Since the 2005-2006 regular season came to a close, the San Jose Sharks have been amongst the favorites to win the Stanley Cup every single playoffs.
Unfortunately for the Sharks and their fan base, San Jose hasn't even gotten past the second round during this time frame.
Despite a regular season dominance over the last five years, the Sharks have made an early playoff exit each season.
And since the Sharks boast such a talented roster year in and year out, the continual playoff failures have caused fans to frequently ask the same question: Do they have enough will?
They have always had the skill, but do they have enough sheer will to win?
With the playoffs on the horizon, the question is undoubtedly on the minds of all Sharks fans.
Now I could give arguments about the will to win of each individual player on the team, but as I have learned, sports readers have short attention spans.
Therefore, I won't bore you by delving into each player's willingness to do whatever it takes to win.
However, what I will do is center my argument between the pipes.
Evgeni Nabokov and Thomas Greiss are the options San Jose has in net this season.
Clearly, Nabokov is the undisputed No. 1 goaltender and barring injury, will be the Sharks' starter in the postseason.
As a two-time All-Star, a Vezina Trophy finalist and an Olympian, there is no denying the high level of skill that No. 20 in teal brings to the ice.
Some of the saves he has made in his career have been simply mind boggling. The save in my article photo for example is arguably the greatest stop by any goalie over the last decade.
But a save is a save no matter how flashy or amazing it may have been.
Even if Nabokov were to save 40 out of 43 shots in a particular contest (with many stops being of the spectacular variety), what will stand out in the end is whether or not the goals allowed were stoppable.
Soft goals have a tendency to deflate the rest of the team and come playoffs the bad feeling afterward can linger for quite some time.
Now while Nabokov is having a career year this season, some of the problems that have plagued him over the years are still evident. The five hole is gigantic, top corner glove side is a weakness, and his compete factor is being questioned.
OK, maybe I should pass out the disclaimer that I have never been a huge fan of Nabokov.
However, there was one particular goal he allowed this season that should have left even the biggest Nabokov fan scratching his head.
The goal came on January 6th against the St. Louis Blues.
San Jose would end up winning by a 2-1 final in overtime but the goal Nabokov let in was extremely disturbing.
Without taking multiple lengthy paragraphs to describe the sequence leading up to the goal, why don't you just watch for yourself?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0P0h3CVD154 (1:30 mark)
Tell me, where is the will to win? Why doesn't Nabokov scramble back into position? A good 3-4 seconds elapse with Nabokov out of the net before the Blues score. The Shark netminder just sits there as Rob Blake tries to play goalie.
If that is Dan Boyle wearing goalie gear, do you think he just minds his own business out of position for 3-4 seconds while the Blues are attempting to score?
I don't think so.
Yet in the post-game comments Nabokov didn't seem to care much about allowing a weak goal. He was merely "upset" that their wasn't any penalty called for interference.
Did he take responsibility for not getting back into position? Nope.
Did he say that he should have played to the whistle rather than complain about the non call? Not in the slightest.
But I'll guarantee you this, a goaltender like Greiss would have scrambled back to the net on a play like that.
Who knows, St. Louis may have scored on that play no matter who was in net but the way Nabokov gave up on the play was embarrassing.
Greiss on the other hand would have at least made his best effort to try and make the stop because he isn't of the stature to shake off one bad goal like it's no big deal. Each soft goal he allows is one giant step backwards in an attempt to earn a starting job in the future.
However, Nabokov has a starting job for as long as he wants one, which is one of the issues that concerns me.
How much does Nabokov actually care? Sometimes when athletes have a contract that demands they play, attention to detail can be thrown out the window.
Now I'm not around Nabokov every day (nor any day for that matter), so maybe my analysis is off base.
But as far as I can tell, when getting the nod to start in goal, Greiss is the goalie who works harder to keep the puck out of the net.
And after allowing a terrible goal that cost the Sharks a comeback bid in his first action of the season, Greiss has played very well this year.
In 11 starts, San Jose's backup netminder has registered a .918 save percentage, just .03 worse than Nabokov's mark this season.
Does this mean I feel Greiss should be the playoff starter instead of Nabokov? No, not in the slightest.
What it means is that with the way this Sharks season has gone between the pipes, wouldn't it have been wise to give Greiss more starts?
Clearly he has a stronger will to win than Nabokov because he has much more to prove. But by seeing the Shark backup play so few games this season, we don't know just how inferior he is talent wise.
Had he played 10-15 more games this season, the Sharks would have a much better clue to his strengths and weaknesses as a goaltender.
With the postseason less than two weeks away, playing the goalie with the best combination of will and skill is a must.
And when it comes to the Sharks, it is frustrating seeing them go into the playoffs without truly knowing which goalie has that stronger combination.