In the first season under coach Todd McLellan, the 2008-09 San Jose Sharks earned at least a point in their first 22 home games (20-0-2)—the third-longest streak in NHL history. The Pacific Division rival Anaheim Ducks are within one win of matching that feat in the 2013-14 NHL season after a 1-0 win Sunday, January 12.
San Jose's start in the 2008-09 NHL season was the longest point streak in any current Shark's memory (the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers have the record of 26). The regular season ended with the President's Trophy, but also with being knocked out by Anaheim in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Now the Ducks have a chance to match that start Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche. They cannot pass it until January 21 against the Winnipeg Jets, and would have to get wins in both games to possess the better point percentage.
Nevertheless, the hot start has all but locked up the Pacific Division. Anaheim possesses an active blue line and is deep in forward and goalie talent. Even with the sixth-best record in the NHL, second-place San Jose is now a whopping 13 points behind the leaders.
Even with the two games in hand, earning first place is almost certain to require tying the franchise-record 117 points those 2008-09 Sharks earned. To do that, they have to finish the 2013-14 NHL season with a point percentage about 83 points higher than their current pace. The Ducks would only need to not fall by twice that amount from their current point percentage of .781 to still take the Pacific Division crown.
That means San Jose is in the same place as the middle of last season—no matter what the official message about earning first place, the only remaining goal is getting home-ice advantage in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. The second-place team will play the third-place team in each division in the first round, making the likely opponent the Los Angeles Kings.
Thus, Anaheim's quick start has all but ensured their two California rivals will have to battle through a tough series to even make the second round. Compare that to a series against one of the two Western Conference wild card teams and it creates a major advantage.
Factor in the home-ice advantage that is so important to all three exceptional home teams and one might think the Ducks are bound for the Western Conference finals if they can avoid major injuries. Unless they are out-played down the stretch by either the Chicago Blackhawks or St. Louis Blues, they look good to take the Stanley Cup considering how much weaker the Eastern Conference is thus far.
However, staying healthy might be a big "if" to assume for a team with an injury-prone goalie and two of the oldest forwards in the NHL. They could be vulnerable not only if they lose one of them, but if any of them is worn down or playing hurt.
Meanwhile, the Sharks and Kings have already been playing through injuries. If they can be relatively healthy for that second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, either would be a strong choice to upset their Pacific Division rivals and challenge either St. Louis or Chicago for the Western Conference championship.