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From playoffs to opinions and semantics
The eternal search for post-season play continued on Thursday
1/20/06 - By Steve Flores

A glimmer of light had exposed itself over the past couple of weeks as the Edmonton Oilers had lost 7 of 10. The Oilers have become the eighth and final Western Conference playoff slot holder. Just as a reminder the Sharks entered the night as the number nine team. Only eight teams qualify.

Despite incorrect interpretations of earlier articles the Sharks have, of course, been playing very good hockey. The issue is that they are not gaining key ground in terms of reaching a playoff position. The top 7 teams have continued to win at a pace which is virtually the same or even better than that of the Sharks. And before we jump all over the boys from So Cal please keep in mind that despite many key injuries the Los Angeles Kings have continued to maintain a sizeable lead over the Sharks as well. When the Kings are healthy they are even better.

So let's review shall we - the Sharks are a good team. The Sharks are a young team. The Sharks went winless 10 games in a row. The Sharks have been very good since the arrival of Joe Thornton. As I write the Sharks are now the number 10 team in the West as Anaheim has past them into the ninth conference position. I'm feeling ok that these are all pretty decent facts that aren't filled with too much opinion. The facts are still that the Sharks are on the outside looking in and they lost a major chance at trying to reel in the one and only team ahead of them that has been sliding in the standings; the Edmonton Oilers.

The game was a 4 to 8 point swing game as the Sharkies entered the contest down by 6 to the boys from Alberta. A regulation win would have moved them to within 4 points of the Oilers and that final playoff spot. Down 2 goals early the Sharks buckled down and fought to a 2-2 tie before failing yet again in a Shootout. I hope that by stating that they lost in yet another Shootout is factual enough not to be my opinion. The hard facts are that the team lost a golden opportunity to make up ground on the team directly in front of them.

Here comes another fact - when a team goes winless for 10 games in a row a team is behind an eight ball. A team of resilience will fight through those losses in an attempt to recover. The Sharks are this kind of team. However when a team of resilience is busy working their way back through the depths of their own defeats they MUST win key games against teams that are directly ahead of them if they intend to get into the playoff race.

The game was at home. The Sharks were rested and they even played on Black jersey Thursday at the Tank.

The team lost.

It isn't the end of the world. The team still has virtually half a season to find their way into the playoffs. But, it is not going to be easy.

The West is deep and it is skilled. The Sharks are young and can be inconsistent. Yes inconsistent is a staple of 1st and 2d year players. If that's my opinion then so be it, but please if I am wrong then let me know what other team in Stanley Cup history has ever won a Championship with 11 first and second year players.

Yes, this team is better than before the trade. Yes, this team is very talented. Yes, this team is very young. Yes, this team is fighting each and every night to get into playoff position. However to ignore that this team has been unable to make up ground on nearly all of the team's currently holding playoff positions is myopic.

If the Sharks continue to play at their current clip they will have a chance at reaching a playoff spot but, if and only if, at least one of the teams ahead of them decides to go on a tail spin and allows the Sharks to pass them. For those of you stuck on the specificity of word usage, the prior use of the terms 'decides' and 'allows' is me injecting the concept of sarcasm into the article.

The Sharks have rebounded nicely from their early season pitfalls but I still contend that this team is built for a Stanley Cup title, just not the one that will be handed out in 2006.


Contact Steve at stevybo@yahoo.com


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