Best of West Meet Saturday Night in San Jose
The Detroit Red Wings and the San Jose Sharks – head and shoulders above the rest of the western conference – meet Saturday night for the third of their four meetings during the regular season.
The Sharks won the first meeting in San Jose 4-2 but were embarrassed last month in Detroit 6-0. While these games are just one more in the regular season and don’t mean much other than a win or loss, they do give fans – as well as players and coaches – a chance to measure their team to see where they stand against a premium opponent.
Just over the midway point the two teams have nearly identical records: The Red Wings are 31-7-6 earning 68 points, the Sharks are 32-6-5 earning 69. The next closest team in the Western Conference is Calgary, who is 10 points behind.
San Jose has been nearly unbeatable in the “Shark Tank”; they own the leagues best home record at 20-1-2 and suffered their first home loss in regulation since February 14, 2008. The 31 consecutive games with a point in the HP Pavilion tied the second longest streak in NHL history. The loss also cost them two points and dropped them a point behind the Boston Bruins for the leagues best record.
The Red Wings own the league’s second best road record at 15-4-4 second only to the Bruins. They lead the league in goals with 165 and power play conversion at 26.8% but are only 3-2 in the state of California. They lost back to back early in the season to San Jose and Anaheim but avenged both those losses back home in Detroit and beat the Ducks in Anaheim Wednesday night, 4-3.
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The Wings have earned a point in ten straight games, going 8-0-2 over that span and outscoring opponents 40-20. They haven’t lost in regulation since the day after Christmas in Nashville.
That last game in Detroit and last nights loss to the Flames should be more than enough fuel to fire up the Sharks who were disappointed to let the streak end. They’ll be looking for revenge and some vindication against the Wings, the defending Stanley Cup Champions, and try to prove to the prognosticators that they are the real deal and a legitimate Cup contender.
The second seed in the west a year ago, the Sharks lost three home games in the playoffs as they were dispatched by the Stars in a second round melt down that prompted Coach Ron Wilson’s departure. Throughout this season the Sharks have heard the doubters who wonder whether they have what it takes to make it deep into the playoffs.
In order to do that and win a Stanley Cup they likely will have to go through the Red Wings come May. Although the Wings will be deadly no matter where you play them, home ice advantage would certainly be nice to have and the Sharks will have to weather a second half surge by Detroit to stay ahead in points and secure the top seed. That may be easier said than done, 21 of their final 39 games are on the road and the Sharks will have to prove that they can dominate outside the “Shark Tank”.
ProHockey-fans.com Detroit Red Wings Correspondent