Sharks Gameday: San Jose looks to effectively bury Dallas as they hit the road



5:30 PST
40-29-10, 90 points 42-32-5, 89 points
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Your obligatory Pacific Division contender standings heading into today:

Pacific Division Standings

team GP W L OTL PTS ROW Goal Dif.
Los Angeles Kings 80 40 27 13 93 34 +17
Phoenix Coyotes 79 39 27 13 91 33 +4
San Jose Sharks 79 40 29 10 90 32 +13
Dallas Stars 79 42 32 5 89 35 -5

To review-- three of these four teams will make the postseason. Colorado still has a chance if two of these teams lose out, but it looks pretty unlikely that they'll be able to get that many breaks down the stretch.

Now on to tonight's game.

San Jose has a chance to put themselves in really good position tonight if they can beat the Stars in regulation. A three point game either way would muddy the waters, but a regulation win would put the Sharks up by three points over Dallas with two games left for both teams. That's a huge lead at this time of year and means that they'd have to either acquire two points in their final two games or see Dallas lose out two points to come clinch a playoff berth.

The Stars play the Preds and Blues in their final two games, which is no easy road. Although both those teams have already qualified for the postseason, they're in a battle for home-ice advantage and the number one seed in the Western Conference respectively. In other words, they're still playing for something right now and won't be coasting into the playoffs just trying to stay healthy.

Obviously a regulation loss would flip the script for San Jose, making those final two games against Los Angeles a dire situation. It all depends on how other teams do of course, but if the Sharks end up going 2-1 in these next three games, beating Dallas tonight and dropping one to Los Angeles is definitely the best way to do it.

As an aside, I'm actually really enjoying this playoff race. Sure it's not where San Jose wants to be and doesn't allow McLellan to manage ice time and sit players who are playing with injuries, but it's a helluva ride we haven't experienced for awhile. Grabbing the Pacific Division title still needs to be the priority as a first round matchup against St. Louis or Vancouver presents all types of difficulties, but if San Jose can crack the postseason I think they've got as good of a shot as anybody not named St. Louis to get to the Western Conference Finals.

It all centers around tonight however, and I think it's an easy bet to say that Dallas will be much better than they were on Saturday in San Jose. The Stars were on the tail end of a back to back this weekend and got into their San Jose hotel room at 3 AM from Vancouver-- there's no excuses this time of year of course, but with two days rest and the looming spector of the Grim Reaper about to rip a postseason appearance in the final games from their hands for the second straight year, I think it's reasonable to expect the Stars to come out with a helluva more jump than they did two days ago.

For San Jose, continuing where they left off on Saturday will obviously be the priority. That was one of their better games in the last two months in terms of overall dominance in all aspects of the game, and their 4-0-1 record against Dallas this season (to go along with their 20-8 goal differential sans shootout goals) provides a level of comfort that feels strange in a game this big.

But as San Jose has shown lately, flashes of brilliance are often sandwiched in between disappointing results. Over the last eight games, or right about when San Jose started to climb out of two months of dormancy, the Sharks have gone 4-4-0 and dropped important games to Anaheim (x2), Phoenix, and Los Angeles. While those games may become mere blips on their radar if the Sharks get into the postseason, the lack of wins in important games are a trend that must be squelched tonight.

No better team to do it against than Dallas.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-1. Goals by Pavelski, Couture, and Marleau.