SAN JOSE – The Sharks, with their own playoff hopes already erased, have had a few opportunities to play spoiler in recent weeks, only to come up short.
They’ll never get a better opportunity to put a crimp in another team’s playoff aspirations than Sunday night when they face the rival Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
Sharks winger Timo Meier, for one, can’t wait for that chance.
Asked Saturday night about being named the Sharks’ Player of the Year for this season, Meier said, “the season’s still not finished, so I still want to do well in those last couple of games, especially tomorrow, you know, the biggest game of the year against Vegas.
“We can maybe knock them out of the playoffs. We obviously have a rivalry against them, so we’ve got to play hard tomorrow and focus on those last couple of games.”
The Golden Knights enter Sunday with 89 points, four back of the Dallas Stars for the second and final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. Vegas (42-31-5) has one game in hand on the Stars (44-30-5), which they’ll use up against the Sharks.
A Golden Knights loss in regulation time Sunday would leave them with a near-impossible path to make the postseason.
With just three games left at that point, Vegas would likely have to win out, as it closes the regular season with road games against Dallas, Chicago, and St. Louis on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday, respectively.
The Golden Knights would also have to hope that the Stars lose their final two games, as they host Arizona and Anaheim — two of the four worst teams in the Western Conference — on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
Whatever happens Sunday, a Golden Knights loss to the Stars on Tuesday would likely end their playoff hopes altogether.
But if Vegas beats San Jose in any fashion, and Dallas in regulation time, then it would control its own destiny at that point. Both the Golden Knights and Stars would have 93 points, and Vegas would own the first tiebreaker of regulation wins. Right now, the Golden Knights have 33 regulation wins and the Stars have 30.
The Sharks’ rivalry with the Golden Knights was at an apex in 2018 and 2019. The two teams met in the second round in 2018, with Vegas winning in six games, and the Sharks won a memorable first-round meeting the next year, capturing the series with a dramatic 5-4 overtime victory in Game 7.
However, the Sharks have not beaten the Golden Knights since Nov. 21, 2019, when San Jose had Aaron Dell as its starting goalie and Pete DeBoer as its coach. From that point, the Sharks own a dismal 0-9-2 against the Golden Knights.
“Every game we want to win, but tomorrow is definitely a special one against these guys, who we have some history against,” Meier said. “So yeah, we’re definitely excited to play against them tomorrow, and we’re going bring our best.”
The Sharks beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Saturday at home to improve to 31-35-12 on the season. In recent weeks, the Sharks lost twice to Dallas and once to teams like Minnesota, Vancouver, Nashville, and Edmonton, who were all either chasing a playoff spot or jockeying for postseason seeding.
After Sunday, the Sharks close the season with a home game against Anaheim on Tuesday and road games against Seattle and Edmonton on Thursday and Friday, respectively.