Sharks' path to playoffs runs through Dallas


Sharks' path to playoffs runs through Dallas

It is a staple of current orthodox thinking that the Sharks playoff battle will go until the final game of the season, next Saturday against Los Angeles.

Well, theyd better hope it doesnt. As Dean Wormer told Flounder in Animal House (dated reference, sorry), having to beat Jonathan Quick twice in a row is no way go through life, son.

Frankly, San Joses best chance is to put the stake in someones heart now, because they are not entirely trustworthy in those must-win games against Pacific Division opponents.

RELATED: Conference standings

No, their ticket to ride is to steal a game in Phoenix tonight, and then box Dallas twice, Saturday and Tuesday. It wont help them momentum-wise, because clinching early and then cruising takes the edge off a team that desperately needs all the edge it can get.

But thats a chance the Sharks would have to take, because the Kings are a tougher defensive team than either Phoenix or Dallas, and can take a team that scores only fitfully and shut them down entirely.

Phoenix hit a wall in March, going 4-6-4, but it is the toughest out of the Sharks final three opponents (3-1 against San Jose), and they benefit from the return of their captain Shane Doan, whose suspension for sharing recipes with Dallas Jamie Benn is up.

But sweeping Dallas is the dagger the Sharks need to display. They are 3-1 against the Stars, but thats not the point. Dallas finishes with Nashville and St. Louis, who are both better than any Pacific Division team, and it would be most difficult for them to overcome a sweep.

By now, a little thing can become a big one, but the greater truth is that the standings tell you who you are, and San Jose is an average offensive team that hates momentum. Their longest win streak, five games, was in games five through nine of the season; they are team who excels when scoring first, yet they are one of the worst first-period teams in the league. They have spent the last two months losing game after game to non-playoff contenders.

They have, in short, richly earned their discomfort, and we are loath to point out the easiest way out for them. They deserve to have to grind all the way until Day 154.

But these are the facts. They have a better chance of taking Dallas out of the postseason five days before seasons end than either Los Angeles or Phoenix, and in a race where there are four contenders for three spots, you kill the weakest link, or you become the weakest link.

In other words, if theyre not safe at home and dry before Saturday, they arent going to be. And they wont deserve to be.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for

Durant questionable for Monday's game in Philadelphia

Durant questionable for Monday's game in Philadelphia

Kevin Durant's status for Monday's game in Philadelphia remains up in the air.

The Warriors forward, who missed his first game of the season on Saturday, is listed as questionable for the team's game against the 76ers.

Prior to the game against the Nets, head coach Steve Kerr told the media that Durant's left hand was "still a little swollen" and called the injury a "day-to-day" thing.

Without Durant, the Warriors still managed to cruise to a 112-95 win over Brooklyn.

Durant injured his left pinky in the opening minutes against the Clippers on Thursday. He remained in the game, but late in the first quarter, he retreated to the locker room with a member of the training staff.

He returned to the game after X-rays came back negative. He played 34 minutes and finished with 25 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists.


Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

Three takeaways: Sharks stand up for Karlsson; avoiding the mumps

VANCOUVER – It was a successful first game coming out of the bye week for the Sharks, as they won going away against the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Saturday, 4-1. Here are our three takeaways from the evening in British Columbia…

1 – Slow start, strong finish

The league-wide trend of starting slow coming out of the NHL’s newly instituted bye week was on display in the first period, as the Sharks and Canucks played one of the uglier frames of NHL hockey you’ll ever see. San Jose was on its heels early, surrendering the first six shots of the game and looking particularly confused. They didn’t register a single hit in the period, either, which is hard to do.

The Sharks were lucky that Vancouver wasn’t much better, and that Martin Jones – whose performance we focused on in primary the game recap – was looking sharp and well rested.

The message after the scoreless first period, according to coach Pete DeBoer, was just to “try and get better.” That’s what happened.

“We knew it would be a little messy, and it was,” DeBoer said. “Jonesy thankfully was our best player, and gave us a chance to get our legs under us. I thought as the game wore on we got better and better. It wasn’t a pretty win, by any means.”

Chris Tierney said: “After the first 10 minutes [we] started to feel good and then kind of felt back to normal in the second there. It definitely took a little bit. Joner bailed us out in the beginning a couple times. I thought we started to get going in the second and third.”

2 – Standing up for Karlsson

Melker Karlsson was lucky to return in the third period after he took a heavy hit from Joseph Labate. Karlsson had to be helped to the dressing room after the blow, when his head violently snapped back as Labate ran him into the boards in front of the bench.

Micheal Haley pounced on Labate immediately after the incident, earning a two-minute minor that the team was probably happy to kill off. Labate, to his credit, answered the bell in the third period when he was challenged by and fought Brenden Dillon. The Sharks will face the Canucks three more times this season, including on Thursday, so a response to the hit was particularly necessary even if it was clean.

“That sends a good message to the team that everybody has each other’s back,” Mikkel Boedker said of Haley and Dillon’s efforts. “Those guys are real standup guys, and they’ve done it so many times. Every time they do it, it means something special to all of us.”

DeBoer said: “That’s a huge part of our team and our team identity. We’ve got a group that you’re not going to be able to push to of games, and I think we’ve shown that over the last two years here. You don’t even have to say anything, that’s just automatic.”

3 – Avoiding the mumps

Some eyebrows were raised in the press box midway through the game when the Canucks tweeted that defenseman Luca Sbisa would not return with the stomach flu. That’s one of the early warning signs of the mumps, meaning Sbisa could have exposed some Sharks to the virus, which is making its way through the Vancouver dressing room.

“What are you going to do? We’ve just got to cross our fingers and get outta here and hope that he didn’t rub up against anybody,” DeBoer said.

The Sharks coach said after the game that he thought “most of our guys” have had vaccinations, but “I believe there’s a couple that haven’t.”

After the virus invaded several NHL dressing rooms two seasons ago, the Sharks’ training staff will likely be on the lookout for symptoms when the team reconvenes on Monday. Hopefully, the outbreak will begin and end in Vancouver this time.

“Definitely, you want to make sure that you stay away from all that stuff,” Boedker said.