Sharks Gameday: Two Points



7:00 PST
10-6-4, 24 points 11-7-3, 25 points
8th in Western Conference
3rd in Western Conference
98.5 KFOX,
Nucks Misconduct

Wednesday against Chicago, and here again tonight against Vancouver, are funny matchups to me. If you had asked me before the season what this two game stretch would mean for the Sharks I would have hurled enough superlatives at you to fill CSN's advertising budget for the remainder of the 2010 calendar year. They were big games, early tests to see how both teams matched up.

Chicago was the defending champions, the team with the bullseye on their back. Vancouver was the team that made all the right offseason moves, poised to get back to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1994. And San Jose was the perennial contender who always needed to show up for these types of games to give the city a glimpse of what we could possibly expect come playoff time.

But today, a lot of my feelings have changed. If the Sharks are first in the Western Conference right now I don't necessarily care about the final scoreboard-- play well and I'm pacified. Luongo steals a game? No problem, as long as the Sharks are getting quality scoring opportunities and limiting the Sedins and Keslers of the world to the perimeter. It's not necessarily the outcome that matters, but understanding that they are able to go toe to toe with one of the Western Conference's best teams and deliver a performance that leaves them in a position to make minor tweaks down the road to lead to a playoff series win.

Tonight it's different. I care less about the performance and more about the two points. The Sharks could come out and play a dreadful first forty minutes of hockey, turn it on in the third, grab a shootout win, and it's a net positive-- last year, when the Sharks were tops in the West, those first forty minutes would eat at me a whole lot more and I'd probably view their progression as a net negative. Frankly, until December begins, getting as many points as possible is where I determine the success of the team after a pretty disheartening three game skid against Colorado, Dallas, and Columbus.

It's a funny way to look at things, both this year and last. Results are what ultimately determines success, but in-game play is the road that leads to those results. I'm not suggesting that the locker room feels or should feel this way-- McLellan and his team obviously want every shift to be lights out. And I'm not suggesting that I've completely turned a blind eye towards a rigorous analysis of each and every play that the Sharks will make from the defensive to the neutral to the offensive zone-- those are immensely important as well.

I guess my point is that the Sharks and Canucks haven't met their early season expectations. Instead of focusing on what went wrong in a hypothetical win, those two points in the standings are what went right. And that's the most important thing for the Sharks right now, both from a short-term and long-term point of view.

Because if/when San Jose begins to make their way up the standings, matchups with the Canucks and Blackhawks will once again begin to take on an entirely different mystique surrounding them. Those potential playoff series litmus tests we know and love. Ones that makes the final result a cursory sidenote to the spectacle of Sharks hockey, and the actual performance of each individual player in those games the ultimate barometer of how the team will eventually perform.

Tonight it's just about two points. On January 3rd, I hope it's something entirely different.

Prediction: Sharks win 3-2 in the shootout. Goals by McGinn, Murray, and Heatley.

Go Sharks.