SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks will take a series win any which way, as long as they finally prevail over their personal boogeymen.
As Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said Thursday, even if takes Game 7 and double overtime, so be it -- as long as his team moves past the Los Angeles Kings and on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Sure, he would have preferred a four-game sweep, but he'll take win No. 4 whenever it comes.
But let's be real, too. The cherry on the sundae is right there for the taking Friday night, starting at 10:30 ET, at Staples Center.
The Sharks are getting set to play their 19th consecutive playoff game against the Kings, having lost seven-game series to them in 2013 and, famously, in 2014, when San Jose lost a 3-0 series lead. And that collapse is still very much in the back of the Sharks' minds, no matter what they say.
So, yeah, I'm here to tell you that a Game 5 victory Friday night would be the ultimate rebuttal for the organization. In other words, don't let the series drag out so people keep asking about what happened in 2014.
End it now.
"We need to win, we need to close it out, we're going there to win the game," Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic said Thursday before his team left for L.A.
If you're looking to read body language, this was a loose-looking group Thursday, a handful of players knee-deep in a pingpong tournament while the sound system in the dressing room blared some good ol' Tragically Hip (a step up over the Justin Bieber overheard earlier in the week).
So, no, this did not look like a team concerned about past playoff demons.
The 2014 storyline though, fair or not, will hang over them until they close out the series.
If we were looking for a glimpse of how tangibly different this squad is from the one that folded two years ago, perhaps we saw a bit of it Wednesday night when the Kings scored twice to make a 3-0 Sharks lead turn into a 3-2 nail-biter. At that very moment, San Jose swallowed hard ... and slammed the door on the Kings.
As San Jose star Joe Thornton observed Thursday, the Sharks continued to roll four lines and six defensemen in those final 10 minutes and believed in what they've been doing all season.
"We really do trust each other that we're going to get the job done. It's a nice feeling to have," said Thornton, the MVP of this series so far.
"I honestly find that we don't make the big errors; we've really cut that out of our game. Errors that would have cost us in the past, we don't make those silly plays anymore."
What allowed the Sharks to stay focused in those 10 crazy minutes to end the game? For an answer, go back to Day 1 of camp.
"We tried to lay a foundation in training camp for this time of year," said DeBoer, "so we would be able to withstand the highs and the lows and the ups and downs, and keep relying on that. I think that's what we're doing."
DeBoer wasn't here two years ago. Neither were 10 players on the team. It's a theme that Sharks have stressed since the start of the series, how different this squad is from two years ago.
"So much has changed," said Thornton, taking a deep breath as he answered yet another 2014 question. "I can't even remember three weeks ago. But there's been so much change, coaching, players; probably the only thing that stayed the same is we have the same training staff. It's remarkable how much turnover has come from that team two years ago to this point."
And now they're one win away from healing.