A few weeks ago, I posted an article about how unlikely it was that the San Jose Sharks would win the division, and how it truly wouldn’t matter because I believe they would play the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs at some point regardless.
The Ducks have opened the door to the Pacific Division once again, and are only three points ahead of the Sharks with three games left for each team. For the Sharks to win the Pacific, they need to beat Anaheim on Wednesday, win the rest of their remaining games, and have the Ducks lose one of their games in regulation. The Ducks’ remaining games are all against very good playoff teams, so it is possible for the Sharks to win the division, but they still need some help.
It starts with Wednesday’s game. How important is Wednesday’s game? Not as important as you’d think, but still very important.
As I said a few weeks ago, the Sharks are going to play the Kings in the playoffs in my eyes. The Kings are too good and despite the fact the Ducks have had the Kings number during the regular season, the Kings should be able to win a playoff series against the overrated Ducks. So what makes Wednesday’s game important?
There is a strange day that hockey fans have called “Injury Day” where fans find out which players on their favorite teams have been playing through bad injuries just because it’s the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It happens every single year, whether you want it to or not. If the Sharks play the Kings in the first round, my prediction of the outcome is either the Sharks or the Kings winning the series in seven games. The series would be physical, grueling, and damaging. No matter what team gets out of that series, they’d be beaten up for other playoff series to come, and it could affect them in later series.
If the Sharks were to win the Pacific Division, they would most likely play the Minnesota Wild, who are the first Wild Card team in the Western Conference. The Wild series would be much easier for the Sharks due to the Sharks just being flat-out better than the Wild. I would predict the Sharks to win that series in five games, and whoever they played between the Ducks and Kings in the next round would be easier, because they aren’t so beaten up.
The benefits of winning the division are simple. You get home ice against any other team on your side of the bracket in the playoffs, you play easier opponents, and let the powerhouses take each other out. Those are the plusses of winning the division.
But the fact is simple whether it is this year, last year, or next year. If you want to be the best, you’ve gotta beat the best.