Canucks, Sharks to write new chapter
The Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks are picking a fine time for a first ever playoff meeting.
Despite being two of the top three Western Conference teams in terms of total wins since 2000, the Sharks and Canucks have never engaged in postseason battle.
The winner of their inaugural series will earn the right to vie for a first ever Stanley Cup title and irrevocably shake off the label of underachievement that has dogged both franchises in the past.
For the second straight year the West final will pit the top two seeds in the conference. Last year, No. 1 San Jose was swept by Chicago.
San Jose is at the conference final stage for the third time in their history, all occuring within the past seven seasons. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are the only Sharks to suit up in all of them.
The much-maligned Marleau helped cap San Jose's seven-game series win against Detroit on Thursday in a 3-2 result. He scored his 48th career playoff goal, tied for fifth among all active NHL players.
Vancouver, too, is in the West final for the third time in its history.
Not surprisingly, there are only a handful of players who've gone past this stage before.
There are three Sharks looking to win a championship again after tasting victory with other clubs — goaltender Antti Niemi, and defencemen Dan Boyle and Niclas Wallin.
Niemi helped eliminate Vancouver in the second round last year while with Chicago, and has designs on becoming the first goalie to repeat as a Cup champion in 19 years.
The Canucks had better luck against the Finnish netminder this season than last spring, going 3-0-1 against San Jose. Vancouver is 44-34 all-time against the Sharks in the regular season with 12 ties or overtime losses.
Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo was in net for just two of this season's games against San Jose, but allowed just one goal each time out. As a result, he lowered his career goals-against average against the Sharks to 2.77 and raised his save percentage to .914.
Every Vancouver player but Mikael Samuelsson would have an opportunity to win their first Stanley Cup as an active player should the Canucks get past the Sharks. Aaron Rome was with Anaheim's 2007 championship team but didn't play in the final.
There are a couple of players involved in the upcoming series whose careers have taken them to both locales.
Kyle Wellwood has resurrected his NHL career in Northern California after being jettisoned last summer following two seasons with the Canucks.
Christian Ehrhoff spent his first five NHL seasons with San Jose before coming over to Vancouver in a 2009 trade. Ehrhoff is second only to Boyle in points among defenceman in these playoffs.
Injured Vancouver centre Manny Malhotra was also a former Shark.
The entire Western Conference final will be carried on CBC Sports and streamed at CBCSports.ca, beginning Sunday with pre-game coverage at 4:30 p.m. PT.