Puck Daddy - NHL

"Everybody had a part in this. As you can see, our fans love this. And we love them. And bring on the next team."

That was Joe Thornton(notes) of the San Jose Sharks, speaking to VERSUS after their 2-1 Game 5 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Right before he said this:

"Everybody was saying blow up this team, but look at us now: We're doing OK. "

The 4-1 semifinal win for the Sharks is validation. Of their system. Of their team. Of their decision not to jettison Patrick Marleau(notes) or make wholesale changes after last postseason's disappointment.

Most of all, it's validation of their resiliency, after bounding back from the Boyle Goal in Round 1 and then from the 7-1 curb-stomping in Game 4 against Detroit. The team has more backbone than every previous San Jose playoff team combined, minus the one with Irbe between the irons.

Jumbo Joe, the most maligned man in teal, was the hero.

After Detroit snagged the lead in the second period, Thornton won a power-play faceoff, shook his checkers, went to the net and cashed in the rebound of a point shot for a 1-1 tie.

But there was plenty of reason for doubt. Like Detroit holding a 14-3 shot advantage. Like Joe Pavelski(notes), the Sharks' heart and soul for most of this postseason, sending the puck halfway to Fresno on a penalty shot in the third.

But then at 6:59 of the third, the stars won the game for the Sharks. Dany Heatley(notes) stole the puck from Brian Rafalski(notes) behind the net. Thornton corralled it, and sent a pass around Nicklas Lidstrom(notes). Patrick Marleau, wide-open in the slot, one-timed it past Jimmy Howard(notes).

The Sharks defense held. The Wings couldn't score on a 6-on-4 finish. San Jose is a conference finalist for the second time in franchise history. It's something even Wings fans can cheer about, apparently.

Maybe something will happen in the conference final or Stanley Cup final that will preserve the integrity of the "choker label"; otherwise, thousands of jokes, slurs and Photoshops will disappear into the hockey ether like they did when the Rangers won the Cup over 15 years ago.

We'll likely miss SharksFail as much as we miss 1940 ... because this team is for real. 

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