Originally posted on Red Light District Hockey  |  Last updated 4/6/12

The second half is always the time when the San Jose Sharks separate themselves from the pack. Recent history shows that. The latter stages of this year has been a struggle for them, however, as they’ve had to fight their way into the playoffs in Game 81. So which Sharks team will make their presence felt in the upcoming playoffs: the pre-season Cup contenders or the second half underachievers?

San Jose, who has won four consecutive Pacific Division titles, has a chance Saturday night to win number five in a row. By no means has it been a conventional way of winning a division.

On February 4 the Sharks led the division by four points and had won three in a row. Then they hit the skids. They went 4-11-3 in their next 18 games and fell right back on the bubble. As the gears were turning in March – the Sharks’ favorite time of year – they’d follow it up with disappointing losses.

A March 29th shutout loss to the Coyotes didn’t offer much hope for the Sharks, who looked complacent in what was a huge game in the playoff race. But they have rebounded with three straight wins, including a clean home-and-home sweep of the then-playoff contending Dallas Stars.

The Sharks suddenly are showing signs of how they can be. Is this version of Team Teal here to stay for the spring, though?

When pundits discussed Stanley Cup contenders before the season, the Sharks were understandably included on a frequent basis. This is a team that was coming off back-to-back conference final appearances, and added Brent Burns and Martin Havlat to an already-deep lineup.

For the most part this season, we haven’t seen that Cup contender. We haven’t seen that Sharks team that is usually better in the regular season than the playoffs. All we’ve seen is a shell of what the Sharks have been in recent seasons. So will lowered expectations help the Sharks fly under the radar in the West?

Led by Joe Thornton and the rest of a good (yet aging) core, the Sharks have the potential to give teams some fits. But what is their ceiling? Second round? Third round? Most believe the Stanley Cup window has closed on this team, and that their chance to win it all was in the last few years.

If the Sharks end up with the 7 or 8 seed they will definitely be a formidable opponent for Vancouver or St. Louis. And if Todd McLellan’s gang grabs the division title, you’re suddenly looking at a team that could make some noise this spring.

However, that’s only if the Sharks team from the past week shows up. That’s their only chance of winning a round or two (or more) this spring. If the Sharks team from the second half makes an appearance, their stay in the playoffs will be short-lived.

Photo credit: Getty Images
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