SAN JOSE- For the second straight season the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings faced off in a relatively meaningless contest in the regular season finale. And coincidentally for the second straight year the winner of that game opens up the playoffs in St. Louis while the loser goes to Vancouver.
A year ago, the Sharks won that meaningless game, went to St. Louis and lost. The Kings, well, we all know they beat Vancouver in route to winning the Stanley Cup.
This year, the Kings have won the meaningless finale and will travel to St. Louis while San Jose will head north to Vancouver.
Now with the way St. Louis manhandled San Jose last season (8-1 overall), a large contingent of Sharks fans were hoping to draw Vancouver. To them I say: be careful what you wish for.
While San Jose does match up better with Vancouver than they do St. Louis, finishing sixth means they effectively have a zero percent chance at drawing either the Minnesota Wild or the Anaheim Ducks, the two teams in the Western Conference playoffs that the Sharks match up with best.
As a sixth seed, San Jose won’t be able to face either the eighth seeded Wild nor the second seeded Ducks until the conference final. Finishing fifth would have made potentially facing at least one of these two much more likely for San Jose.
Had San Jose beaten the Kings in the finale and finished fifth, then they would have then been in line to face Anaheim in round two if the Ducks were to knock off the Red Wings, (assuming the Blackhawks were to take care of the Wild and the Kings were to care of Vancouver).
Potentially facing the Ducks in round two would have been nice for the Sharks. San Jose significantly outplayed them in their last two matchups winning 5-3 and 4-0.
To put it simply, possibly going through St. Louis, Anaheim and Chicago wouldn’t be nearly as daunting of a route as Vancouver, St.Louis and Chicago.
Barring something really, really weird happening, sixth seeded San Jose is more than likely going to have to face two of the following three teams in rounds two and three to get to the final: St. Louis, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Had they finished fifth, the Sharks still might have to go through two of those three, but they most likely would have faced Anaheim in round two if the Ducks were to advance.
So while it is understandable for Sharks fans to want to avoid St. Louis in round one, it is hard to argue the fifth seed wouldn’t have been a better slot. It would have made round two potentially much less scarier.
As a six seed, Sharks fans better hope the Ducks don’t advance because if they do, it means an almost certain trip to Chicago in the next round if San Jose is to get by Vancouver. And even if the Ducks do lose, (allowing San Jose to temporarily avoid Chicago), Sharks will have to face either St. Louis or Los Angeles.
So sure, finishing sixth gets San Jose a slightly better round one matchup but barring Minnesota pulling a miracle, it has made the possible next two rounds for San Jose little more than a living nightmare.
Check back soon for a Sharks-Canucks series preview!
And as always, for more on the Sharks you can follow Andrew on twitter: @ViewFromBensch