SAN JOSE – An evening of channel flipping is likely ahead for the Sharks’ coaching staff, and probably a few of the players, too.
Although the Sharks know they’ll start on the road next week for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it has yet to be determined whether they’ll be headed to sunny Anaheim or still-unthawing Edmonton.
Anaheim is in the driver’s seat for the division title, which would give it a first round matchup against Calgary. If the Ducks get at least one point against the Kings, or the Oilers lose in any fashion to Vancouver, then the third-seeded Sharks will go to Edmonton. If the Oilers beat the Canucks and the Ducks lose to the Kings in regulation, then the Sharks will charter to Southern California.
The Kings-Ducks game at Honda Center begins at 5:30 p.m., while Oilers-Canucks at Rogers Place is at 6 p.m. The full first round playoff schedule is typically revealed shortly after the games are complete.
“It doesn’t really matter for us what kind of building we go into. We’ve been able to win tough games on the road before,” Chris Tierney said. “I think when you go on the road in a playoff game you dial in even more almost than home ice. We’re going to be hungry to go, and try to win the first one.”
Brent Burns offered a more unique view when it was pointed out that Anaheim is a much shorter flight than Edmonton.
“If you travel longer you get to watch more shows,” Burns said.
No matter what kind of spin they want to put on it, though, the Sharks would have surely rather started a series at home. It’s still somewhat remarkable that they had a nine-point lead on the division as recently as March 15, but dropped to third place anyway after a stretch of losing eight of nine games in regulation.
San Jose finished with a 26-11-4 mark at SAP Center this season, as opposed to a 20-18-3 record on the road. They lost six straight on the road from March 20 – March 31, before capturing their road finale against lowly Vancouver on April 2.
Brenden Dillon admitted that seeing that Pacific Division title slip through the Sharks’ grasp was “a little frustrating.” Still, he doesn’t expect anyone to dwell on it, and pointed out that last season the Sharks won the first round against the Kings and Western Conference Final against St. Louis despite not having home ice.
“I think something about this group of guys that we've had this year is managing the highs and lows,” Dillon said. “We were at a high at the beginning of March, and obviously a bit of a low towards the end. But at the end of the day, we understand the road we had last year.
“We had to start on the road in almost every series, except for [the second round against Nashville]. We were able to have success there, and I think it's something that we can have some confidence in going into Edmonton or Anaheim."
While the overall health of the club will surely play a role in whether it has success, as Logan Couture and Joe Thornton remain questionable, head coach Pete DeBoer pointed towards the intangibles that should allow the Sharks to raise their level from the brand of hockey they’ve displayed over the past few weeks.
“I think it's some experience and a veteran group, and I also think it's the character of your group,” DeBoer said. “We've got a lot of character in there. They know this is what we've been waiting for."