Now that the entire National Hockey League cognoscentii understands that Los Angeles-San Jose series are the sport's best entertainment value, we can check in with the fans themselves, who are sitting in corners, rocking back and forth, moaning like they’ve been kneed in the joy division and twitching like lab rats in a sleep deprivation experiment.
You know. They way they’ve become accustomed to enjoying the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Wednesday’s 3-2 Sharks win was done Sharks-style –- by taking a 3-0 lead and nearly vomiting it up. At home.
On the other hand, it was a perfectly Kingly-Sharkish game in that it ended spectacularly, with jangling nerves, whitened knuckles and . . . well, that lab rat thing.
This is who these teams are, and this is how they play each other. Frankly, if the NHL cared about you and your feelings, they would make this the second-round series as well. And yes, that would mean screwing the Anaheim-Nashville winner, but what’s a modern North American sport without a regal screwing now and then?
Sharks fans know that the best way to make God laugh is to make plans for the next round. In fact, what they need right now is a quick primer on how everything goes hinky when you least expect it.
2015: The New York Rangers spotted Washington, the league's preeminent constricted larynx, a 3-1 lead and came back to reach the Eastern Conference Final.
2014: The Rangers did it again, this time to Pittsburgh, and went to the final before being Kinged.
Also 2014: You know this one, and we’ll spare you the rewind.
2013: The Chicago Blackhawks fell behind Detroit, 3-1, and rallied from there to win the Cup, while the Wings’ window as a dominant team began its slow but inexorable descent.
2011: Tampa Bay overwhelmed Pittsburgh in the first round of the Eastern Conference before falling to Boston in the conference final.
Put simply, the 3-1 choke-slam has happened eight times in the last six years, so Sharks fans desperate not to start tabulating future hens have not only their own history to help haunt them, but league history as well.
And to be a Sharks fan is to be haunted, willingly, fatalistically, helplessly. They’ve done almost 25 years in the joint, made the playoffs 18 times, and have gotten the ceremonial toe in the eye every time.
In other words, they should want to be scared of the future to the point of hating it, because for almost every team in the National Hockey League diaspora, that’s what the playoffs are.
This is not a prediction, mind you. The Sharks may very well finish the Kings off Friday and surprise nobody unless they win by more than one goal. This Sharks team has been like the other ones the fans love best –- the long-odds dog that bites -– and nobody should be surprised if that occurs.
Nor is this is a harbinger of the underdog who cheats the reaper all the way until the end. This is four games, and as anyone (say, Darryl Sutter) will tell you, four games isn’t anything unless one of the two teams wins all four. This is hard because it should be, and Sharks fans should want this to be hard so that they’ll re-learn their history.
In fact, you should forgive anyone who wants Los Angeles to win Friday, and then again Sunday. This series should go seven games forever, or at least until Darryl Sutter and Joe Thornton give us all permission to stand down and move on to something else.
Not better, mind you. Just else. In the meantime, take good care not to make God laugh, because it’s a laugh that will chill you to your ancestors’ dust.