SAN JOSE – Two weeks ago, the Sharks were well aware of the importance of their upcoming road trip. In order to remain in the playoff discussion, they’d probably have to gain at least 11 or 12 of the possible 14 points on the table.
It didn’t happen. The Sharks faltered early on, losing three of the first four games, and returned to the Bay Area with a 3-3-1 mark. The result will eventually be their first time out of the NHL playoffs since the 2002-03 season.
Official, mathematical elimination hasn’t happened yet. But, it’s approaching.
The Sharks (37-30-9, 83 points) have six games remaining, and can finish with a maximum 95 points. In order to finish in third place in the Pacific Division, securing an automatic berth, they would have to surpass the Kings (88 points) and the Flames (91 points).
That means Calgary needs just four points over its final five games to finish ahead of San Jose (the Flames have a significant lead in the primary tiebreaker of regulation/overtime wins).
The second wild card spot is currently a bit closer points-wise for the Sharks, as the Winnipeg Jets have 90, but the Sharks would have to leapfrog both the Kings and Dallas Stars (84 points). The Jets need six points over their final six games to ensure they will finish ahead of San Jose.
If math is your thing, the Sharks have a 1.6 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to the website sportsclubstats.com. Even if the Sharks were to win out, they have just a 24.2 percent chance of qualifying, according to the website.
Still, Todd McLellan wasn’t ready to concede anything after the 3-2 shootout loss in Pittsburgh on Sunday in which he called his club’s effort “gutsy” in the final game of the long journey.
“We're not out of it yet, still not out of it,” he said. “I know there's people probably watching and reading, and going ‘this guy's nuts.’ But, who knows? We'll see.”
There’s one potential scenario that could be compelling.
The Kings are in danger of being the first NHL team to miss the playoffs the year after winning the Stanley Cup since the 2007 Carolina Hurricanes. On Sunday, the Kings lost to Chicago while Calgary beat Dallas, moving Los Angeles three points behind the Flames for third place in the division (with one game in hand).
The Kings and Sharks play one another in the final game of the season at Staples Center on April 11. There’s a real chance that San Jose will get an opportunity to end the Kings’ season, depending on how things shake out over the final few days.
The Sharks currently own the NHL's second-longest streak of consecutive playoff appearances, with 10. Detroit has the longest, at 24 straight, while Pittsburgh is third, with eight in a row.