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It's Only December, but…
Conference and Division record is awful
12/13/09 - By Ken Smyth

You just knew it was going to happen: the San Jose Sharks get a home game stolen from them with a late goal and a shootout loss. Poetic justice maybe that it was the battered St. Louis Blues that did the deed after the Sharks took an undeserved win in St. Louis last month.

Then the Calgary Flames come through, out-bang the Sharks and take a game that saw more pucks off goalposts and crossbars than into the nets. Outside of both being losses and referee Dan Marouelli's aggressive enforcement of the NHL's no-penalty-for-slashing-Joe Thornton rule these two games shared a common element.

Both looked like playoff games. It makes sense, the Sharks played three past playoff series against both Calgary and St. Louis; most notably losing to the Flames in the 2004 Conference Finals and defeating the 2000 Presidents Trophy winner Blues in the opening round - yeah what goes/come around and all that. With both of them losses they were also a reminder of the Sharks' start in recent playoff series.

Add in the shelling at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks the week before and you get the feeling we'll be spending May the usual way; wondering which promising players the Giants and A's will trade away for mediocre veterans and a shot at a 77-85 season. Oh, and wondering just what happened to hockey.

Fact is, the Sharks need to play well against teams in their division and the Western Conference. Period. They haven't done it. Period. They need to start putting on the game face, intimidating the middle of the pack of playoff teams the way the Red Wings and Avalanche teams of the late '90s used to do.

So far they haven't. Against the Western Conference as a whole, the Sharks are 11-6-7, which translates to 11-13 without the loser points. Not horrible, but not exactly dominating. In the same category, Phoenix Coyotes are a surprise, at 15-7-2 against the conference, up there with Chicago at 14-7-2.

If the only games that counted were ones against their own division, the Sharks (3-2-4) would trailing the third place Dallas Stars (4-3-3), who trail LA (9-1-1) and Phoenix (7-3-1). The Sharks play the Pacific Division for the next seven games except for a couple "breathers" against Chicago and Washington.

This is a good time to start showing that playoff face. This will be a good stretch to evaluate the guys out there from the Worcester shuttle wearing the offensive lineman numbers. Also, a good stretch to work out the kinks in the power play and a bunch of other aggravations made worse by three and four games a week with long travel.

Doug Wilson, Mike Ricci, and the rest of the brain trust sitting up behind section 219 are paying attention. But, so is everyone else in the NHL. A weak showing could mean it's still the same old Sharks, a pretty team that you can ignore soon after the regular season ends.

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