Sharks Could Benefit From Wild Card

(Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
(Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

Much has happened in the Western Conference in the past six weeks as the Los Angeles Kings have won just three of their past 15 games, effectively dropping them to 12th place in the West. They are now five points behind the Vancouver Canucks for the final wild card spot, though the Canadian team holds a game in hand. Because of this development, Los Angeles’s chances at finishing as one of the top three teams in the Pacific Division have been dealt a serious blow. With that in mind, it may beneficial for the San Jose Sharks to finish in one of the two wild card spots. It is a risky move, but it may help them in their quest for the cup.

Dodging the Bullet

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

San Jose has been absolutely terrible against teams in their division not from California. The Sharks are 2-4-1 versus the two other teams competing in the division (Vancouver and Calgary). Since it is unlikely for anyone in the division to catch the Anaheim Ducks, it may be wise for San Jose to actively avoid earning a spot in the three guaranteed playoff positions, as it seems likely it would mean a first round playoff series against either the Canucks or the Flames.

A Brighter But Dangerous Road

Finishing in a wild card spot would likely lead to an opening round playoff series against either the Anaheim Ducks, Nashville Predators, or St. Louis Blues. San Jose’s record against these teams is significantly better than those fighting for a place in their division, as they are 6-2-1 when performing against the above squads. This record is astonishing, especially when taking into account that their two regulation losses came against the Blues while their first-line center, Joe Thornton, was out with an injury.

(Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)
(Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports)

The other potential benefit to finishing in a wild card position is that it may put the Sharks in a bracket with the Central Division teams rather than the clubs in the Pacific. This may help San Jose avoid a series featuring either Calgary or Vancouver and may set up a Western Conference Final against the Ducks, who the Sharks are 4-0-1 against this season. Going through the Central division and having to face either Nashville, Chicago, or St. Louis will not be easy. But, it will be better than having to compete with division rivals that have had San Jose’s number this year.

A Necessary Sacrifice

Unfortunately, finishing the season in a wild card position would require sacrificing home-ice advantage for practically the entire playoffs. San Jose currently has a 14-10-3 record on the road compared to a 14-8-4 record at SAP Center. They perform marginally better in their own building, which could be the difference in a tight playoff series (see Los Angeles vs. San Jose, 2013). Even if they do make it past the first round, their road to the cup would be a struggle without home-ice advantage, especially against the likes of Calgary, Vancouver, and Chicago. Thankfully, the Sharks’ road record is respectable, so achieving a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals is not completely out of the question. Forfeiting the advantages of playing at home will be difficult, but it is for the best.

(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

I admit San Jose winning the Stanley Cup in 2015 is unlikely, but not impossible. To be competitive, they need players like Antti Niemi, Patrick Marleau, and Justin Braun to get hot and stay hot. It is safe to say that they are not contenders at the moment, but they could become a threat down the stretch. With the help of some players getting off their cold streaks and a bit of luck in the postseason, this team could still potentially win it all.

11 thoughts on “Sharks Could Benefit From Wild Card”

  1. I appreciate these articles, I like reading articles that evoke discourse and reaction. However, sometimes they are out in left field. Based on numbers I get the argument, but based on confidence and eye test, Sharks need to finish in the top 3 within their division. This quite possibly could set up for the Sharks to have an incredible run. First off, either the Flames or Canucks are not making the playoffs. Seriously do you think it is possible the Kings do not go on another run to get into the playoffs? Flames have way overachieved all season, and we saw what happens when they remember they are the Calgary flames they lost 8 in a row, and that will probably happen again. Nice run by the FLames but they lack the talent. I have every ounce of confidence the Sharks will smoke them tomorrow night. There is no way the Sharks do not know they are better than and can beat the Flames. Sharks have played maybe 20 good minutes of hockey against the Flames in the 4 games, they have 1 win and lost another in overtime in a game they should have won. Sharks would beat the Flames in the playoffs but I think that is unlikely scenario.

    The Sharks against the Canucks. Shrks have lost 2 of 3, but during those 3 games did anyone at any point in time think the Canucks were a better team than the Sharks. The game Thursday night is more reflective of how the Sharks have played against the Canucks outshooting them and dominating puck possession. Miller is not exactly Dominik Hasek in the playoffs…ask St Louis and Buffalo fans. If the Sharks played the Canucks I would equate that to a bye in that round I do not see the Canucks even managing more than a win against the Sharks and it could end up in a sweep again.

    OK so first round taken care of, then if the Ducks win their first round, the Sharks would have to feel completely confident they could beat the Ducks without much issue. The problem becomes if the Kings take out the Ducks…..

    I just think not finishing top 3 would be a huge problem especially if they were the second wild card, you do not want to play a central team until absolutely necessary.

  2. Lies, damn lies and statistics.

    Sharks have competed well vs ANA, CGY and VAN, and while the record isn’t great vs the last two, there is nothing to suggest the Sharks can’t skate with — and better — than those teams. vs CGY, Sharks were outshot twice in 4 games, once by 5 shots, once by just 1 shot. Can’t really say CGY has owned the Sharks. 3 of the 4 games were 1 goal (or tied) games 59 minutes in.

    Vs Vancouver, Sharks outshot them all 3 games, though have just one more goal in those 3 games, 8-7. All in all, seems that as long as Niemi plays competitively, and that needs to happen in any series to have a good shot, Sharks will be best served finishing above the WC spot.

    If Sharks get the 2nd or 3rd spot in the Pacific, they’ll likely play 2 of those 3 teams in the first 2 rounds. I’d rather those odds than hope to avoid StL or CHI or a hot Pekke Rinne, which would come with a WC spot.

  3. The idea that the Sharks would intentionally tank games to be in a better playoff position is insulting to all athletes.
    Try asking any Shark, coach, or scout about dropping games for playoff position…see how many times you can ask before you you feel like you narrowly avoided getting punched. If you ask Jay Woodcroft first, my guess is twice.

    • I agree with your statement and I realize now that the title does lead people to believe that I think the Sharks should throw some games. This is not what I believe. I have updated the heading to steer people away from that assumption. Thank you for the read!

  4. Although the author looks up the past record, it is no indication that playing St Louis or Nashville on home ice in playoffs will yield better results than playing Vancouver and Calgary at home. Contrary I believe that author is “nuts” for suggesting this and needs a reality check ASAP.

  5. Agreed with the general premise Drew, however I dont think landing in the Central division bracket would in any way be better. Yes, potentially they could meet Anaheim who they have crushed in an WCF, but i think CHI and STL are far more difficult than CGY or VAN. That record you pointed out about SJ vs anaheim, chicago and st louis is tilted because of the ANA dominance. Furthermore, while SJ has struggled with CGY and VAN, they did just finally beat the Canuck, on the road no less, and in the losses they severely out played them in the first one, and the second one wasnt as good but still out-shot the canucks. I would say though that finishing 4th would be good in the pacific bracket, knock out anaheim in round 1 in like 5 games ideally, flames-nucks take 7, than SJ will knock out the beat up winner of that series. However, i still think they get crushed by either CHI or STL.

    • Sharks should not be thinking that if they meet Anaheim in the playoffs it will be a guaranteed win. You don’t know that, nobody knows that. What sharks know is that they better set the lines that are defensively stronger and get some scoring from second and fourth line on the consistent basis. Do that and see what happens. That also means Hannan, Scott, Mike Brown should be waived or scratched and Kennedy if healhty should be playing on the fourth line.

    • I agree that the statistic vs. ANA, NSH, and STL is skewed because of ANA, but even so SJ is 2-2-0 against NSH and STL, with the two losses coming during the Thornton injury. I would rather have this compared to playing Vancouver (1-2-0 against) or Calgary (1-2-1 against). Neither series would be easy, but I like the Central route more.

      • Jumbo is good, he isn’t 5 goals a game good. StL crushed the Sharks both times by 5 goals. StL is really one of the best all around teams there is. 4 lines, the 4th one is especially chippy and physical. Very good blue line (arguably the best in the league) and capable goaltending. REally good coach, too. If they stay healthy, and that is a big ‘if’ with their goalie missing games and now with Shattenkirk out, they are probably the team to beat.

      • St Louis has not beaten a Thornton led Sharks team in two seasons, I think you can throw out the 7-2 games as aberrations where the Sharks never got off the bus.

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