SAN JOSE Pete DeBoer might just be an optimist after all.
After his team fumbled a chance to lock down home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Saturday, the Sharks coach walked out of SAP Center with a glass half-full outlook.
Six weeks ago, the Sharks season was on the ropes after the team fell to 7-7-2 without Joe Thornton following an overtime loss in Minnesota. On Saturday, they finished the season in third place in the Pacific Division with 100 points, setting up an opening round matchup with the Anaheim Ducks.
If someone told me a month ago that wed have 100 points, I would have taken that regardless of whether I had home ice or who we were playing, DeBoer said. There was a lot of good work done this year and weve got a ticket to the playoffs.
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Heres what we learned as the Sharks (45-27-10) dropped a 6-3 decision to the Minnesota Wild (45-26-11) in their season finale.
1. Just not that good.
Every indication suggested that the Sharks were going to gobble up two points like Pac-Man mowing down blue ghosts Saturday night.
The Wild skated into the game without anything to play for after they secured third place in the Central Division and a first-round matchup with the Winnipeg Jets earlier this week. The game was the Wilds ninth in 15 days and they were playing without top defenseman Ryan Suter (right fibula), blue liner Jared Spurgeon (lower body) and sniper Zach Parise (rest).
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The Sharks, on the other hand, entered the game with an opportunity to tie up second place in the Pacific Division and clinch home-ice advantage in the first round by earning a single point.
But instead of storming out of the gates with playoff-like urgency, they came out flat, allowing the Wild to record the games first six shots and grab a 2-0 lead by the 15-minute mark.
After that, the Sharks came to life, tying the game 2-2 on back-to-back shots from Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski in a span of 64 seconds. But the Wild regained control of things in the second, scoring a pair of goals just 28 seconds apart before Jason Zucker put them ahead 5-2 with his second tally at 15:25.
The Sharks entered the second intermission with just 12 shots on goal.
No one could find the right combination of words to explain the Sharks no show with home ice on the line
Definitely would have liked to have been better, Pavelski said.
We didnt play too well, Couture added.
We werent very good, DeBoer chimed in.
How concerning is the Sharks lack of urgency in such an important game?
We didnt have a good game. We were off. I dont think anyone was casual, DeBoer said. We werent very good. Sometimes all your intentions are right, youre just not good. Its a bad night and thats what it was.
2. Pick your poison.
A wild night of hockey in the Pacific Division started with three teams separated by two points and ended with first-round playoff matchups set between the Sharks and Ducks and the Vegas Golden Knights and the Los Angeles Kings.
The Ducks clinched second place with a win over the Arizona Coyotes and the Sharks loss to Minnesota. The Kings choked on an opportunity to climb ahead of the Sharks by losing to the Dallas Stars, sealing their fate as the Western Conferences top wild card team.
The Sharks downplayed the significance of home-ice advantage and theyre right. They reached the Stanley Cup Final two years ago after letting second place slip away over the last couple weeks of the season. That said, giving up an extra home game to a team thats riding into the playoffs with a five-game winning streak and a 10-1-1 record since March 14 isnt ideal.
The Ducks will open the series without top defenseman Cam Fowler (shoulder), but with both Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler healthy, theyre playing their best hockey of the season. The Sharks, meanwhile, are 1-4-1 since their eight-game winning streak ended in St. Louis on March 27.
But the Sharks do own a 3-0-1 record against the Ducks this season.
Its pick your poison. It doesnt matter, DeBoer said. There are no easy matches, but weve got a ticket to the important time of year and weve got to make the most of it.
3. Sharks survive a major scare.
The coachs worst nightmare appeared to be coming true when Couture left the final game of the season in the third after taking a Burns shot to his left hand. Keep in mind, the Sharks entered the playoffs last spring with both Couture and Thornton hobbled by injuries. The last thing DeBoer wanted was to re-live that experience this spring.
Thats your biggest fear, right? the Sharks coach said. You want to win the game, but your biggest fear is someone getting hurt.
Fortunately for DeBoer, Couture returned less than seven minutes after he left the Sharks bench.
Burnzie just ripped one inside of my wrist. I had to come in and get it wrapped, make sure everything was alright, Couture said.
The doctor came right in, just looked at it and he asked where the pain was. Once we figured out that it wasnt in the spots where bones break, then he knew I was fine.