LOS ANGELES It wasnt very difficult to see on Tuesday night which team is making a strong playoff push and which is staring down an early summer.
The Los Angeles Kings have won five straight games, and are playing their best hockey of the season. Their offense, which had been a huge problem, is clicking - and then some.
Since acquiring Jeff Carter from the Columbus Blue Jackets a dozen games ago, Los Angeles has poured in 43 goals, including five last night against the fading Sharks in a 5-2 win. That averages to 3.58 a game, or a goal and a half better than their 2.11 goals-per-game rate before the trade.
Theyve done a really good job. Darryl Sutter has come in and put his mark on the team, Todd McLellan said. Jeff Carter is a 40-goal scorer. They dont grow on trees, and when you get them and put them in the right spots, they can be very dangerous.
They skate very well and theyre deep up front with Carter being here now, Joe Thornton said. They have a bunch of good forwards.
Add that to a strong defense corps and one of the best goalies in the game in Jonathan Quick, and the Sharks will have their hands full in the final two games of the regular season, which ends with a home-and-home against the Kings. That is, if the Sharks are even still in playoff contention by then.
Theyre playing very well defensively, said Marty Havlat, who had a goal and an assist on Tuesday. I dont think they give up any odd-man rushes and thats the most important thing right now. They always have three guys back. Its very tough to beat their defense and their goalies been great.
More from Boyle: Dan Boyle was brutally honest after last nights loss to the Kings, which we got into in the game recap. After Boyle said that the Kings were probably trying harder, he was asked how the Sharks could fix that this late in the season.
You work as hard as you can. You need everybody. I think we weve got guys going and others arent, thats not going to work at this time of year. We need everybody, Boyle said.
Watching the scoreboard: Did you keep an eye on the Calgary-Colorado, Phoenix-Dallas games last night? All five teams the Sharks are competing with for a playoff spot including Los Angeles were in action on Tuesday night, head-to-head.
Youre probably well aware by now that the Sharks are the only team that didnt get at least one point, as the other two games ended in a shootout (Dallas beat Phoenix, 4-3) and overtime (Colorado defeated Calgary, 2-1).
Mathematically, the Sharks have just a 37.6 percent chance of making the postseason, according to sportsclubstats.com.
Thats the name of the game these days. A lot of them are three point games. The last thing we need to do is scoreboard watch, Boyle said.
We cant control what happened in Dallas or Denver tonight, McLellan said after the game. Theres no sense worrying about it. Weve got to worry about our own group and what we can do. Weve got to get home, get some rest and play against the Stanley Cup Champions on Thursday, which will be a great challenge for us.
The Sharks, who have a day off on Wednesday, host Boston on Thursday.
From the Kings room: Heres what former Sharks coach and current Kings bench boss Sutter had to say about his teams 5-2 win:
I think tonight, because we had four lines and they San Jose played last night, they could push it a little bit; catch guys at the end of shifts, catch guys that played a lot, catch them a little bit tired and we looked fresher. That was the difference in the killer part of it. I think we took advantage of that.
Anze Kopitar, who has a goal in each of his last four games after scoring and adding two assists on Tuesday, said, Theres obviously always room for improvement, but tonight was a huge game. We knew what was at stake and I think we came up big. It was a full team effort and thats what weve got to do down the road.