SAN JOSE -- The Sharks closed their season series with the Avalanche on the final day of the regular season Saturday. But that doesn’t mean they won’t potentially see Colorado again in the not-too-distant future because of how the Western Conference wild-card race has shaped up.
With the Stars' victory over the Wild on Saturday, Dallas grabbed possession of the first wild-card spot, sticking Colorado in the second spot to face off against the Calgary Flames in the first round. With the way the playoff brackets are orchestrated, the winner of the Sharks' series against the Vegas Golden Knights will face off against the winner of the Flames-Avs series.
If the Sharks advance to the conference semifinals, facing either potential opponent would pose its challenges. San Jose split their regular season series with Calgary 2-2-0, tallying two well-earned wins but also suffering two tough losses, and tied the Flames in goals scored 16-16 apiece. The Flames have also proven to be an emotional matchup for the Sharks this season, stemming from a very physical contest on New Year’s Eve that ended with rookie defenseman Radim Simek suffering a concussion from a late-game hit by forward Sam Bennett. If San Jose makes it through what is sure to be a physical series against Vegas, they’ll certainly be more than prepared for facing Calgary next.
On the off-chance the Sharks and Avalanche both advance to the second round, the matchup is a bit harder to predict. San Jose swept the regular season series with Colorado, although none of their games were blowouts. If the Avs are able to catapult themselves past a Flames team that dominated them all regular season, it could make for an interesting second-round series -- although the Sharks, with their experience and deeper lineup, would likely have the upper hand.
In the event San Jose advances past the second round, they would have home ice advantage in the Western Conference finals after clinching the second-best record in the West with a victory in their regular-season finale. Given that they registered a 25-11-5 record on home ice during the regular season, and SAP Center has proven to be a hard building to play in come playoff time in the past, you'd have to feel good about the Sharks' chances at that point.
First, of course, it’s a matter of getting past the Vegas Golden Knights in Round 1.