Programming note: Coverage of Game 4 between the Sharks and Kings begins tonight at 7:00 p.m. on CSN California with Sharks Pregame Live (Channel locations)
The wilderness that has covered the San Jose Sharks’ road to the Stanley Cup just keeps getting cleared a little wider each day.
At least that’s the superficial logic. While the Sharks are on the verge of beating the Los Angeles Kings without having to use maximal exertion or endure multiple injuries, their likely opponent, the Anaheim Ducks are now in a protracted and very nasty struggle with the allegedly docile Dallas Stars.
[RELATED: In the Crease: Sharks go for sweep of Kings]
These are but two of the series that have played out well beyond the scope of the experts’ pre-playoff analyses (including this non-expert’s). The Ducks were supposed to sail while the Sharks were supposed to be locked in a primordial struggle that left the winner battered and bleeding and at fractional strength for the next round.
Go figure. Better yet, don’t. You’ll just make it worse.
But let’s say San Jose finishes the surprisingly easy work at Staples Center Thursday night. They would become the 37th team in the last 20 years to sweep a series, the 36th being Montreal, which dispatched goalie-less Tampa Bay. Of the other 35 series, only 15 teams that swept went on to advance past the next round, and of the five times a team that swept face a team extended to seven games, the team that played the seven won the series. In fact, when a team that swept faced a team that went six games, the team that played the six won more than 60 percent of the time.
This suggests, somewhat counter-intuitively I grant, that rest turns to rust more often than not, and that factors beyond “You had to work harder than I did” turn subsequent series.
I haven’t the math to understand why this would be, or the patience to examine each series for extraneous factors. But 15-20 suggests something about the rhythms of the playoffs are important, and the more they are disrupted the harder it gets for the disruptee.
Thus, while San Jose would seem to be living on Happy Street right now – barring, of course, an as-yet unimaginable cratering in Games 4 through 7 – and Anaheim and Dallas would seem to be punching themselves out to ill effect, one should take care to assume too much.
Or does sweeping Vancouver and then being ground down by Los Angeles two years ago escape your memories?
No, the bigger factor that may be coming out of Anaheim-Dallas is the potential absence of Ryan Getzlaf, one of the game’s best players. He missed Game Four after getting into a to-do with Antoine Roussel late in the second period of Game 3, and though the Ducks adhere to league policy and say only that it is an upper-body injury, Getzlaf took a puck to the same face earlier in the series and Roussel did not hesitate to punch there in their tussle (which wasn’t an official fight).
And heads are, after all, part of the upper body, except of course in some rare examples of anal-cranial inversion typically found more off the field and in clubs and boardrooms.
But that’s a libel for another day.
Either way, Getzlaf finished the game but was less noticeable and, as we said, was in civvies for Game 4. That matters a lot more than 20 years of disembodied game results.
Still, right now, the macro view is that the Sharks look awfully good, the Kings look awfully shell-shocked, and the Ducks and Stars are beaten, angry and look like they want to kill each other more than they want to score goals.
And that means approximately 42.9 percent of a sure thing in Round 2. The Stanley Cup Playoffs get harder, except when they don’t. Got it?
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com