After the first three games of the 2014 Pacific Division semifinal series, the Los Angeles Kings were questioned. Now it is the San Jose Sharks that face questions when they take the ice for an improbable sixth game Monday, April 28.
Could San Jose be only the fourth team in NHL history to choke a 3-0 Stanley Cup playoff series lead? Winning in Los Angeles has been difficult for some time, so the likelihood of facing a decisive seventh game after three straight losses looms.
The half of the roster that includes most key players faced that circumstance in 2011 against the Detroit Red Wings and persevered. However, that series took seven games and sapped the team of the fight it needed in the Western Conference finals against a deep and talented Vancouver Canucks team—a lesson the Sharks say they learned that was referenced before losing Saturday's game.
If San Jose faces the full seven games in this series, the Stanley Cup becomes very unlikely. After having the toughest travel schedule in the 2013-14 NHL season, facing seven games against a physical Pacific Division rival is not going to help them be healthy enough to beat two more elite Western Conference teams.
For now, the Sharks must simply focus on advancing from this series. They went from outscoring the Kings 17-8 in the first three games to being outscored 9-3 in the next two. Monday is a chance to end any narrative about choking this Pacific Division semifinal series and will buy the team time to recover before the second round.
Win the game and Saturday's poor home effort can be a blip on San Jose's 2014 Stanley Cup run. Lose it and face two more days of questions like Monday's outside of the venue (neither team has more than two wins on the road in this rivalry since Los Angeles won the 2012 title) ranging from who will be available according to CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz to how will the team get the advantage back in the series...