The Stanley Cup Playoffs don’t start for another week but the San Jose Sharks still have at least one “biggest game of the season, so far” left on the schedule. Wednesday night, the Sharks will visit the Anaheim Ducks. Anaheim leads the Pacific Division with 110 points, three more than the second place Sharks. Both teams have three games left to play. Do the math. If Anaheim wins the game in any fashion Wednesday, the best that San Jose would be able to do is tie Anaheim by winning the last two games against Colorado and Phoenix while hoping the Ducks lose in regulation to the Kings and Avalanche in their last two games. And that would only result in a tie, and a tie at the end of the season does the Sharks no good. Anaheim holds the tiebreakers. So Wednesday is a must win. Period.
Back in mid-January, the Sharks trailed Anaheim by as many as 13 points in the standings. The last time they played one another on March 20 at SAP Center, the Sharks won 3-2 and temporarily overtook the Ducks for first place. But the Sharks were unable to hold on to the division lead. Since that win San Jose’s record is 3-3-2. The Ducks, on the other hand, have gone 5-2-1 down the stretch, allowing them to retake the lead.
The scenario going forward is taking shape. The team that wins the Pacific will probably host the Minnesota Wild in the opening round. (Unless the Blues three game stumble continues). The runner up would take on the Kings. Pick your poison. LA is two years removed from a championship and Jonathan Quick has the ability to steal a series by himself. Meanwhile the Wild are getting hot down the stretch led by a diverse scoring attack and a suddenly stingy Ilya Bryzgalov in the net.
However it shakes out you have to like the fact that the Sharks still have important games left to play this final week. It starts Wednesday against the Ducks on NBC Sports Network at 7:30pm PDT.
I’m Randy Hahn for sjsharks.com