In all likelihood, the San Jose Sharks will be facing the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the National Hockey League playoffs later this month, so it was a good thing for the Sharks to win the final regular-season matchup between the two teams.
The 2-1 victory at the SAP Center in San Jose meant little in terms of positioning, but it meant something in terms of a reminder to the Kings that the Sharks do not go quietly, especially at home.
And remember last season's second-round playoff series: the home team won every game in a seven-game battle that left the then-defending champion Kings exhausted before their Western Conference final against the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks.
Neither team looks forward to playing each other again in the first round, no matter what they say.
"We play similar styles, it's in-your-face hockey, and if we do play them in playoffs, it would be fun to watch," Kings center Jordan Nolan told the Associated Press after the game.
Don't believe him.
(By the way, Los Angeles was starting their backup goalie in this one, too.)
A quick look at the teams' matchups this year:
- Kings won 4-3 in overtime at home;
- Sharks won 3-2 in overtime shootout at home;
- Kings won 4-1 at home;
- Kings won 1-0 on the road;
- Sharks won 2-1 at home.
With the exception of the one blowout on December 19, these two teams play close games. We saw that in the postseason last year -- as well as in 2011 when San Jose eliminated Los Angeles in the first round of the playoffs that year, in six games.
The Sharks won three games in overtime that series, by the way, but they then struggled to put away the Detroit Red Wings in the second round before finally succumbing to the Vancouver Canucks in the conference finals.
Get the point?
Beating the Kings will take a lot out of the Sharks in the first round of the postseason, so San Jose better be ready for a fight if they want to win the Stanley Cup for the first time ever in 2014.
(It would have been nice to avoid the Kings in the postseason altogether, of course.)