I asked McLellan if tonight’s game had any more significance because the Kings were only four points behind the Sharks in the Pacific Division, or if it was too soon to be paying attention to that.
“I have a sneaking suspicion there are going to be teams behind us or in front of us this year and they’re going to be within four or six or eight points,” he responded. “It’s going to happen all year. So for us on Dec. 9 to be looking behind us and say they’re creeping up on us, I don’t think that’s a very good approach for us to take at all.
“The approach that we have to take is, one, are we getting better and, two, are we giving each other as teammates what we need to get better,” he added. “And we’ll continue to evaluate that way.”
With the loss against the Kings, and them winning over Phoenix, that puts them within 1 point of the Sharks for first in the Division, and more importantly, the Conference. I know the Kings fans here, and the ones I know at work, are clamoring at the idea of being the top dog of the West. But like McLellan, I anticipate the team to be behind someone at some point, and not necessarily be on top the whole time.
In fact, I would prefer not to be! We've been in 2nd going into the playoffs, only to be knocked out in the second round by Dallas. We've been in first, just to get knocked out by a freak of nature 8th seed. Being on top hasn't seemed to work for us very well. And the time the team actually was able to make it to the Conference Finals was when they were the underdog at 8th. I'm not saying that I'd want to be there again, but I'm not to eager for the team to be on top either. Perhaps, a 3rd or 4th spot would be the best scenario. It would still allow home ice advantage, but without having to take on a team that's dominated in their Division, or made an insane push to make the playoffs. Hell, at this point, our road record is better than our home record, so maybe even a 5th would be better.
I really don't know if my logic is flawed, but it seems that dominating in the regular season just hasn't worked very well for the team. They come in hurt, and worn down because everyone uses the Sharks as a measuring stick and brings their A game. For the Sharks, there are no easy games as far as the intensity and the compete level that other teams bring when they place against us, and it forces the coaching staff give the big stars more minutes, and start Nabby in net more often than he should be.
They have now lost 3 in a row (on home ice no less) and while they are still first in the conference, the slip has allowed other teams to narrow the gap in the standings. A loss tonight would mean the Sharks lose the #1 spot to LA, and drop to 4th in the standings. If the playoffs started tomorrow, that would put us up against a young Avalanche team with little to no playoff experience. Just the type of team that the Sharks should be able to dominate and exploit. That sounds like a much better scenario to me
Now that I've gone on long enough, what do you think? Do you care about being first going into the playoffs, or do you feel like me, that that spot is overrated?