Sharks Gameday: San Jose hosts Colorado in a playoff matchup with added intrigue



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Tonight Jamie McGinn returns to HP Pavilion in a game that holds huge implications for both San Jose and Colorado-- a regulation win puts the Sharks on the inside track for a playoff berth, while a regulation loss drops them behind the eight ball. For the Avalanche, a regulation loss would likely end their postseason hopes, while a regulation win would keep those hopes alive.

With only 5 games remaining on their schedule this is Colorado's last bid to do some damage to a team they are in direct competition with for a playoff spot. Their matchup against Calgary later this week provides some sort of intrigue, but with the Flames done for the year (even if a glimmer of hope remains), this could be all she wrote for the Avalanche as they attempt to lock down that final 8 seed in the West.

For San Jose this game is slightly less perilous, even if it can be technically classified as a must-win-- lose in regulation and the Sharks face an uphill battle, but one they could be overcome with all of their remaining games coming against Pacific Division opponents. Having said that, adding as many points right now is obviously in their best interest as any dropped point at this stage in the year is going to sting and just make things tougher going forward.

Nothing you haven't heard before of course.

As David Pollak of Working The Corners mentioned yesterday, the Sharks are starting their first round series right now-- win four out of the next seven and you're probably in, lose four of the next seven and you're probably out. Things aren't quite so cut and dry when you factor in overtime/shootout results, but the core result of that argument is sound and provides a good basis for the next two weeks.

Gamedays are getting a little one dimensional nowadays-- there is only so many times you can say "win the game and move on" before it gets old, and hell, it's not like we've had much blogging practice at this over the last four years-- but the schedule for San Jose is really one that benefits them in terms of controlling their own destiny. So yeah, let's look at that one more time:

Western Conference "Control Your Own Destiny" Standings

Team Games
Points vs. SJS vs. DAL vs. LAK vs. PHX vs. COL Total
San Jose 7 86 - 2 2 1 1 6/7
Dallas 7 87 2 - 0 0 0 2/7
Los Angeles 7 86 2 0 - 0 0 2/7
Phoenix 5 87 1 0 0 - 0 1/5
Colorado 5 86 1 0 0 0 - 1/5

San Jose doesn't have to worry about any games outside of their control heading into the dreaded "three-point game" territory. The only time these contenders play one another down the stretch is when they face the Sharks.

To be quite honest it's kind of strange that things worked out this way. Usually the last 10 games of the year are division heavy affairs scheduled to add some intrigue to the postseason. With four Pacific Division teams in the mix it would only make sense to see some high-strung battles heading into the final week that directly determine the postseason fate of both teams. Inside our little Sharks bubble that won't be the case (ADRENALINE!!!1), but outside of that bubble there is a surprisingly lack of direct competition between contenders.

With Jamie McGinn returning to HP Pavilion tonight it only makes sense to pay homage to one of our favorite (ex) Sharks; I initially had planned on using "Sharks McGinnday" in the title of this post but decided against it in order to avoid risking the wrath of the hockey gods. I'm not sure if excluding it from the H1 while putting it in the body after the jump really makes a difference in juju or karma or whatever, but what the hell he was a fan favorite and deserves a nod here considering how much we hated to see him go.

Since joining Colorado McGinn has been on an absolute tear, scoring 8 goals, 4 assists, and tallying a +3 in 13 games with his new team. A lot of that has been shooting percentage driven (McGinn has shot 17% from the field with the Avalanche), but I think a lot of it has been due to the situation he's been placed in as well. McGinn is seeing more power play time, playing with better linemates, and has been thrust into a locker room that has players in a similar situation-- they're young, still improving, and are in a position where they still need to prove themselves to the rest of the League. Those first two points are solid facts, and while the third may be a little anecdotal, I think it has at least a kernel of truth for a player like McGinn who didn't really have an opportunity to move up the depth chart considering the strength of San Jose's top six forward group.

Since everyone and their mother is going to be mentioning it today I'll just lay it out here-- comparisons between McGinn and Winnik/Galiardi aren't going to get you anywhere if you're trying to approach trade analysis from a focused point of view. Winnik was brought in to make an impact defensively (something he's done quite well), and Galiardi was brought in to be a more explosive McGinn with a little more agitation (which he hasn't had an opportunity to do because he's been injured). Comparing players' point totals is a trap a lot of people fall into quite easily when they sit down to play armchair GM, and while taking the approach of "how they fit into the team's gameplan" might be a little academic, I think it's quite reasonable.

Having said that, would San Jose like to have had McGinn tally 8 goals and 4 assists for them over the last 13 games? Of course. And would Fear The Fin like to have had McGinn on the roster in preparation for the playoff push if Doug Wilson could have swung that deal only for futures? You bet your ass we would.

Unfortunately life, or the market, doesn't work that way.

Expect McGinn to play on Colorado's second line with Paul Stastny and David Jones. Matt Duchene, who is currently fighting to play through a right ankle injury he sustained earlier this month, has looked a little off in the games I've watched Colorado play recently. That's good news for San Jose, as Duchene is one of the more explosive young forwards in the game today.

Defenseman Erik Johnson has also missed the last three games for the Avalanche with a back injury.

Prediction: Sharks win 4-2. Goals by McGinn (x2), Pavelski, Boyle, Clowe, and Wingels. McGinn takes a run at Sharks defenseman all night long and ends up dropping the gloves.