After what seemed like the longest road trip in the history of road trips, the Sharks are finally back on South Bay ice for three of their last six games of the season.
No, not just the “regular season.” When Todd McLellan told the traveling media over the weekend that the team was going to “go until somebody tells us we can’t go anymore,” that day will probably be the season-ender down in Los Angeles.
Although some of the mathletes out there have tried to calculate every possible way San Jose could squeak into the playoff picture, it is highly unlikely that 1) The Sharks will win the rest of their games and 2) Every team ahead of them in the standings magically loses the right number of games to push the Sharks into Round 1. Sitting five points behind LA and eight points behind Calgary — who really hasn’t slowed their winning ways all season — in the current standings, San Jose just isn’t in the mix.
However, the Sharks have picked their game up as of late, with the opportunity to end this season on a much happier note than the last one. Perhaps missing the playoffs for the first time in over a decade really isn’t such a bad thing.
It’s as though the Sharks caught a bit of fire in the last week. The first time we really heard any member of the team acknowledge that their season had a rapidly-approaching expiration date was after Team Teal blew a late lead to fall to Andrew Hammond and the Senators last Monday in Ottawa. Since that game, however, San Jose turned their roadie around and strung a couple wins together, showing more grit and drive than when they were in more of a push for a playoff berth.
Heck, they put up a fight in their final road game against the Penguins on Sunday, right up until they squandered a four-minute power play in overtime that probably cost them the game.
All in all, a 3-3-1 road trip — while not enough to push them into a playoff spot — saw the Sharks turn their game around and win even as the wear and tear of the roadie set in and the blue line became depleted due to injury. And give credit to Alex Stalock, who made some huge saves in back-to-back starts to keep the Sharks in those games.
It’s as if the grand realization of not playing past April 11 gave the team a bigger boost to end the season on a high note. As mentioned many times before, there have been signs that the heartache that ended the Sharks playoff run last season — and all the drama that followed — hasn’t quite gone away. Maybe the best way to finally put all of that to bed and start fresh is to end this with a string of good games before moving forward?
In contrast to the lengthy roadie, the Sharks schedule over the next week and a half is a bit more forgiving. Starting off with a home tilt against the Avalanche on Wednesday, San Jose will see less-intimidating matchups as their season draws to a close. Given that the Sharks at least appear to be getting over that tendency to play down to lesser competition, this is as good a time as any to end their 2014-15 campaign with a few victories in the bank.
The real treat would be if they won the season finale against the Kings next Saturday. If the Sharks are going to bow out before the playoffs, might as well go down with a victory over LA.