside, but the goalie interference, I’ve been fine with.”