They will most likely move on, and no doubt the sooner the better, but until they do the question needs to be asked: has the 3-0 series lead the San Jose Sharks have earned over the Detroit Red Wings similarly earned them the respect they've lacked all these years, or will it only provide them a bigger stage on which to choke?
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, coming back from a 3-0 deficit is beyond rare. Only two teams have been able to do it in the history of the league (the 1975 New York Islanders and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs). Combine that with the fact that the Red Wings' flaws and age are beginning to show all at once (although that might have something to do with the fact that they're down three games) and it does seem increasingly unlikely that a miraculous comeback is in the cards here.
But wait. This is the same San Jose team that has never made it to the Stanley Cup Final, despite winning five division championships and one Presidents' Trophy… the same team that lost to the eighth-seeded Anaheim Ducks last spring in the conference quarterfinals, the same team that hasn't gotten past the second round of the playoffs since before the lockout (and lost to the lower-seeded Calgary Flames in that third round in 2004). The same team graced with perennial choke artist (sorry… artiste) Joe Thornton. Why should this year be any different?
Honestly, I don't know. All I know is that the Sharks are as good a lock to make it to the third round as anyone else and then some, and, then, who really knows? I believed that the Red Wings would defeat the Sharks in six games. Following Detroit's game-three blunder Tuesday night, obviously that's an impossibility to say the least, just as a Detroit victory in seven seems on the surface to be (don't worry… I'm not about to make a case as to how the Wings will be able to make an incredible comeback; I'm resigned now to believing it won't happen).
Still, the Sharks are far from having won anything. In the conference championship, they'll still have to face one of two great teams in the Vancouver Canucks and Chicago Blackhawks. And, then, if they can move on, maybe the Stanley-Cup-champion Pittsburgh Penguins. Suffice it to say, anything less than a Cup this year will rightly or wrongly have analysts asking the same questions once again, starting with: Should they re-sign forward Patrick Marleau and goaltender Evgeni Nabokov when each becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1?
The short answer (in my opinion, of course) is no. No to both, even if they do win it all. Nabokov is due for a steep drop-off in skill any year now (he is going to be 35) and Marleau turns hot and cold so often on a year-to-year basis that he is similarly due for another stinker relatively soon. Giving either a new long-term contract is not going to help the organization take it to the next level (or even stay there if they are able to do it these playoffs).
With players like Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Frolov, Chris Mason, Marty Turco, and Dan Ellis available, the Sharks can most certainly upgrade on Marleau and get a slight downgrade on this present incarnation of Nabokov for a lot less than each will fetch on the open market (or, in the case of Kovalchuk, about the same).
Seeing as the team is being given the opportunity to, it just makes sense to take the team in a different direction whatever the outcome of this post-season. As they tend to say, the future has a way of sneaking up on you. Why not get started on it as soon as possible, because the past, at least for the Sharks, hasn't exactly been a time worth living in.