On Feb. 1, only 14 days ago, counting the Olympic break, the San Jose Sharks were trailing the Anaheim Ducks by 11 points and most people considered their Pacific Division hopes to be down the drain already.
In what seemed like the snap of a finger, the Sharks brought themselves to within five points of the league-leading Ducks and, as a result, have set themselves up for a potential run at the Pacific Division title.
Following the Sochi Olympic break, the Sharks will play 13 of their 23 remaining games at the incredibly intimidating Shark Tank. So far this season, the Sharks have gone 22-4-3 when playing at home, which is the fourth best record in the league. Only one rank behind the Sharks are the Ducks, who have a similar record of 22-5-2 at the Honda Center. They will close out the season by playing 12 out of their remaining 22 games on their home ice.
Clearly, the scheduling will not play a huge role in determining the Sharks’ ability to catch their Southern Californian rivals, but that just places more emphasis on the home games for the respective teams. It is absolutely crucial that the Sharks win more than they lose when playing at home. If they don’t, their division hopes could be out the window before they even begin to make a run.
Up until now, arguably the biggest storyline in the Sharks’ 2013-14 campaign has been injuries. Tomas Hertl was cheaply injured for the rest of the season by Dustin Brown. Logan Couture just had hand surgery that most likely caused him to miss the Olympics. Raffi Torres hasn’t played a regular season game yet. Adam Burish just returned from back surgery. Brent Burns was out for a while with some kind of facial issue. We could also mention Martin Havlat‘s time out of the lineup, but that is becoming somewhat of a given. This list barely scratches the surface of all the injuries that the Sharks have had to deal with this season.
The best part about the endless injuries list? The Sharks have competed with the best teams in the league and have proven themselves as Stanley Cup contenders in the face of all the adversity. We already saw the effect that Burish had during his season debut. He seemed to be all over the ice playing physically and smartly. With Torres and Couture set to return after the Olympic Break, the Sharks will be the healthiest that they have been all season.
Judging from their performance thus far with injuries, a healthy Sharks team could be one of the best in the league, maybe better than the league-leading Ducks. The level of play will only increase from here on out as the Sharks will give it their all for the Pacific Division crown.