Unlikely San Jose Sharks Playoff Heroes

san jose sharks playoff

Post-season heroes come in all forms from the star player to the unknown fourth-liner. We all know the exploits of the great playoff performers. However, we hardly hear about the unlikely playoff heroes. These unlikely post-season stars can contribute in many ways. Contributions could be for an entire playoff run, a series, a game, or even a goal. These unlikely heroes have made big plays that no one expects. This series looks at all of these unknown stars. These are the unlikely San Jose Sharks playoff heroes.

San Jose Sharks Playoff Heroes

Joonas Donskoi

Before the Moment

2015-16 was an interesting campaign for the Sharks. After years of continued playoff and regular-season dominance, the Sharks put up a mulligan season in 2014-15. They finished with 89 points, missing the playoffs entirely for the first time since the early 2000’s. This led to the firing of coach Todd McClellan, and he was replaced for the 2015-16 season by Peter DeBoer. The Sharks had a rebound year under DeBoer but didn’t quite return to their world-beater form. Their record was 46-30-6, good enough for 98 points and third place in the Pacific Division.

This season was one of emergence for many of the Sharks’ young core, including Tomas Hertl. Improbably, though, this season of transition led to the Sharks’ first Stanley Cup Final appearance in franchise history. They beat the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues en route to a matchup against Sidney Crosby‘s Pittsburgh Penguins.

But, one other young player who flew relatively under the radar that year was true rookie Joonas Donskoi. He had a semi-successful season in the Sharks’ middle-six forward group, scoring 11 goals in his first NHL campaign. But on a team with goal-scoring talents such as Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Brent Burns, Joel Ward, and Hertl at the time, Donskoi wasn’t expected to make a large impact during their playoff run.

The Moment

That prediction wasn’t to hold. Once the Sharks made it to the final, they dropped their first two games on the road and returned to the SAP Center down 2-0 in the series. The Penguins got out to a quick start with a Ben Lovejoy goal only five minutes into the game, but later goals from Justin Braun and Ward would send the game to overtime tied at two goals apiece.

After more than 10 scoreless minutes, it was a broken play that would end the game. It was a 2-on-5 play, as only Donskoi and Chris Tierney were supplanted in the offensive zone through all five Penguins skaters. Tierney and Donskoi both set up shop behind the net, with Tierney rimming a pass around the boards to Donskoi. Donskoi found room to skate out past the goal line, shot the puck directly between two Penguins defenders, and scored top shelf on Penguins goalie Matt Murray. It gave the Sharks their first Stanley Cup Final win in franchise history on an incredible shot from a depth winger.

After the Moment

The Sharks would lose their next game at home by a score of 3-1. They’d claw back in Game 5 in Pittsburgh to stay alive, but the Penguins won the Cup in Game 6 on a gusty road effort. Donskoi played his next three seasons in a teal uniform, playing in almost 300 games for the Sharks and scoring 122 points. Donskoi left the team via free agency before the 2019-20 season, signing with the Colorado Avalanche.

Jamie Baker

Before the Moment

The 1993-94 season for the Sharks was one of record-breaking achievements. A third-year expansion franchise, they posted one of the greatest season-to-season turnarounds in NHL history. The team finished with a 33-35-16 record, good enough for 82 points and their first playoff appearance. Considering their 11-win, 24-point season just the year prior, the Sharks were one of the league’s biggest surprises.

The Sharks’ young talent was excellent, with Sandis Ozolinsh and Pat Falloon both notching 20-goal seasons, while veteran Sergei Makarov led the squad with 68 points. Assuming a depth role on the squad was Jamie Baker, a 27-year-old centre who scored just 17 points in 65 games.

San Jose’s preseason odds to win it all were listed at +50,000. Despite a successful season, the Sharks matched up against a powerhouse Detroit Red Wings team in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. On the back of netminder Arturs Irbe, the Sharks were able to overcome an early 2-1 series deficit and somehow force a Game 7.

The Moment

The Sharks continued their improbable run early in Game 7. Johan Garpenlov and Sergei Makarov scored two goals in the first period as they jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Red Wings were not to be silenced, however, as a shorthanded marker from Kris Draper and a later goal from Vyacheslav Kozlov tied the game at 2-2. With less than ten minutes to go in the final frame, though, Wings goalie Chris Osgood left his net to play the puck. He attempted to clear it out of the zone, but a streaking Baker was able to stop it and fire it back into the still-vacant goal, giving San Jose a 3-2 lead that would stand the rest of the game.

After the Moment

San Jose didn’t go away quietly in the Western Conference Semifinals, either. They actually shot out to a 3-2 series lead against a strong Toronto Maple Leafs squad, but an overtime winner from the Leafs’ Mike Gartner in Game 6 and a two-goal performance from Wendel Clark in Game 7 knocked the upstart Sharks out of the playoffs.

Baker would play two more seasons for the Sharks before being traded to the very same Leafs that eliminated him in the summer of 1996. After two seasons with Toronto, Baker returned to the Sharks for the 1998-99 season, playing a single game before retiring.

Barclay Goodrow

Before the Moment

Still under the tutelage of Peter DeBoer, the Sharks had yet another successful season in 2018-19. Led by a career year from defenceman Brent Burns, San Jose finished with 101 points. Largely a utility player, Barclay Goodrow had a moderately successful season with 17 points, playing in all 82 games.

The Sharks had home-ice advantage in their series against a fresh rival in the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas had eliminated San Jose the year prior in the Second Round, Vegas’ first season in the league. Matched up yet again, this time in the First Round, San Jose won the first game but dropped the next three. San Jose came roaring back with a 5-2 win in Game 5, and a shorthanded double-0vertime winner by Tomas Hertl in Game 6 sent the series to a penultimate seventh game.

The Moment

An incredible comeback by the Sharks within the series would soon turn into one of the most memorable games in NHL history. Despite their home crowd behind them, the Sharks came out flat in such a pivotal game. Vegas kept pouring on the attack, and by almost halfway into the third period, goals from William Karlsson, Cody Eakin, and Max Pacioretty had given Vegas a 3-0 lead. The game looked to be over until a freak play off an offensive zone faceoff for the Sharks left captain Joe Pavelski bloodied on the ice. Vegas’ Eakin received a game misconduct and a five-minute major penalty for cross-checking.

San Jose was nothing if not opportunistic. The five-minute powerplay proved disastrous, as two goals from Logan Couture and one each from Hertl and Kevin Labanc gave the Sharks a 4-3 lead, all scored on the five-minute powerplay. The Golden Knights still had some momentum left, however, as a last-minute goal from Jonathan Marchessault with the goalie pulled sent the game to overtime.

As the teams got a chance to rest and settle down at the intermission, overtime was largely deadlocked throughout the first 15 minutes of the frame. Largely benched throughout the game, some Sharks depth players got the chance to take the ice in overtime. Goodrow was one of these players, having played less than eight minutes of the game. A 3-on-3 rush led by the Sharks’ Erik Karlsson occurred with less than two minutes left in the frame. Karlsson shifted the puck back and forth before saucering it over to a streaking Goodrow on his right wing. Goodrow, and his fresh legs, streaked around both Vegas defenders, dragging goalie Marc-Andre Fleury out of the net and potting the overtime winner in one of the most ridiculous NHL games ever.

After the Moment

While the Sharks’ playoff run was ended by the eventual champion St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final, Goodrow would still become a Stanley Cup Champion. He was traded at the 2020 Trade Deadline to the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he played a pivotal role on the team’s third line en route to a Stanley Cup championship in the NHL’s Edmonton bubble.

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