by Tom Walker
March 27, 2011
The San Jose Sharks have played ten games in the three weeks following the NHL trade deadline, which provides some opportunity to assess the subsequent performance of the squad since GM Doug Wilson decided not to pull the trigger on any additional opportunities to strengthen the lineup for the playoff run.
Under normal circumstances, one could call the 6-1-3 record a positive, collecting points in nine of the ten contests. But this is the hotly contested Pacific Division where every team remains a viable post-season candidate with just five to seven regular season games remaining for the respective clubs.
Among the remaining Pacific Division teams, all but the Dallas Stars have notched more victories than the Sharks over the past ten games. San Jose’s 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night could not have come at a better time for the team, because the opposite result would have meant a tie for points between the two clubs atop the Pacific. Logan Couture scored two goals in the effort, and seems to have rebounded from a brief drought.
The Los Angeles Kings, who sit just five points out of the division lead, suffered a terrible blow to their Stanley Cup aspirations when All-Star Center Anze Kopitar left Saturday night’s 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche with a broken ankle. Kopitar leads the Kings in goals, assists, points, and plus-minus. Under the best of circumstances, Kopitar could return in time for the Western Conference finals should the Kings make it that far. For the faithful in L.A., their best shot at hockey’s Holy Grail since the era of Gretzky may have just hit a brick wall.
The Anaheim Ducks continued their resurgence on Saturday, defeating the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in their own building 2-1. Emerging Hart Trophy contender Corey Perry netted both goals for the Ducks en route to passing Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos for the NHL goal-scoring lead with 44. Ray Emery improved his Anaheim goaltending record to 4-0-0 (SV% .952, GAA 1.39) since his unprecedented comeback from the same kind of hip injury which terminated the career of former football/baseball great Bo Jackson.
With an overall record of 44-23-9, the Sharks enter the week of March 28th tied for points in the Western Conference with the Detroit Red Wings, though Hockeytown’s perennial contenders maintain 2nd place by virtue of their games-in-hand edge. The undisputed Presidents Trophy favorite Vancouver Canucks remain the hottest team in the NHL, winning nine of their last ten.
Coming off of Saturday night’s victory, the Sharks now sit and wait with four days off before Thursday night’s contest against the increasingly desperate Dallas Stars, launching a string of six Pacific Division games over the final ten days of the regular season. This is the time of year when every shift matters, when each night harbors significant playoff implications as well as a glimpse into one or more future playoff series. For fans in San Jose and throughout the NHL, never has there been a better reason for HDTV, DVRs, NHL Center Ice, and smart phones with one’s favorite sports apps.
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