| Why the Sharks can beat the
Nashville Predators in Round 2
|4/28/16 - By Zach Bodenstein -
After shocking the hockey universe and eliminating
the Los Angeles Kings in dominant fashion, the Sharks are well-rested and
poised to carry over their first round success against the Nashville Predators.
The Predators are no slouch, as they took down arguably the western
conference's toughest team, defeating the Anaheim Ducks in seven games, of
which was a grueling and bruising series. The Predators come into this game on
a two game winning streak, like the Sharks, and are forced to adjust to the
time zone in Northern California, as well as the extended travel from
The Sharks had some injury scares throughout the series
that saw them dismantle the Kings in five games, as Joel Ward, Logan Couture,
and Joe Pavelski all left games briefly, but eventually returned. It is
inevitable that a series against Los Angeles will result in some bumps, but the
Sharks have now had close to a week off, as the Predators just finished off
their series in Southern California on Wednesday night, and there is no reason
to doubt that their ailing bodies are going to play a factor in this series.
This rest could favour the Sharks, as they have been running hard
practices to keep them in shape, and are trying to avoid getting off to a slow
start in this series like they did in the second round of 2013 after a long
break post-sweeping Vancouver.
Martin Jones was as solid as he could
be in round one. It's fair to say that little-to-zero goals for Los Angeles
could be pinned on him due to bad bounces and defense miscues, and he negated
many changes of momentum that carried the Sharks to wins with big and timely
The biggest threat for Nashville is their goaltender. Pekka
Rinne was lights out against the Ducks, and he has given the Sharks trouble in
The Sharks went 1-2-0 against Nashville this season, but out
of all teams, they know best that the playoffs are a completely different song
It is tough to judge this head-to-head record as well, as
the Sharks really only had their game going towards that final stretch for
their only win of the season series, that saw them put up 40 shots against the
San Jose received a massive boost late
in the first round series, as their depth scoring really started to kick in,
including Joonas Donskoi outworking Norris Trophy candidate Drew Doughty and
scoring the eventual clincher. Joel Ward stepped his game up, Patrick Marleau
got hot towards the end and is notorious for his streaky scoring, and the big
guys were the big performers.
Nashville stacked up their top line for
game seven against Anaheim, going with Ryan Johansen centering Filip Forsberg
and James Neal. Their top defensive pairing is arguably the best pairing in all
of the NHL, with Roman Josi and Shea Weber.
However, it is not
inconceivable to believe that Peter Laviolette has tarnished some of his depth
with these lineup decisions. Even with the elevated play of Ryan Ellis and
Mattias Ekholm, San Jose's depth on both sides of the puck is incredibly
strong, as mentioned in the series preview against the Kings.
advantage of the Predators' third pairing of Anthony Bitetto, a youngster, and
Barret Jackman, a rugged veteran that lacks speed, will be key. The Predators
do not get much scoring from any of their bottom three lines, so shutting down
the top line with the last change for the majority of the series is a big
advantage for San Jose, as they have two pairings that are more than capable of
The Sharks' fourth line of Tommy Wingels, Chris
Tierney, and Nick Spaling got off to a very rocky start in the series against
the Kings. They took multiple penalties, lost various battles, and made mental
mistakes that resulted in an advantage for the Kings before turning it around
later on in the series.
However, Peter DeBoer's club was as resilient
as ever, as they survived many pushes from Los Angeles, and only played from
behind for a total of just over four minutes throughout the five game set
against the league's best possession team.
Unlike two weeks ago, the
Sharks are now considered a heavy favourite following their termination of the
Kings. The Sharks will have home ice advantage in this second round series,
where they went 1-0-1 against Los Angeles in round one, while going 3-0-0 on
The crowd was as loud as it has been in recent years for
those home games, and with the home schedule on the Sharks side, and promising
play in both of those home games against a tough opponent, the home ice
struggles in the regular season should be forgotten for San Jose.
Sharks' powerplay was incredible during the Kings series at 23.8%, building off
of what was a key for the Sharks success all season long. The Predators'
powerplay was extremely lackluster, ranking dead last out of all playoff teams
at just 3.8% in the first round.
Nashville was also one of the worst
faceoff teams in the NHL during the regular season, something that the Sharks
will look to take advantage of with their center depth.
will be physical and defensive. The Sharks' third pairing of Roman Polak and
Brenden Dillon must remain solid and negate turnovers, and if they do, the
Sharks will be in a great position to win this series.
Now that the
Sharks' so-called "Playoff Demons" are behind them, there is no doubt that they
are mentally prepared for the next step, and calling the Sharks are motivated
team going forward would be an understatement.
There is no doubt that
the Predators are a good team and have earned every bit of this opportunity,
but do the Sharks stack up better against them and have a more complete team?
Game one is Friday night at 7:30 PST at the Shark Tank.
Contact Ryan at at firstname.lastname@example.org
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