Five Questions: Sharks need road success, Pavelski
There's a question that's been haunting the San Jose Sharks for quite some time:
Will they ever win the Stanley Cup?
Here are five questions they must answer to win it this season:
1. Can the Sharks win a game on the road?
There is absolutely no question they can win at home; San Jose went 17-2-5 at HP Pavilion this season, and is 110-34-20 there in four previous seasons under coach Todd McLellan.
But based on the Western Conference seeding, the Sharks will have to win a road game or two to advance through each round. This season they were 8-13-2 in enemy buildings, including road losses to non-playoff teams Nashville, Calgary, Colorado and Phoenix. They were 2-3-0 on the road in April.
The Sharks did win three road games in a six-game, first-round series victory against the Los Angeles Kings in 2011, and won their only game in a five-game loss to the St. Louis Blues last season on the road.
When the energetic forward is on his game, the Sharks have had playoff success. When he's been held off the score sheet, the Sharks have gone home early.
Last season, Pavelski did not have a point in the quick loss to the Blues. The prior spring, he had 10 points in 18 games on the way to the conference final, one season after he had 17 points in 15 games in reaching the third round. The season before that, he had one point and the Sharks checked out in the first round.
Pavelski has moved up and down the lineup, and after the Sharks traded away Ryane Clowe and turned Brent Burns into a forward, Pavelski settled on the third line with Raffi Torres and Tommy Wingels, but he still plays on the top power-play unit.
With eight of their top players at least 30 years old, and Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau each turning 34 before next season, this could be the last hurrah for this core. Whether it ends with the ultimate prize is yet to be answered.