Saturday Night Showdown
On Saturday night the San Jose Sharks will play host to the Chicago Blackhawks. It is the first meeting between the two teams since Nov. 9 when the Blackhawks crushed the Sharks, who were playing in the second of back-to-backs, by a 5-2 final. This time around the Sharks will have home ice, something that would be much easier to get in a seven game series by winning this game. It is very possible these two teams end up facing each other in the Western final and right now they are separated by just four points in the standings. As of Friday, the Hawks own a game in hand and a regulation victory to go up six points would be difficult for San Jose to make up that difference. However, talking about a four point swing and if the Sharks can win in regulation and pull within two points, that could make for an interesting inter-conference race to watch.
While neither Chicago nor San Jose lead their respective divisions, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this matchup in the third round of the playoffs. The Blackhawks are in third place in their division but many people believe the first place Nashville Predators to be a mirage. Furthermore the Sharks just crushed their division leader Anaheim for the third time this season and with the Kings having some major struggles this season, it is very possible the Sharks come out of the Pacific. In a potential series between these clubs the Blackhawks would be the heavy favorite for good reason and therefore the Sharks will need everything to go their way. That includes confidence and ideally home ice advantage. Not only would a regulation win tonight go a long ways in terms of passing the Blackhawks in the standings and securing home ice, but it would do wonders for their confidence. Yes that previous loss was on the second of back-to-backs but the Blackhawks went up 3-0 in the blink of the eye. San Jose was never in that game from the drop of the puck.
Over the years the Sharks have been a dominant regular season team. This year that hasn’t been the case and instead of teams using them as a measuring stick, the Sharks are using a number of teams to measure where they stand. This is a significant game for the Sharks to get some mojo back during an up and down season. Beating Anaheim is nice but they have had the Ducks number for the past three seasons dating back to the lockout. Chicago on the other hand is a team that annually gives them fits and nobody in San Jose has forgotten about the 2010 sweep at the hands of the Hawks. Personnel wise right now the Sharks are short-handed and on paper this is a game that should be extremely tough to win. If they can get the two points, perhaps it will be a further indication to management to be buyers come the trade deadline.
Don’t get me wrong, there are too many holes to fix on the Sharks roster for them to beat Chicago in a best of seven. With that in mind, it is still arguably the wiser route to sell at the deadline rather than buy. However, a win Saturday against the Hawks would go a long ways for the Sharks players believing in themselves and management believing enough to acquire necessary reinforcements. Only way this Sharks team beats Chicago in a playoff series is with a number of players finding their games and Doug Wilson acquiring help at the deadline. That is a lot to ask, but for those Sharks fans still retaining optimism, it is not completely out of the realm of possibility.