Longtime Bruins fans have a connection to the San Jose Sharks through the Thornton trade. At the time the experts around the league claimed the trade of Thornton for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart was an embarrassment for Boston. That and the race for the President's trophy this season between the B's and the Sharks has led me to keep one eye on the left coast during the playoffs. Some even believed it may come down to the Sharks vs. the Bruins in the cup final.
My view of the Sharks mirrors my view of Joe Thornton. They don't have what it takes to go deep in the playoffs. I watched Thornton play and he just floated around the zone waiting for the puck to come to him. You can't do that in the playoffs. You have to get in there along the boards and fight hard for the puck, and when you do get it you have to skate as hard and as fast as you can 100% of the time. I've said it here before: Thornton only has one speed. He has no "playoff gear" and neither do the Sharks as a team.
When I saw that San Jose had matched up against Anaheim in the first round my thought was that Anaheim was going to eliminate them. San Jose has a long history of disappointing results in the playoffs, and Anaheim has just the right hard-playing style to bring them down. But since I didn't see much of the western conference this season I must admit that this was probably 40% history and 60% wishful thinking. I had read that the Sharks had changed--that like the Bruins they had become a complete team. But when put to the test this proved to be an empty claim. And as for Anaheim, they are the first team I have watched this season that seemed familiar. They play very much like the Bruins, playing a hard complete team game. But one other thing I noticed was that they lacked the size and especially the talent of the B's. Their finish near the net just wasn't there. Time and again they would force a turnover or win the puck along the boards only to flub the pass or miss the shot.
So where does that leave our sleeping Bruins? Most observers around the league expect Boston to follow the Sharks lead, once they meet a real opponent. But those of us who have watched them all year know differently. They may not win the cup, but I'd be very surprised if the Bruins embarrass themselves in the playoffs. I have no doubt that they can beat any of the remaining teams in the eastern conference, and it does not matter who they match up against. The one worry I have is this: do they want it enough? Aside from the almost daily claims to the contrary, does this team feel they have already accomplished their goal for the season? We will find out... but only after this long excruciating wait is over.