With their 5-4 overtime victory tonight, the Sharks have finally found themselves inside the playoff picture. For Team Teal it seems as if it was only a matter of time before they saw themselves in the top eight in the Western Conference.
A big 10 game losing streak in November made many critics doubters of the Sharks, but the acquisition of Joe Thornton
, coupled with the outstanding play of Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrick Marleau
and Nils Ekman among others changed the team’s outlook on the season.
In what has seemed to be an uphill battle after digging such a big hole, the Sharks have tied Edmonton and Vancouver for the No. 7 spot in the Western Conference. And with one game in hand on Vancouver and two in hand on Edmonton, San Jose is poised to keep climbing up the standings in the final weeks of the season.
“We need to get two points all the time now,” said Joe Thornton
, who notched three assists in the victory at Chicago. “It’s been so tight lately it seems like we have been playing playoff hockey for the last 20 games, but we’re confident right now.”
The Sharks have seen a bit more diversity on the scoring sheet in recent weeks, which is something that Head Coach Ron Wilson mentioned he wanted to see in the final month of the season. On Sunday, five different Sharks lit the lamp, including Patrick Rissmiller, Steve Bernier, Nils Ekman, Mark Smith and Tom Pressing.
“Guys are shooting the puck well right now,” said Thornton. “On the game winner, I saw that the penalty was called and I saw the D go past. Tommy was wide open.”
It was a hard fought battle in Chicago Sunday night, and despite giving up a goal with just over a minute remaining in regulation, the Sharks showed their never-say-die attitude and hung on for the victory.
“We showed character finding a way to get two points, even if it was in OT,” said Smith, who gave the Sharks the 4-3 midway through the third. “Every point is crucial. It seems like we’ll jump two spots in the standings every game.”
The Sharks aren’t just satisfied with holding on to the seven spot, and they realized that the standings can fluctuate every day until the final game of the season. Just like Coach Wilson has alluded to so much throughout the season, the playoff picture will truly come down to the final week of the season. For tonight, however, the Sharks will savor the victory before traveling to Columbus for the final game of their five-game road trip.
With his three assists tonight, Joe Thornton
crawled back within one point of the league lead in points with 106. New York Ranger Jaromir Jagr currently holds down the lead with 107 points. Jagr also has two more games played on Thornton.
If Thornton could accumulate 19 more assists in his final 12 games, the center could reach the 100 assist milestone, becoming only the fourth player in NHL history to accomplish that feat.