It isn’t so much a surprise that the Sharks and Kings are headed to a Game 7.
Before the playoffs started, San Jose expressed expectations the series would be as long, difficult and physical as they come.
That’s how every game between these California rivals has played out this season.
What has come as a surprise is how the Sharks dominated the LA squad for two games, pulled out an OT win in the third bout, and then subsequently lost three games in a row to draw the series out to the very last rung on the ladder.
The level of tension and shenanigans continues, because we, in all honesty, can only hypothesize who will win Wednesday night and advance to the Western Conference Semifinals.
San Jose will have home ice advantage, an improvement over the final game of Round 2 last season when they lost to the Kings.
Plus, the Sharks have already confidently won two games at the Tank against the SoCal squad in this series.
The Sharks have, in fact, won the last five elimination games in San Jose. They haven’t been eliminated from the playoffs at home since 2007 against the Detroit Red Wings.
There are certainly odds in San Jose’s favor. It’s a matter them being on their game — unlike last Saturday — and not letting some of the unfortunate surprises from the last two tilts get the best of them.
Surprises started right from the drop of the puck in Game 1. Actually, you could say they started before that when the power went out at SAP Center, but let’s stick strictly to the action at ice level.
Nobody from either camp expected Jonathan Quick to be so off his game when the Sharks pummeled the Kings in the two opening matchups in San Jose.
Even with the tight nature of Game 3 down at Staples Center, Patrick Marleau’s goal in overtime gave way to another surprise: The Sharks were up 3-0 in a series against a team they’ve never beaten easily.
Then, they lost steam at the end of Game 4. They didn’t show up mentally or maintain control of the puck in the neutral zone during Game 5.
After tying things up in the second frame of a very tense Game 6, three late goals by the Kings and unsavory play by Quick broke the Sharks down to the point that every skater on the ice was angry enough to start throwing punches.
Another shocker: Quick coming out of the net to attack Joe Thornton from behind and starting a full-blown fight fest that peppered the final minutes of regulation with penalties.
A frustrated Team Teal fan base probably wants to stay burrowed under their covers at the thought of another post season squandered. But the season isn’t in the bag yet.
Not to say that there aren’t also concerns. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was absent from the Sharks recent trip to LA, and his absence puts a kink in San Jose’s defensive makeup.
And while the Sharks offense had no problem getting the puck past Quick in the first two games, beating him the last few has taken more effort.
Game 7 promises to be a blood match. These teams already didn’t like each other very much, and an exceptionally heated end to Game 6 is only going to boost the intensity. But since that’s about all we can gather, the end result of Round 1 is still anybody’s guess.