The San Jose Sharks have three options in their series with the Los Angeles Kings: (1.) Win Game 6 on Sunday, travel to Los Angeles, win Game 7 on Tuesday, and advance to the Western Conference Final; (2.) Win Game 6 on Sunday, travel to Los Angeles, lose Game 7 on Tuesday, and shake hands at center ice while the Kings advance; (3.) Lose Game 6 on Sunday, shake hands at center ice, and watch the Kings move on.
Inside the Sharks’ locker room, there is only one option to consider, and that’s option 1. The other two options cannot be allowed. However, that state of affairs depends totally on how the Sharks perform on Sunday.
This series has been heading in this direction since the drop of the first puck on May 14th at the Staples Center. In fact, Game 5 was the mirror image of Game 4 in so many different ways. Everything that the Sharks did to the Kings in Game 4, the Kings dished right back in Game 5.
The Sharks know what they have to do. Here is a brief rundown of the challenge from an historical perspective:
- Los Angeles has a 7-1 lifetime series record when leading a series, 3 games to 2. The one loss occurred in 1968, in the team’s very first playoff series against the Minnesota North Stars. Minnesota won Game 6 at home, in overtime, and traveled to Los Angeles and won Game 7 by a 9-4 score.
- The last time that the Kings had a 3-2 series lead, they eliminated the St. Louis Blues in Round 1 with a 2-1 victory at Staples Center. The last time that they were in this situation on the road, they traveled to New Jersey for Game 6 of last season’s Final. New Jersey won, 2-1, and forced a Game 7, which L.A. won, 6-1, to take the Stanley Cup.
- When they have a chance to clinch the series, the Kings have a lifetime record of 13-10.
- San Jose has a 1-8 lifetime series record when trailing a series, 3 games to 2. The one series win occurred in 1995, when the Sharks were shut out, 5-0, by Calgary in Game 5, and followed up with wins in Game 6 and 7.
- The last time that the Sharks were down 3-2 in a series, they traveled to Anaheim for Game 6 in that 2009 series, and lost, 4-1. The last time that they were in this situation at home, it was 2001, and they lost to St. Louis, 2-1.
- When facing elimination, the Sharks have a record of 9-15, including 3 wins in the second round. The last time that they faced elimination in the Western Conference Semi-Final, they beat Detroit, 3-2, in Game 7 of the 2011 series.
- San Jose’s record in home games when down 3-2 in a series is 1-3, with the win coming in that 1995 game vs. Calgary. Darryl Sutter was behind the bench for the Sharks in the other three games against Dallas (1998), Colorado (1999), and St. Louis (2001).
What do all of the above numbers mean, beyond some interesting historical perspective? Absolutely nothing, because the Kings are defending Stanley Cup champions, and the Sharks are a different hockey team this year. All I can say is that regardless of what time they drop the puck on Sunday, it’s going to be a fantastic hockey game. Tune in.