If the NHL allowed exhibition games to count during the regular season the Sharks would be in the playoffs or better yet in a great position for home ice advantage to the final round.
If they had not gone through that winless stretch in the first half of the season and had only won a few of those games they would be sitting in third or fourth in the conference.
If Scott Parker was not out of the lineup so long or the goaltending and overall team defense was more consistent the Sharks may be looking in their rearview mirror at the rest of the Pacific Division, like Dallas is now.
None of that matters anymore. They just have to find a way to get in the door. Like coach Wilson has said for some time, “It will probably come down to the last week of the season.”
Coming in first during the regular season does not guarantee your place in the finals. Everyone starts out the playoffs with no points. Home ice has not played a big factor in winning the Holy Grail of hockey nor has special teams. Past years winners have had timely goals and key saves down the stretch to accumulate the 16 wins needed to hoist the Cup.
Sharks fans down the stretch will be asked to reach deep down, swallow their pride, and root for a number of teams they spent all year cheering against. They will have to cheer for the Oilers and Chris Pronger one night and Todd Bertuzzi and the Canucks the next! Can you imagine that!
Right now, as I write this article at my office desk, the Sharks players are getting ready at home to drive down to HP Pavilion to have their pregame skate. Nils Ekman was probably up a few times last night with his newborn son Melvin and the rest of the dad’s on the team went about their normal morning routines. It may have been Scott Thornton’s day to carpool kids to school or maybe Jonathan Cheechoo and Mark Smith are on their way to get Joe a cup of coffee and a bagel to have waiting in his locker when he arrives at the rink! Just kidding. Some are dads, some are not, but all of them are brothers in that locker room.
Some of the things I would tell the Sharks today—
I would tell them that today is all any of us has, right now, this very moment. Stay in the moment. Make the most of it and lay it all out on the line. Be smart and be strong. Have faith in yourself, your teammates, the coaching staff and never doubt that faith. In the words of Scott Parker, BRING IT ON! No matter who the opposition is, play your game, and leave nothing on the ice.