Sharks Gameday: Milestones, Stepping Stones & Kidney Stones
47-23-9, 103 points 44-30-5, 93 points 2nd in Western Conference 7th in Western Conference
With the season coming to a close, the Sharks have three games to achieve the few things they haven't yet this season. These objectives vary in importance, but reaching any of the potential plateaus only helps to further set the table for the imminent postseason.
First, Sharks' Captain Joe Thornton is just a goal or an assist away from reaching the career milestone of 1,000 NHL points. Thornton has stated that breaking that barrier means little in the long-run; the Captain's eyes appear firmly affixed on the ultimate goal of playoff success. However, it would be nice if Thornton could grab his 1,000th point before the season ends, if only to avoid the unnecessary and equally predictable questions that would accompany a failure to do so. If Thornton has to wait until next season to get his 1,000th, you can be sure that it will be mentioned ad nauseum until the puck drops for the 2011-2012 season.
Thornton has always been one to receive undue blame for the teams' struggles, but it would be hard to criticize him after he just reached such an impressive career achievement. Well, at least until the Sharks drop a game in the playoffs. Then it's his fault again. The soothsayer in me predicts Thornton notches his 1,000th point tonight, coming off what else but his 695th career assist.
The other point(s) all should be paying attention to tonight are in the standings. With just three games left, the Sharks sit one point over Detroit in the West for second in the Conference. The Sharks control their own destiny here; three wins guarantees them the second seed. It likely won't take a 3-0-0 record to obtain that seeding; even so, maybe it's better... just to be safe. Home ice advantage against any team besides Vancouver is on the line, and that's an important an asset to have as any come playoff time.
Lastly, the Sharks can make a small statement if a different Joe lights the lamp. If Joe Pavelski scores a goal before the season's end, it would give the Sharks seven twenty-goal scorers for the first time in the franchises' twenty-year history. No, that accomplishment doesn't mean much in the long run; the regular season slate is wiped clean as soon as the first round begins. Still, the scoring depth displayed by San Jose this year is astounding, further evidence of the idea that this bunch of players may be different than those which have failed in years past.
If they truly are different, though, the Sharks will continue to keep their collective foot on the necks of their Pacific Division foes. The division title may be locked up, but the playoff picture remains far from certain. Anaheim, who looked like a veritable lock for the tournament just a week ago, is hanging on by a thread. Just two points separate the Ducks from Dallas and Calgary, the ninth and tenth seeds in the conference. They've now lost two in a row coming into tonight's match, and a prolonged losing stretch could send them to the golf course sooner than ever expected.
As such, Anaheim will likely come out swinging against San Jose. Not only do they need the two points desperately, but its likely that the Ducks will glean some extra motivation from their most recent loss in San Jose. Anaheim didn't just blow a two-goal lead in the contest, but they also were the victims of an unfortunate injury to Norris candidate Lubomir Visnovsky. Visnovsky is playing again, but that will likely do little to quell the anger displayed by his teammates, and more specifically, his coach Randy Carlyle. Carlyle, who made some lewd gestures involving a certain finger on the middle of ones hand to go with some sailor's vocabulary, should have no trouble penning some inspirational words on the team board before the game. His squad will be ready to fight, and make no mistake, the Ducks are still a scary bunch.
The Sharks have had little trouble dealing with fight lately, though. Over the course of the last month, and more specifically the last four games, San Jose has made quick work of teams battling for a playoff spot. Doing so again tonight would be even more proof that this team is ready foe whatever comes their way.