Antti Niemi

Two games left: Sharks could be playoff-bound

The San Jose Sharks did more than vault their playoff chances in beating the Dallas Stars 5-2 last night – they made a statement.

They can’t win on the road? – they did last night in convincing fashion.

Antti Niemi can’t stop a nosebleed? – Nemo had 29 saves, while just giving up two goals en route to his 33rd win on the season.

They can’t get scoring from anyone not named Logan Couture or Joe Pavelski? – Although Couture and Joe Thornton provided the game winner and dagger respectively, the 4th line was the star on Tuesday night, with Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi opening the scoring for San Jose.

They can’t score on the power play? – Okay, they still can’t score on the power play.

They aren’t going to make the playoffs – Last night’s win brought them that much closer.

Perhaps the most promising aspect of the Sharks win last night was the secondary scoring they enjoyed. Winnik’s goal was just another notch for one of the newest Shark’s contributions to the team. TJ Galiardi’s score was a beautiful shot off of a one handed pass from former Lightning center Dominic Moore. And Couture finally lifted his 11 game goal-ban with a perfect deflection off of a Martin Havlat pass from the boards. All told, the Sharks had 13 different players register points in one game, a good sign for team chemistry as the playoffs edge closer.

With two games left to play in the NHL regular season, both against the Los Angeles Kings, the Sharks now sit in the No. 8 seed of the Western Conference. Kevin Kurz did a great job of laying out what the Sharks will need to do in order to make my beard grow:

“The Sharks need two out of a possible four points to finish ahead of the Stars, or Dallas to get fewer than two points in its two remaining games in Nashville and at home against St. Louis. The Colorado Avalanche are barely in it with 88 points, but would need to win their final two games in regulation or overtime and have Sharks lose both in regulation.

“We’re still battling for a playoff spot. We want to win our division,” Logan Couture said. “That’s what’s on our mind right now. You move forward and get ready for LA.”

Most Sharks fans would probably agree with Logan’s sentiments. An 8th or 7th seeding would pit the Sharks against either the Vancouver Canucks or the St. Louis Blues, two teams that sufficiently have the Sharks’ number as of late. A No. 3 seeding would pit them against the Chicago Blackhawks – not exactly a Sharks-friendly opponent either – but they would enjoy home ice advantage in that first round series.

The Sharks could see a playoff spot clinched on Thursday night. If the Stars lose in Nashville to the Predators, the Sharks will clinch at least the 8th and final seed. If the Sharks beat the Kings they enjoy that same outcome. If the Stars win and the Sharks lose, they’ll have one more chance to do it on Saturday night, where the Sharks finish off their season at the Tank against the Kings once again while the Stars take on the dominant Blues.

Don’t throw away those razors just yet. There’s still much left to be proven in San Jose. Along with the occasional mental lapse and sloppy play, their power play, which failed to score even with a 4-minute double minor, still needs to show signs of life. And most importantly, they need to clinch that all important playoff berth before we even begin to look ahead. But last night we saw the Sharks make their best case for a playoff spot, and that momentum should carry over to the final two games of the 2012 season.

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