The San Jose Sharks can still control their own fate when it comes to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but only just. On Thursday, the team went into its sixth meeting with the Phoenix Coyotes, and were soundly beat 2-0, losing a game they could ill-afford to lose. Going into the game, San Jose was second in the Pacific Division and still clung to the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference, but after said game, they've dropped down to fourth in the division, trailing the Los Angeles Kings and Dallas Stars on top of the Phoenix Coyotes.
They've also dropped to No. 9 in the Western Conference, and are out of the playoffs if they were to start on Friday. San Jose just couldn't get anything done against goaltender Mike Smith, who recorded his third shutout of the Sharks this season (which had never been done before), and made a whopping 38 saves on the night. The loss wasn't for lack of effort.
Antti Niemi played well, too, but was bested by Radim Vrbata on both Phoenix goals, with former Shark Ray Whitney picking up assists in both. The Sharks lit up Smith for 12 goals this season, but six of them came in the first of those six meetings, while the other six game over the next five. San Jose will have four games to close the season and get things back on track so they make the playoffs: two against Los Angeles and two against Dallas.
The San Jose Mercury News had a couple postgame quotes, from Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle. Thornton said that the Phoenix game was the biggest game of the year, while Boyle said that the time of mis-labeling games as "must wins" has passed and that they are, in fact, in a must-win situation. In reality, San Jose has been there for about a week now.