Playoff picture looking grim for struggling Sharks

If San Jose wants a real shot at hoisting Lord Stanley's Cup, they'll have to right their ship quickly

Gabriel John Ostler
March 21, 2019 - 11:30 am

The San Jose Sharks are in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, through no fault of their own.

Bitterness may seem unbecoming when it pertains to the second-place team in the Western Conference, but following three consecutive dismal losses where the Sharks had a chance to punch their postseason ticket on each night, discovering that San Jose would be skating into spring via Colorado beating Minnesota on Tuesday seems like a hollow victory at best.

Those who bleed teal could be forgiven for not setting off fireworks outside SAP Center.

And considering the hierarchy being established atop the West as the regular season draws to a close, Sharks fans could be feeling remarkably glum for what’s sure to be a 100+ point campaign.

Here’s the current postseason schematic for San Jose.

As it Sits

The oft-maligned Stanley Cup Playoff format keeps things in-house. Divisions generally eat each other alive before facing other contenders, first in the conference finals and then in the whole shebang.

In round one, first place in the division gets one of the conference’s wild cards, while second and third place immediately go toe to toe.

Therefore, if the season ended today, the Calgary Flames would face the Arizona Coyotes, while the Sharks would do battle with the Vegas Golden Knights.

It’s hard to call a second-year franchise a sticking point, but Vegas seems to have already developed a particular affinity for boatracing San Jose. Last year, the Knights eliminated the Sharks in the second round of the playoffs. This season, Vegas has outscored San Jose 15-6 in their three matchups. And it’s always difficult for Martin Jones to stand in the crease versus the steel and gold knowing that William Karlsson has permanent ownership of his soul.

Long story short, it’d be pretty great if the Sharks could avoid the Knights right off the jump. So what has to be done in order for that to happen?

The Rest of the Way

Nine points clear of trailing Arizona, Vegas is entrenched in that No. 3 spot in the Pacific. That means if San Jose wants to steer clear in the opening round, they’ve got to wrest control of the division back from red-hot Calgary.

Both teams have nine games left to go and Calgary is three points clear of San Jose.

To make matters worse, the Flames only go against two playoff teams in that entire span. Four of those contests are versus the godawful Los Angeles Kings and sad-sack Anaheim Ducks. Yep, the barnacles of the Pacific — twice each for Johnny Gaudreau and company.

San Jose has it slightly tougher. Four of their remaining nine opponents are in the playoff hunt. They’ve got an away back-to-back  — against the aforementioned barnacles — but playing two games in 48 hours with travel included is no easy feat.

The possible silver lining? March 31 at the Shark Tank, where San Jose welcomes Calgary for their final meeting of the regular season.

A win alone won’t be enough to leapfrog the Flames if Calgary takes care of the rest of their business. But two clean points gained at the division leader’s expense could be a key bit of momentum the Sharks need to clinch the Pacific and ensure themselves both a cushier first-round matchup and home ice throughout the playoffs.

Go Time

The Sharks have no-one to blame but themselves for their current predicament.

Sure, Papa Injury’s cruel cudgel has felled Radim Simek, kept Erik Karlsson at bay, and now threatens to roll up Joe Pavelski in the midst of a career year.

But just one week ago they held first place in their division, and responded with three flat, weary, stale and unprofitable showings that have handed the keys to the kingdom right back to the Calgary Flames.

The current picture has the Sharks facing the daunting task of Vegas in the first round. If – a big if – they manage to remove that particular item from their collective craw, then they likely run into a Calgary squad that’s had ample time to rest after skating thin upstart Arizona into oblivion. It’s not a good outlook for San Jose.

However, if they dig back in, pick up some W’s, and score vital points on the 31st, San Jose can still flip the script and turn Calgary into the ones who are worn-down come round two.

With how much San Jose as a franchise has riding on these coming playoffs, these nine remaining games might be the most important in Sharks history. It’s time to see if the lads can take control of their own destiny.

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