The Morning After: Getting a taste of the playoffs
The Sharks got a taste of the playoffs on the day they booked their ticket.
Beating the Kings never gets old. The Sharks clinched a playoff spot on Monday night against one of their biggest rivals in a game that closely resembled what San Jose should expect in the playoffs. While the Kings edged the Sharks in possession (little shame in that, considering Los Angeles sits at the top of the table in that category) San Jose scored on a power play, came from behind and overcame a two-goal night from Vincent Lecavalier.
The good news is that Martin Jones was just good enough while Jonathan Quick's miracle save didn't keep San Jose out of the competition. In reality, what the Sharks need from Jones is just that: good enough. Jones saved 26 out of 27 shots at even strength (which truthfully is very good) while the Sharks beat Quick four times — including on the fourth-ranked power play in the NHL.
Right. Joe Thornton. He had the best corsi numbers of the game (a +13 at all strengths) which was emblematic of the entirety of the game. When Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl were on the ice the Sharks largely controlled the game — when they weren't...well, things got a little ugly. Los Angeles had the advantage 58-30 when Jumbo wasn't on the ice...so cloning Thornton wouldn't be a terrible idea.
As it stands, the Sharks are set to meet the Anaheim Ducks in the first round, but if San Jose hopes to advance beyond that they'll likely have to face the Kings. Going 3-1-1 against Los Angeles during the regular season is a nice indicator that the Sharks can at least match up with their rivals, even if I don't think they're better than them (I don't, unfortunately). San Jose holds a 48.7 fenwick-for percentage against the Kings (score adjusted, even strength) which while unspectacular is at the very least better than the league at large (43.8).
While San Jose's season at large will be judged on what is done in the playoffs (as Kings fans were quick to remind us last night), there's been plenty to applaud throughout this campaign. The Sharks won the season series with the Kings, are the fourth-best possession team in the NHL and overcame plenty of drama from a season ago to get back to the playoffs. It's not all sunshine and roses, but it would be silly to waste an opportunity to appreciate what a strong team San Jose is icing this season — Micheal Haley notwithstanding.
For now, with a (mostly) meaningless game against Vancouver on the horizon, it'd be nice to just enjoy that the Sharks are back in the dance. We'll dread the playoffs when they get here.