Don’t look now, but the Sharks appear to be doing exactly what I thought they couldn’t do. Coming off the heels of a 2-1 victory over the Boston Bruins on Thursday evening, I was almost certain that the Sharks would revert back to recent form and lay an enormous egg against the Coyotes on Saturday night. To my surprise, the Sharks did quite the opposite.
Okay, so it wasn’t exactly ideal. San Jose took down the pesky Phoenix team 4-3 in a shootout that saw Michal Handzus and Ryane Clowe make easy work of ‘Yotes goalie Mike Smith. There’s that silly NHL overtime rule again, which means that even in defeating Phoenix, they still surrendered a point to their division rivals because they couldn’t manage to take them out in 60 minutes. Of course they didn’t have an issue beating the Eastern Conference’s second overall Boston Bruins in regulation two nights before – I guess that’s just the way it goes. Maybe the Sharks are taking a page out of the 2010 Giant’s book after all.
The Sharks (updated) push for the playoffs
Now the Sharks sit at ninth in the west with 86 points, behind the Los Angeles Kings. Despite being tied in points with the Kings, the Sharks have one more loss. In front of the Kings are the Coyotes with 87 points, clinging on to the seventh seed. The Dallas Stars sit at third in the West as the Pacific Division leaders, also with 87 points. Their advantage comes from the fact that they have four more wins than the Coyotes. The Colorado Avalanche are on the Sharks’ heels in tenth place with 86 points. They’re tied in points and have more wins, but they also have more losses than the Sharks.
Having trouble dissecting this madness? You’re not alone. This has become the true definition of a playoff push, as the Sharks are still sitting on the outside looking in with seven games to go. This whole “sneaking in the back door” thing is new to the Sharks and their fans. That may or may not prove to be a good thing.
The stretch run
If San Jose wants to make it into the playoffs, they will have to get there mainly through their division. They’ll face off with Jamie McGinn and the upstart Colorado Avalanche Monday night, and after that it’s all Pacific opponents. Their next opponent, the Ducks, aren’t making the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t show up. Don’t forget the last time the Sharks and Ducks faced off – it was Tuesday, and the Ducks dismantled San Jose 5-3.
Then they play the Coyotes, Stars twice and Kings twice to finish the season. If the Sharks win out and get a couple lucky breaks with their primary competitions’ opponents, they could vault all the way to third in the Western Conference, although I’d take caution in possessing a lofty hope like that. The goal at this point is to get in, and ultimately the Sharks control their own destiny. If they play in the final seven games like they have in the last two, the Sharks will be lacing up their dancing shoes. If they fall back into discombobulation and disarray, they’ll be watching the Stanley Cup playoffs from the couch.
Whatever the outcome, it’ll be new and different for Sharks fans. If they end up making the playoffs, they will do it by fighting for their spot rather than rolling across the finish line on cruise control. This year it will be their heart, rather than their talent, that decides what the Sharks are truly made of.