The San Jose Sharks have a wonderful opportunity Tuesday against Toronto.
Thanks to the Maple Leafs 3-1 win in Anaheim Monday, the Sharks are now within 4 points of the Ducks for first place in the Pacific Division. For the first time in a long time Anaheim has to be feeling some heat.
Back on January 15th Ducks had a 13-point lead on the second place Sharks. They looked uncatchable for the division title. At that point Anaheim had an incredible 20-0-2 record on home ice. But since then they’ve won only 4 out of 12 home games. The Sharks on the other hand have kept their collective noses to the grindstone and amassed a 12-5-1 record since January 15th, and that leads us to the opportunity.
Since last weeks trade deadline passed, the Sharks have played two of their better games of the season against Pittsburgh and Toronto. They’ve closed the gap on Anaheim and now they have a chance to turn up the temperature on their Orange County rivals.
So why is it so important to catch Anaheim for the division? Well first of all the Sharks could avoid a first round match-up with Los Angeles. The Kings appear to have returned to form and will be an extremely tough out in the opening round of the playoffs no matter who they go up against. And if the Sharks want to make a long run and get to the finals it figures they’ll probably have to go through some combination of LA, Anaheim, St. Louis, Colorado and or Chicago regardless of where they finish in the standings. Any preferable match-up you can get in the opening round and any additional home ice advantage you can grab would be for the best.
So Tuesday night the Sharks have an opportunity to build on what has been a good post Olympic run. They will face a team that played a difficult game Monday and they will face a backup goaltender. The opportunity is there. Will they make the best of that opportunity or will it be an opportunity missed? Find out tonight on Comcast Sportsnet California and on KFOX and the Sharks Radio Network with the pregame coverage beginning at 7PM PDT.
I’m Randy Hahn