Since the Olympic break the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks have continued their winning ways and are head and shoulders above the rest in the Pacific Division. As of right now both teams are tied with 97 points and in a dead heat although the Ducks have one game in hand on San Jose, and that can make all the difference.
Still, the San Jose Sharks have made up some ground on the Ducks since the break and have now positioned themselves to be the top seed in the division. They will have to win the title outright, however, since the Ducks have a far higher ROW (regulation + overtime wins) than the Sharks. The reason San Jose has stayed in this race despite less wins is their dominance in the shootout this season where they have won 10 games; the most of any team in the league.
The top spot would be especially helpful for the Sharks who boast one of the best home records in the league including a tie with St. Louis Blues and the Pittsburgh Penguins for least regulation home wins this season with just five.
But, not only do the San Jose Sharks have a shot at the top spot in the division, they have an outside chance to win the conference. Currently they are four points behind the Blues who own that position, though unfortunately the Blues do have two games in hand on the Sharks. In any case, under the new playoff format that would not make a difference until the conference finals. Still, the more home games San Jose can guarantee themselves the better.
In order for the Sharks to win the division (and possibly the conference) though they will need to win as many games as possible. That starts with winning their two remaining games against the Ducks, the first of which is tomorrow on home ice.
Fortunately for San Jose they have more home games left with seven compared to Anaheim’s five, so they have that going for them. On the other side of things the Sharks face the tougher competition during the rest of the season though. Their remaining competition has a higher points percentage, 56.2%, compared to the Ducks opponents who have a 52.5% points percentage.
Also to the Sharks disadvantage is the fact that they finish with three games in four nights. Both teams do finish with back-to-back games, though Anaheim’s away game is against the Kings before they finish at home against the Avalanche. Meanwhile, San Jose will travel to Phoenix for the last game of their season following a home game the night before.
Overall it’s clear the Sharks have an uphill battle as they close out the season if they want the top seed in the conference. They face tougher competition and will have to earn more points than the Ducks in one less game, but fortunately for them will get more home games to do it.
The way the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks have been playing this season I fully expect this race to go to the very end. The winner gets a banner, sure, but more importantly the difference between first and second in the division is the difference between facing the L.A. Kings in the first round or the Phoenix Coyotes (at the moment).
Trust me when I say neither team wants to play the Kings in the first round, even if they are not the same squad as last year. Their physical play will wear you out and you would much rather face them in the second round where they have already played in a series or not at all if someone else knocks them out while getting beat up in the process. The San Jose Sharks know first-hand what a battle that would be, especially since the Kings are one of their most hated rivals.
The bottom line is that the San Jose Sharks would be better served to win the Pacific Division for a multitude of reasons, and they stand a good chance to do so. It starts tomorrow night against the team they are battling, the Anaheim Ducks, and that game could very well set the tone for the remainder of this race.