Editor's Note: The above video is from Saturday, April 9, 2016.
SAN JOSE – There were a number of forgettable moments in 2014.
Pitbull’s Timber reached number one on the charts. The latest Godzilla movie was released in theaters. Mitch McConnell became Senate majority leader. Just to name a few.
For some San Jose Sharks, it appears that their 2014 first round playoff series against the Kings qualifies as unmemorable, too – at least to a couple of key players that were around back then. The Sharks, of course, became just the fourth team in NHL history to blow a three-games-to-none lead that year.
"That was a really long time ago. I don’t remember much,” Marc-Edouard Vlasic said.
When asked what makes this year’s Sharks better than the 2014 version, Joe Thornton said: “I can’t even remember that team, to be honest with you. You tell me – what are we better at, what are we worse at? It’s so long ago.”
He continued: “I think both teams have changed so much, really. Both teams have some of the guys still around. It’s 2016, Sharks versus Kings, so it will be great.”
Thornton is accurate regarding the changes. The Sharks have seemed like a different club from day one of training camp this year with new coach Pete DeBoer and staff in place, several established free agents added to the dressing room, a new goalie in Martin Jones, a fresh captain in Joe Pavelski, and even a significantly renovated practice facility.
Gone from Los Angeles are Jarret Stoll, Mike Richards, Slava Voynov, Robyn Regehr and Justin Williams, all of whom were key contributors to their two Stanley Cups. Additions include Milan Lucic and Vincent Lecavalier.
Still, it’s hard not to look at the upcoming playoff series as a chance for San Jose to exorcise some of its demons from the past. The Sharks’ abysmal so-called year of transition of 2014-15 was a direct result of the playoff collapse to the Kings, with the aim of setting them up to be successful in 2015-16.
Are they better off now than two years ago? Might as well line up against the club that brought the entire organization so much misery, and find out.
But does that add extra motivation for the current group that was around then? It doesn’t seem so.
"You don't really worry about what's happened in the past. There's a lot of new faces in here,” Pavelski said. “I think we've got 10 or so guys that are different from that team, and you'd be cheating them if you let it bother you. So, you only take what's going to help you in this situation and you apply it to your game now.
“We have a different identity in a lot of ways.”
DeBoer said that Monday brought with it a “business as usual” feeling, one day after the rematch became official when the Ducks clinched the Pacific Division.
“This has nothing to do with previous teams, or previous records against previous teams in other playoffs,” said the coach. “This is a new team and this group is going to write their own story based on that.”
The history from two years ago wasn’t anything anyone wanted to refer back to, but the Sharks had no problem talking about the results against the Kings in the five-game season series this year. San Jose went 3-1-1 against Los Angeles, winning both meetings at Staples Center and claiming a 5-2 win in the most recent game in San Jose on March 28.
The games were reminiscent of previous Sharks-Kings matchups over the years, with both teams employing a heavy forecheck, finishing their hits, and generally displaying the type of intensity that is typically reserved for the postseason.
It would be an entertaining series whether anyone remembers or doesn’t remember what went down in 2014.
“I think every game we play them is intense,” Thornton said. “It’s no secret both teams don’t like each other. Every game we play against the Kings, both buildings are electric, both buildings are tough to play in. They’re just fantastic games to be a part of.”