MONTREAL -- For the first time since 2002-03, the math does not look very good for the San Jose Sharks.
That might be why coach Todd McLellan is happy to ignore the math.
The Sharks fell eight points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference on Saturday with 10 games left to play. San Jose's 2-0 loss to the Montreal Canadiens ended minutes after the Jets finished beating the Washington Capitals 3-0 at home. In that short span of time, the Sharks' streak of 10 straight seasons in the playoffs came that much closer to ending.
"I'm not very good at math so I'm not doing it," McLellan said. "We've got to play a game in Ottawa [on Monday], so somebody else who knows how to add and subtract can do that for you. I'm not."
When the Sharks began this seven-game road trip in Winnipeg on March 17, they were five points out of a playoff spot with 13 games left. Five days and three games later, the deficit has increased by three points and the number of games left to overcome it has gone down by the same number.
By the time the trip ends against at the Pittsburgh Penguins on March 29, the Sharks' chances of extending that playoff streak may be mathematically impossible.
"We need to almost win out to get into the playoffs," Sharks forward Logan Couture said prior to the game against the Canadiens.
After the game, the word "almost" was gone.
"Yeah, we really do," Couture said when asked if the Sharks need to win their 10 remaining games. "We're not going to quit. We're going to compete to the very end and see what happens. I truly believe that. We're going to lay it on the line every night. We still believe that every night we can win in this locker room, and we've got to go out and work as hard as we possibly can to try to."
Couture had the best chance to at least get the Sharks to overtime Saturday, but his shot with 91 seconds remaining in regulation hit the knob on the stick of Canadiens goalie Carey Price as he lunged from post to post. That was the difference between a vital point in the standings, with a shot at two points, and nothing. It could prove to be the difference between the playoffs and an early end to a trying season.
"[Price] gets over, he's beat," Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. "That's the way it's gone."
The very idea of needing a 10-game winning streak to finish the season and extend a streak of 10 straight seasons in the playoffs can be daunting to think about, especially coming off a loss that the Sharks felt would have ended differently were it not for Price.
"We want to win," Pavelski said. "I don't know. There's 10 [games] left, we'll see what happens. We've got to win the next one. I don't know what you want me to say there."
There is indeed very little left to say for the Sharks.
So much has been said about this team since it lost in the first round of the playoffs last spring after taking a 3-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings. Talk of a rebuild that never really came, of the status of franchise pillars Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau that remains unchanged, of the team captaincy, and on and on.
So no one can blame Pavelski or anyone on the Sharks for not knowing what to say. All they can now do is win, and hope.
"Obviously it didn't go our way, but our guys are competing," McLellan said. "They're battling. They're doing the right things to give ourselves a chance to win. It's all we can ask of them right now. Moral victories get us nothing. We get a little growth maybe out of that as a team. But we're beyond growth right now, it's about wins. The sentimental part of the game means nothing."