It’s been a sprint of an NHL season so far. The lockout shortened schedule has presented challenges to all 30 teams in the league. By season’s end, a week from Saturday, the Sharks will have played 48 games in 98 days. There will have been 31 flights totaling 28,167 air miles. There are 52 days dedicated to play 24 games on the road.
On top of game day morning skates the Sharks have had 31 non-game day practices.
A normal regular season is comprised 82 games spread over roughly 184 days.
Since the starting bell rang on January 20, it’s felt like NHL clubs hit the ground running. With just under two weeks remaining the 10 playoff spots are still up for grabs. The first round matchups most likely won’t be clear until the last day of the season.
It’s been a season of ups and downs for the Sharks. When they’ve looked good, they have look very good. When they play and east-west game and pass up on shooting opportunity they have had problems. The club’s recent success can be attributed a renewed effort to play a north-south game, with all twelve forwards making a difference.
Antti Niemi has been solid as any goaltender in the league. He’s been chased from the crease on a couple of occasions, but more often he’s been rock solid, keeping San Jose in the game. Heading toward the playoffs, remember Niemi has won a cup. He’s been there, backstopping the Blackhawks to the 16 wins necessary for capture the title. To a man, Sharks players and coaches have the utmost confidence in Niemi’s ability to get the job done.
Heading into the Western Playoffs, Chicago will most certainly be the favorite. They have been outstanding all season. Their lineup and depth is perhaps the best in hockey. Can they be beaten? Most certainly!
The beauty of the Stanley Cup playoff is all 16 qualifying teams start on equal ground. Last season, the LA Kings steamrolled its way to the championship. Their Hollywood story of clinching 8th spot late in the year, yet winning the cup will give hope to all 16 qualifiers.
As we head toward the end of the regular season, it should be a finish to remember. Should the Sharks play the way we know they can, the sky is the limit.