Vancouver Canucks Will Bring San Jose Sharks Pacific Division
The San Jose Sharks will use three gifts from the schedule to bolstering their effort to win the Pacific Division. Included—they finally begin their season series at the Vancouver Canucks Thursday, Feb. 2…
The 2016-17 NHL season schedule gave three gifts to the San Jose Sharks quest for a Pacific Division title. One they finished, one they open President’s Day and the other begins Thursday, Feb. 2.
The gift marked “Do Not Open Before Feb. 20” is a five-day bye. That was mandated for every team in the new collective bargaining agreement. The later the better for any bye and no team has one after the Sharks.
However, San Jose’s bigger advantage concerns two of its Pacific Division rivals. Unfortunately, what is good for the team is bad for hockey fans.
Timing is Everything
Specifically, the Sharks are already done playing the Los Angeles Kings. The fifth and final game was Jan. 18.
San Jose won the season series 3-1-1 to 2-3-0. Its completion does more than avoid a contender down the stretch.
In this case, the Sharks caught their rival at its weakest. The Kings were without ace goalie Jonathan Quick for four of those five games. His pending return is one reason his otherwise mediocre team is still a contender.
True, his injury came opening night against San Jose. Still, ending this season as recent ones with many games against Los Angeles would have been disadvantageous.
In fact, it seems odd the Sharks got this blessing. Their rivalry with the Kings is the best current one in the game. No teams have played each other more in the last six years thanks to four postseason series. Not seeing them battle with so much on the line is a disservice to hockey fans and thus, the league.
Turns out Vancouver is not the Canadian Los Angeles
The next 61 days will feel like Groundhog Day because another Pacific Division matchup repeats five times. That represents over one-sixth San Jose’s schedule over that time.
This is also the perfect time to face the Vancouver Canucks. While they are legitimately in the postseason race, only eight teams have a lower point percentage. Their roster is aging and may not handle one more run even if pieces are added at the trade deadline.
Vancouver’s postseason elimination should be official by the time the two teams meet for their last two games in April. More roster attrition will likely impact the other two games that bookend the trade deadline.
Thus, the Sharks get a weaker team that should get even weaker as the season series plays out. They probably did a point or two better against the Kings because of timing. Now the Canucks should provide at least that many extra because of the timing of that series.
Add even one extra point from the late bye and the advantage reaches two full games, minimum. Moreover, the scheduling against them has been almost as fortuitous.
The Anaheim Ducks have two regulation wins and two overtime losses in the season series. Thus, San Jose can only take that tiebreaker with a regulation win in their remaining game at home.
However, the Sharks are probably the best team in the Pacific Division even if all rosters are healthy. The extra two games from scheduling makes it likely they hang onto a one-game lead over the Ducks. It may also mean two head-to-head games will not be enough for the Edmonton Oilers to close a larger gap.
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