San Jose Sharks Face Uphill Battle For Playoff Spot


Mar 9, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; The referee jumps up and protects his face as San Jose Sharks center Chris Tierney (50) battles against Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz (14) along the bench during the third period at SAP Center at San Jose. The San Jose Sharks defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks picked up a huge shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Monday night, but their playoff hopes still hang in the balance as the Sharks desperately try and make the postseason for the 11th consecutive season.

Entering play today, the Sharks currently sit in 10th place in the Western Conference, three points behind the Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames for third place in the Pacific Division and four points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final wild card spot.

San Jose will face an uphill climb the rest of the way since the Sharks have no games in hand on those they are competing with. Also, after the Sharks’ two home games this week, they close the season with 10 of their last 13 games on the road; although, for some reason, San Jose has struggled mightily at home so maybe the road games will be a blessing in disguise.

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Another potential pitfall for San Jose is they don’t have many head-to-head matchups remaining with the teams they are pursuing. The Sharks visit the Jets on March 17 and close out the regular season against the Kings on April 11. This makes it difficult to immediately make up ground on their competitors as San Jose will need plenty of help from other teams down the stretch.

The Sharks do have something working in their favor as they will only square off against seven teams that are currently in the playoff picture. While San Jose has struggled against lesser competition this year, the opportunity is there for the Sharks to rack up some wins as they head down the stretch.

San Jose has started March out strong by winning three of their first four games and will need to string together a long winning streak to truly challenge for a playoff spot. During the past five seasons in the Western Conference, excluding the lockout shortened season of 2012-13, the average number of points needed to reach the playoffs was 93.8.

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With that figure in mind, the Sharks will probably need to win two-thirds of their games to close out the regular season which would leave them with at least 94 points depending on any shootout or overtime losses, and even that might not be enough this year. Also, San Jose can ill-afford to lose the games against the Jets and Kings for obvious reasons.

Even if San Jose is able to win at least 10 of their last 15 games, they will need some of their competition to fall back to the pack. The Sharks will need more strong performances from goaltender Antti Niemi, who had his best game of the season last time out in stopping 39 of 40 shots. Also, San Jose will need their big guns to put the puck in the net, while cutting down on their turnovers which is one of the reasons the Sharks rank 21st in the league in goal against per game (2.72).

In short, there is still a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel for San Jose, but this will be their most challenging playoff stretch-drive in the past 11 seasons for team teal.

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