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Ahead, behind, and into the Second Round
Bring on the Red Wings
4/27/11 - By Ken Smyth -

So it's the Red Wings, again. The Sharks all time are 2-2 against the Wings in playoff series, though Wings fans are pained to accept it, and they (both fans and Red Wings team) haven't changed all that much since last year. Did sweeping Phoenix in four let them get stale or give them a needed rest? Don't guess stale, it's going to be a battle for the Sharks.

The Wings aren't as fast as the LA Kings but they're more experienced in playoff situations. Their defense and back-checking forwards like to force turnovers about the blue line and center ice and keep the opponent from setting up any kind of sustained pressure. Head coach Todd McLellan brought this system with him from Detroit when he became the Sharks' head coach; so both teams essentially see the other's defense in practice.

The Red Wings play a "puck control" offense; simply stated they pass the puck about the offensive zone to distract the opposition and get them chasing and not covering. Better yet, draw a penalty. This is like teasing a cat with a laser pointer, though cats learn much more quickly than defensemen how futile it is. The Sharks like to rush the puck in and go for a quick shot off a pass.

Keep making the defense back up and block shots and they'll eventually wear down, that seems to be the Sharks' strategy. The trouble is when the goalie is stopping everything the defense gets confident and follows in kind, as we saw in games two and five of the last series. Will Jimmy Howard be as up to the task as was Jonathan Quick? We'll find out Friday night.

Looking back....

Watching the LA Kings against the Sharks, it was hard not to notice that the similarities between the 2010-11 Kings and the Sharks' teams of ten or twelve years ago. Like the old Sharks, they rely on a don't-call-it-a-trap defense and strong goaltending. But they've got some better players back there. Think about having Matt Greene instead of Mike Rathje, and look on Drew Doughty as the rushing defenseman Dean Lombardi could never get in San Jose. Forward lines are a different story.

Up front, without Anze Kopitar they need to scrap for goals just like those Sharks teams. Dustin Brown is a good player but he isn't yet an Owen Nolan. Although their power play looked formidable in the early games, the Sharks held them off during a five-minute major penalty at the end of game six and into OT.

The Kings lost all three overtime games in this series and that's got to be messing with their fans' minds. Watch for the scramble to blame the coach, blame the players, blame somebody. Still, if they keep building this team and don't panic the Pacific Division could be even tighter next season.


Philadelphia vs Boston and Washington vs Tampa Bay. Considering how beat up the Bruins and Flyers are now, this should be a great opening for Washington with a weaker opponent. But Tampa Bay came up big against the Pens, can they upset Alex Ovechkin's Capitals? Quite a lot to ask for. Up north; now that they've won a series, just watch the Nashville Predators take a bite out of the Canucks' plans for an easy sweep.

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