Sharks Gameday: Here Comes The Stretch Drive; Tiebreakers Likely To Determine Who Makes The Playoffs In the Western Conference



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Take a look at this gong show going in the Pacific Division right now:

Pacific Division Standings

team GP W L OTL PTS ROW Goal Dif.
Dallas Stars 77 42 30 5 89 35 +1
Los Angeles Kings 77 38 27 12 88 32 +13
San Jose Sharks 77 39 28 10 88 31 +12
Phoenix Coyotes 77 37 27 13 87 31 -2

Barring an absolute collapse from two of these teams, the Pacific Division will send three teams to the playoffs this season by the skin of their teeth. Colorado and Calgary are still mathematically alive, but it looks unlikely either of them will be able to get it done based off points earned and games played.

San Jose will play Phoenix once, Dallas twice, and Los Angeles twice in their remaining five games. Their playoff fate is firmly in their own hands right now.

Here is the tiebreaking scenario that will likely come into play (or at the very least be heavily discussed) during the next week and a half:

1) The greater number of points earned (herp derp).

2) The greater number of games won, excluding games won in the Shootout. This figure is reflected in the ROW column.

3) The greater number of points earned in games between the tied clubs. If two clubs are tied, and have not played an equal number of home games against each other, points earned in the first game played in the city that had the extra game shall not be included. If more than two clubs are tied, the higher percentage of available points earned in games among those clubs, and not including any "odd" games, shall be used to determine the standing.

4) The greater differential between goals for and against for the entire regular season. This figure is reflected in the Goal Differential column.

Points earned are obviously the ultimate right now. Having said that, here is how San Jose stands in relation to all of the relevant tiebreakers:

  • Dallas is light years ahead in the ROW column and are two points up on 9th seeded Phoenix. They have the inside track on both the Pacific Division title and the subsequent three seed. The rest of ROW is messy (and is going to stay that way until the end of the season. Tonight's game against the Coyotes has a lot of implications, with one of them being how ROW will play out.
  • As we've said before, ROW looks like it might determine who makes and misses this season.
  • Phoenix will finish with the head to head tiebreaker over San Jose regardless of what happens tonight. The Sharks have earned 4 points; the Coyotes have earned 7.
  • San Jose will finish with the head to head tiebreaker over Dallas regardless of what happens in their two remaining games. The Sharks have earned 7 points; the Stars have earned 2. Having said that, with Dallas leading in ROW by such a wide margin, it's highly unlikely this makes a difference at the end of the year.
  • Los Angeles currently leads the head to head tiebreaker over San Jose with two games remaining. The Sharks have earned 4 points; the Kings have earned 5.
  • The Sharks are in pretty good position in the goal differential tiebreaker with a +12, but with the other tiebreakers taking precedence, this only has the potential to apply to one team-- the Los Angeles Kings./

Don't want to get ahead of ourselves here, but that two game set against Los Angeles has the potential to have all four tiebreakers in play. If both teams are fighting for the final spot that weekend, it might be the most pivotal regular season finish in NHL history considering all of the points and tiebreakers that would be in play.

Make the jump for some brief analysis of how San Jose has played against Phoenix this season.

San Jose Sharks vs. Phoenix Coyotes, 2011-2012 (Even Strength Situations)

Situation Shots % Fenwick % CORSI % Save %
Chances For
Chances Against
Close 54.9 56.7 57.4 .855 6.0 915 N/A N/A
Tied 55.4 56.5 57.7 .897 2.2 919 N/A N/A
Overall 58.9 59.8 59.0 .881 4.5 926 84 57

[Editor's Note]: Shots % is the percentage of shots for and against, Fenwick % is the percentage of shots directed towards each net minus blocked shots, CORSI % is the percentage of all shots directed towards each net, save % is the percentage of shots San Jose's goaltenders have saved, shooting % is the percentage of shots San Jose has scored on, and PDO is the sum of their save % and shooting % (PDO regresses to 1000 the more data you acquire).

The Sharks have stomped the Coyotes at even strength by every conceivable measure this season outside of putting the puck in the net-- a woeful 4.5 shooting percentage and an equally poor .881 SV% at even strength are the primary reasons why they're 2-3-0 against the Coyotes this season.

The Sharks scoring chance count of 84-57 at even strength might be a little misleading, as San Jose's 27-9 trouncing of the Coyotes during their massive opening night win (oh the good ol' days) is a big reason why the differential is so lopsided. Having said that, San Jose has only been outchanced once at even strength this season against the Coyotes, so things seem to be trending in the right direction.

Phoenix just refuses to die however-- despite a roster that consistently finds itself in the bottom half of the League in terms of payroll, General Manager Don Maloney and his front office staff have consistently found a way to find good value players at affordable prices that fit into their system. Credit Dave Tippet and his coaching staff for consistently getting every last ounce of talent from his roster.

I can't tell you how many times I've counted Phoenix out of the playoff race over the last three years only to see them fight and grind and battle their way into position. That organization has really done a helluva job with very little, and their results this season in the points department have put them in position to get into the playoffs yet again.

It's going to be helluva week and a half ladies and gentleman.

Sit back and enjoy.

Prediction: Sharks win 2-1. Goals by Pavelski and Braun.