Before I even start writing what the Sharks have to do to catch the red hot Anaheim Ducks, I need to acknowledge their supreme play as of late. A phenomenal club that doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon.
Don’t get me wrong though…I still strongly dislike the Ducks with a passion, and I believe that the Sharks can definitely catch up to them in the standings.
Firstly, Anaheim is playing the best hockey in the NHL right now. They are on an eight game winning streak, and are 9-1-0 in their last ten. The only team that beat them in the last ten is, fittingly, San Jose. The Ducks demolished the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, and also beat the Boston Bruins last week, both extremely impressive victories. On top of it, they are using home ice to their advantage. Seven of their last ten were on home ice, and they won every single one of those games, keeping their record at home, regulation loss free. But the thing about Anaheim’s last ten is that most of the teams aren’t fantastic. Three of the seven teams they faced are playoff teams right now, and out of those teams, they only played on the road against San Jose, where they lost.
Their next 11 games leading up to the Olympic Break will be a little tougher. Only four of those games are on the road, but they are against Chicago, St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Nashville. All but one of those are playoff teams, and all of them have a tough barn to play in. At home they play some more playoff teams. Out of the seven home games, four teams would currently be in position to be playoff bound (Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Minnesota.) Seven out of their next eleven games will be against extremely good teams.
Enough about Anaheim now. What will San Jose have to do to catch up?
Start winning more games on the road.
Right now the Sharks are a mediocre 14-10-3 on the road, which will need to change if they want to catch up. They have 11 games left before the Olympics just like Anaheim. Eight games will be at home, and three will be on the road. At home the Sharks have played well this season, posting a 16-2-3 record. On the road the Sharks will face Tampa Bay, Edmonton, and Calgary. All three of those games seem winnable to me, because the Sharks have had great success against those three teams in the past. Then at home, the notable games will be against Minnesota, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Philadelphia. If the Ducks hit a cold streak against the multitude of solid teams on their schedule, and the Sharks win the majority of their games leading up to the break, San Jose can get close to the Ducks in the standings.
Then after the break, the Sharks will have three straight road games to begin, which will be key to maintain their hopes of catching up to Anaheim.
Obviously in the near future San Jose gets to play mainly in the Bay Area, so their semi-road woes will have to stop consistently when more games are on the road later in the season.
So yes, the Sharks can catch up to Anaheim. Will it be easy? No. Will the Ducks magically start to suck and collapse? No. But when a team wins, it gets points (duh), and every point is crucial; Including the ones on the road.