With just two games to play, the San Jose Sharks sit at eighth place in the Western Conference, barely hanging on to a playoff spot. Things have not gone as planned this season, but making the playoffs is definitely still in reach. And, generally speaking, the NHL' playoffs are the most unpredictable out of all professional sports, so the main key is to simply get in.
However, let me make this clear: This slideshow is purely speculation, as it is not a guarantee that the Sharks will even make the postseason. Also, all the predictions are realistic ones (obviously, Sharks fans would love for Vancouver and St. Louis to get knocked out in the first round, but that's not likely to happen).
With that being said, it is never too early to dream big. If the San Jose Sharks do indeed make the playoffs, here are their ideal matchups in every single playoff round.
Feel free to refer back to those standings as you read.
Round 1: WCQF vs. Detroit Red Wings
This is the most realistic, best-case scenario for the Sharks in the first round. If San Jose can win their last two games, which are both against the Los Angeles Kings, they will most probably win the Pacific Division and capture the third spot in the Western Conference (just as they planned all along).
Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings are sitting in fourth—but are just one point away from falling to the sixth spot. Their remaining opponents: St. Louis Blues, New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks—all playoff teams.
That last game against Chicago is crucial. If they lose, Detroit will most likely fall back to the sixth spot, and play the San Jose Sharks in the first round.
Why is this the best case scenario? The Sharks have owned the Red Wings in recent years. They have eliminated them from the playoffs two years in a row, both times in the second round. What's more, San Jose is 3-1 against Detroit this season.
Round 2: WCSF @ Vancouver Canucks
Unfortunately, even this best-case scenario looks grim for the San Jose Sharks. If the Sharks make it out of the first round, they will either have to face the Vancouver Canucks or the St. Louis Blues, the top two teams in the Western Conference.
Just based on their dismal 0-4 regular season record against St. Louis, it is in the best interest of the Sharks to face the Canucks in round two.
Keep in mind that in order for this matchup to happen, St. Louis has to finish the season at the number one seed in the Western Conference, and Vancouver at number two.
If all this holds true, then the number three-seeded Sharks would play the number two-seeded Canucks, with Vancouver having home-ice advantage.
San Jose is 1-2-1 against Vancouver this season. But they will be playing with a chip on their shoulders, as it was these very same Canucks that knocked San Jose out of the playoffs last season (4-1 in the Western Conference Finals).
Round 3: WCF vs. Nasville Predators
If the Sharks somehow make it this far, here's the deal.
Let's go back to round one for a second. Detroit sliding down to the sixth spot means that Nashville and Chicago are the four and five seeds. They would play each other in the first round, and I like Nashville to win. Then Nashville would play St. Louis in the second round, assuming that St. Louis is the number one seed.
Nashville is 4-1-1 in six games against St. Louis this season. So, they have a good shot at pulling off the upset against the Blues.
That would leave just two teams remaining in the Western Conference—the Nashville Predators and the San Jose Sharks, vying for a spot in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Sharks are 2-1-1 against Nashville this season, and have defeated the Predators in a playoff series in both 2006 and 2007. Although this is a very different Predator team, the Sharks would be the home team in this series.
With that being said, I like the Sharks to defeat the Predators in this matchup.
Stanley Cup Finals @ Philadelphia Flyers
If I were to pick one team out of the Eastern Conference to play against the Sharks in the Stanley Cup Finals, it would be the Philadelphia Flyers.
Since 2006-2007, the San Jose Sharks are a perfect 8-0 against the Philadelphia Flyers. In fact, you have to go back to the year 1999 to find the last time the Sharks lost to Philadelphia (they've tied twice).
Now, I'm not going to go into the Eastern Conference playoff bracket, but just by looking at the standings, the Flyers have the third highest point total, with 102.
There's not much to speculate about in terms of this playoff series, because in all likelihood, it's not going to happen.
The Sharks would have to pull off a miracle just to get to this point. But then again, who knows? These are the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs—and anything can happen.
San Jose Sharks' Ideal Playoff Scenario
1. St. Louis vs. 8. Phoenix
2. Vancouver vs. 7. Los Angeles
3. San Jose vs. 6. Detroit
4. Nashville vs. 5. Chicago
1. St. Louis vs 4. Nashville
2. Vancouver vs 3. San Jose
Western Conference Finals
3. San Jose vs 4. Nashville
Stanley Cup Finals
Philadelphia Flyers vs. San Jose Sharks