Sharks Gameday: Hello Once Again Ol' Buddy Ol' Pal



5:00 PST
10-5-1, 21 points 11-7-0, 22 points
6th in Western Conference 5th in Western Conference
98.5 KFOX,
Defending Big D
Razor With An Edge

Teams like Detroit are always a good measuring stick of how well the team is playing at a specific point in the season, even if that measuring stick has become less and less useful over the last two plus seasons. Dates against Chicago and Vancouver are those marquee matchups you circle on your calendar every year because the amount of talent that is about to hit the ice guarantees you'll see some of the best hockey the NHL has to offer. Anaheim and Los Angeles both have the California connection and one playoff battle apiece, which makes them a great default setting to fall back on.

The Sharks biggest rivalry? We can talk about Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Detroit. You can make a case for Vancouver, and maybe even Chicago.

But pound for pound, there isn't a team in the entire NHL that has the same feel as Dallas.

When the Sharks-Stars rivalry was in its heyday during the late 90's and mid 2000's (I refuse to use the term "aughts"), both teams racking up 95 point seasons and doing battle for the Pacific Division nearly every year, that is when the rivalry was at its best. The Stars were coming off a Stanley Cup championship in 1999, the Sharks were becoming a team that was consistently in the hunt every year, and the toxic spillover from a pair of playoff series in 1998 and 2000 helped kick everything into motion. It was stellar theater night in night out; despite the fact that a lockout, personnel changes, and new coaching staffs for both teams all could have put a damper on the festivities, things never really slowed down.

Whenever I think of a moment that encapsulates the relationship between the two teams I turn back the clock to April 6, 2008. Both Dallas and San Jose had already clinched a playoff berth, the Pacific Division title was firmly in the Sharks' hands, and there was no possibility of them meeting in the first round. It was the last game of the regular season for both teams; for all intents and purposes, a throwaway game. Get in, get out, stay healthy, and make sure you get your most important players enough rest for the opening round of the playoffs. Simple.

Not so.

105 penalty minutes in the first period. 160 total throughout the game. Five fights, including one involving Milan Michalek (Milan Michalek!). Hooks, hacks, slashes, instigators, god knows what kind of smack talk. It was a barroom brawl in a game that meant absolutely nothing. The final score, 4-2 Dallas, didn't even matter. What mattered was that both teams showed up at American Airlines Center for their morning skate, mainlined a gallon of adrenaline in the hours preceding the faceoff, and stepped onto the ice with the sole intent of tearing each other apart.

The rivalry has lost a little bit of the old mystique in the last two or so seasons, and I only say that because Dallas' failure to make the postseason three years running has framed things that way. With that minor caveat out of the way however, it needs to be reiterated that these games are some of the fiercest, physical, and taxing outings on the Sharks schedule.

Over the last two seasons the Sharks are 5-5-2 against the Stars. I'd have to go through and tabulate all of the data for other opponents, but that has to be one of the worst (if not the worst) records San Jose has posted against a Western Conference opponent in that time frame. Dallas has always seemed to have San Jose's number, whether it be in the regular season or postseason, and in that regard nothing has changed.

Today also marks a milestone of sorts-- San Jose's opportunity to move into a tie for first place in the Pacific Division since October 8th (their first game of the year). As a rule it's pretty useless to pay attention to the minutia of the standings until about January, as teams are jumping from first to third to second to first all the time, but this seems like an accomplishment that is worth noting considering just how far the Sharks have come as a team since going 1-3-0 to start the year.

The opportunity to move into first, on the road, against Dallas, in the midst of a Stars' four game losing streak?


Prediction: Sharks win 3-2 in overtime. Goals by Pavelski, McGinn, and Burns. Congratulations to the city of Dallas and their fans on finding a new owner.