When NBC designed their regular season broadcast schedule last summer to end with a game between the Sharks and Kings in Los Angeles on 2014-15's final day, they likely envisioned an intense matchup between two heated rivals with playoff positioning or perhaps even a division title on the line and a possible postseason rematch weeks away. After all, San Jose and L.A. were two of the best teams in the league last season and combined to produce an epic, historic playoff series last spring.
Instead, what they'll get this afternoon is an utterly meaningless, anticlimactic season finale between two teams that won't be playing hockey again until the fall. The Sharks, after a tumultuous offseason and roller-coaster campaign, learned early in the week their streak of consecutive playoff appearances will end at ten. The Kings, hilariously, will become just the fifth team in NHL history to miss the playoffs the year after winning a Stanley Cup as their bid to repeat as champions was ended by the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames over the past three days.
It's tough to know what to expect today, except that the outcome won't matter at all; a bizarre description given how much has traditionally been at stake in meetings between these teams over the past four years.
Tale Of The Tape
|40-32-9, 89 points
||Record||39-27-15, 93 points|
|5th in Pacific||Rank||4th in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Melker Karlsson
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Tomas Hertl
Matt Nieto - Chris Tierney - Tommy Wingels
John Scott - Ben Smith - Bryan Lerg
Brenden Dillon - Justin Braun
Karl Stollery - Brent Burns
Matt Irwin - Taylor Fedun
Projected Kings Lineup
Marian Gaborik - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dwight King - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Dustin Brown - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Mike Richards - Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty
Robyn Regehr - Alec Martinez
Brayden McNabb - Matt Greene
Marian Gaborik scored off a Brent Burns turnover four minutes into the third period to give Los Angeles the win under the lights at Levi's Stadium in the first outdoor game in Sharks history.
- This could be the Last Game As A Shark for pending unrestricted free agents Antti Niemi, John Scott and Matt Irwin as well as head coach Todd McLellan whose future with the organization remains in doubt since he'd provide a rather convenient scapegoat for Doug Wilson's failures.
- It might be billed as that for Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau too but those no-movement clauses sure as hell aren't getting re-negotiated over the summer.
- Since March 1st, the Kings have the best score-adjusted Corsi For percentage (56.8%) in the league while the Sharks are 4th (54.7%). Neither will be going to the playoffs, nor will 2nd-place Dallas (56.5%). When you dig yourself the kind of hole these teams did earlier in the season (granted, the Sharks' hole-digging mostly occurred in February), it's hard to climb out of it even with excellent play down the stretch.