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Before the 2017/2018 season started many pundits had the San Jose Sharks as a team that would be on the outside looking in come playoff time. Had lost a hard fought first round battle against a younger and faster Edmonton Oilers squad 4-2. Long-time San Jose Shark Patrick Marleau, bolted for a three-year contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Sharks were also dealing with the uncertainty of Joe Thornton (torn ACL) and wondering will he ever be the same player?

There were a lot more questions then answers on a team that many thought their window had closed. Early on, the Sharks were making their pundits look like geniuses. They stumbled out of gate to the tune of a 4-5 record, team was struggling to replace the offence Patrick Marleau provided all those years in teal and green. Coach Pete DeBoer juggled the lines to find and type of offensive consistency only to get mixed results.

As the season went on offensive production improved as young players like Timo Meier, Chris Tierney and Kevin Labanc started providing offence to complement the veterans. The team went on a 22-9-6 run after their 4-5 start and things were on the upswing. Then on January 23rd, late third period vs. Winnipeg Jets, Joe Thornton who was just starting to find his groove (26 pts in last 28 games) hurt his MCL.

Most teams an injury like that would cripple their playoff hopes. But not the sharks they maintained the status-quo and kept playing well. At the trade deadline GM Doug Wilson awarded the teams’ hard work with Eric Fehr and Evander Kane. The Kane trade was a risky one, even though Wilson didn’t give up much (Conditional 1st & 4th & Danny O’Regan). Kane, 26 has had past off-ice problems and lack of focus at times. But the former 4th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft has always had the talent to be an impact player and had not yet realized his potential.

But so far so good for Kane. Not only has he fit in with Sharks dressing room, he has added a dimension the sharks lacked. A high-end Left-Winger who can score and skate with toughness. Kane had 14 points in 17 regular season games and made a team that was already deep, more dangerous down the stretch. He helped San Jose finish the season with a 45-27-10 record .

During these 2018 playoffs the Sharks have played well with little fanfare from most media. They took care of a talented and deep Anaheim Ducks squad and swept them in the first round 4-0. In the second round, Sharks have played the Vegas Knights, an expansion team on a historic run who is led by a Stanley Cup Winner in Marc-Andre Fleury. Series is tied at 2-2 apiece, with the Sharks dominating most of the play so far in the series.

This team has all the ingredients for a deep playoff run. Elite Goaltender in Martin Jones, Deep Defensive corps led by Brent Burns & Marc-Edouard Vlasic. You add in the deep and solid forward group that consists of Logan Couture, Joe Pavalski, Evander Kane & Joe Thornton when he returns from MCL injury, the Sharks have team that can make a deep run. Many have Nashville Predators, Winnipeg Jets, and the Vegas Golden Knights coming out of the West and rightfully so, all three teams are deep, young and talented. Just remember when you talk about potential dark horse teams to make a run, the San Jose Sharks are a team that is dangerous and you should be aware of them come playoff time. San Jose will be a tough out for anyone in these Western Conference playoffs.

This article was originally published on pdmsports