SAN JOSE – The word resiliency wasn’t associated with previous versions of the San Jose Sharks, teams that either failed to live up to postseason expectations, or crashed and burned in spectacular fashion.
The 2015-16 Sharks, though, were different. Every time it seemed they were on the verge of being down and out - including having just an 18-18-2 record in early January - they responded. They overcame their biggest physical and emotional rival, the Kings, in the first round of the playoffs; put forth a stunning performance in Game 7 of the second round against Nashville; and upset what was thought to be a deeper and more skilled Blues team in the third round.
That’s why even down three-games-to-one against the Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final, and then three-games-to-two, they still felt they had a chance, despite being dramatically outplayed for long stretches in every game.
Patrick Marleau has been on the 18 previous Sharks teams. That was his biggest takeaway from the current group, which lost Game 6 – and the Stanley Cup Final – to the Penguins on Sunday night, 3-1.
“I think [that resilience] is the biggest thing. Just timing of the key saves, key goals, to get us to this point,” said Marleau, who compared the end to “a lot like being hit by a truck.”
“We went in there and stole [Game 5], and felt really good about coming back here and pushing it to [Game 7]. I think if you would have asked, we were all ready to go back there.”
Instead, they're going home. They weren’t taking much solace in the organization making it this deep into the playoffs for the first time in the 25-year history of the franchise, either, minutes after it ended.
[INSTANT REPLAY: Penguins end Sharks' season, win Stanley Cup]
“It ends, it’s like you hit a brick wall,” Logan Couture said. “You wake up the next morning and you’ve got nothing to do.”
Joe Thornton said: "It sucks. That's the bottom line. It sucks. We thought we had the team, going through the teams we did in the West. It's just tough right now."
The Penguins proved to be too much for the Sharks, who didn’t even play with a lead in five of the six games. In Game 6 on Sunday, Kris Letang answered Couture’s tying goal in the second period just one minute and 19 seconds later, and then the Penguins locked down the defensive zone in the third while maintaining a 2-1 edge.
San Jose had just two third period shots, including no shots in a 16 minute and 15 second span while searching for the equalizer.
The better team won.
“You’ve got to look back at all six games – I don’t know if we generated enough offensively,” he said. “Felt they were quicker than us. We looked tired. We looked slower. But, that might be their speed. They’re a good team.”
Coach Pete DeBoer tipped his hat to Pittsburgh for its “speed, [and] the pressure they put on with their speed. They have good sticks, too.”
They were a tougher foe than any of the Kings, Predators or Blues.
“They really challenge your execution,” DeBoer said. “We hadn't seen pressure and sticks like that through the first three rounds. I think our execution was an issue because of that.”
Not even the Sharks’ newfound resiliency could help them against Pittsburgh, which won every facet of the Stanley Cup Final series other than the goaltending, which was even if not tilted in San Jose’s favor due to Martin Jones’ standout performance.
Turns out, the Penguins were even more resilient than San Jose. And now they’re the Stanley Cup champions.
“When it mattered, they cranked it up,” DeBoer said. “I felt they were just deeper and a little bit better than us.”
Couture said: “They played great. They’ve got a good team over there. Can’t take anything away from what they did. They beat us.”