This one is going to sting a little, but it’s definitely a question worth asking: how far could the San Jose Sharks have gone this postseason if it wasn’t for the devastating loss to the Los Angeles Kings?
As Sharks fans, we constantly play “what if” when it comes to the postseason. But with the fact that they were up 3-0 in the series to the eventual Western Conference Champions, the “what-If?” factor is stronger this year then it ever has been before.
Let’s go through each eventual series and find out what would happen if the Sharks had gotten past LA.
Western Conference Semis vs. Anaheim
I am a strong supporter that the Anaheim Ducks are an overrated hockey team. They consistently started three separate goalies this postseason, don’t have a very strong defense, and have a coach that no matter where he is, can’t seem to win when it comes to the playoffs.
That being said, they surprised me in the series against LA. I didn’t expect them to get past Dallas (and they barely did) so I really didn’t expect them to get past LA. However, they took the Kings to seven games and had them on the brink of elimination.
So how would the Sharks have fared? Looking at the past of the Sharks, they have always played very well in the second round of the NHL Playoffs. The last two times they played in the Conference Semifinals, they went to seven games booth times, and were never truly outplayed in any of the games. I think the Sharks could have gotten past the Ducks in six or seven games in the Western Conference Semi-Finals.
Western Conference Finals versus Chicago
Chicago was a very interesting team this postseason.
They could score like crazy, but Corey Crawford took a massive step back to what he was last postseason. I’m sure a lot of you Sharks fans think that they could have taken down Chicago and moved on to their first ever Stanley Cup Finals.
Well, they couldn’t have. Chicago is just a better team than the Sharks, and I think with a better goalie, they are also better than the Kings. A lot of fans won’t realize it, and will say, “Well they could score because Crawford was bad and Niemi would play better than Quick would!”
While Crawford was bad, and Quick was downright horrendous with his save percentage, the difference maker between the Kings and the Sharks against the Blackhawks is the defense. While Quick has an awful save percentage, he also is allowing 2.6 goals a game, which is not that bad. It’s not good, but it could be worse.
With the save percentage that he has, I would expect it to be over three. The Kings’ defense limited the amount of shots Quick took, and while most went in, it still wasn’t enough for the Blackhawks to win the series. The Blackhawks have a downright elite offense. They would skate circles around the Sharks defense and Niemi wouldn’t stand a chance. The Sharks need to get better defensively before we can think about them taking down teams like the Blackhawks.
So if you believed the Sharks could be in the Cup if they hadn’t lost to LA, just pump the breaks. Their time will come, it just isn’t here yet.
Since Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals is tonight, I figured I’d give my prediction on who would raise Lord Stanley after this series:
All season long I’ve said that the Western Conference is just better than the Eastern Conference, and they are. And in any other circumstances, I would pick the LA Kings to win the series.
But something is different about this year. Jonathan Quick has really been bad this postseason (and got hurt in practice yesterday) while Henrik Lundqvist has been elite for the Rangers. I think the King makes the difference, the New York Rangers win the Stanley Cup, and we find out that Jimmy Hoffa was alive the entire time as he raises the Cup for the Captain-less New York Rangers.