The San Jose Sharks and the Vancouver Canucks couldn’t be more similar if they tried. Both teams have a history of playoff failure at some point in the post season. Both teams have a handful of players that play extremely well during the season, but when the going gets tough, have been known to disappear, and in many cases not even be a factor. Both teams this post season have also won a seven game series in similar fashion….getting a three games to none lead, only to have the series go seven games for them to ultimately win out. Barely.
So how is this series different for each team, and what will it mean if one of them advances? For the Sharks they appear to be headed into this one as the underdog. Their regular season record separated them from Vancouver by 12 points in the standings. The two teams played four times and the Sharks needed a shootout win to pick up one victory, indicating that Vancouver could have their number. Head coach Todd McClellan had this to say about the upcoming matchup:
“It’ll be interesting. We’ll enter a series as the underdog. That hasn’t happened before. Maybe there will be a little pressure taken off us there and we can go play free.”
There’s also a possibility of a let down from a very emotionally hard fought and challenging series against the Red Wings that could affect the play of the Sharks. Patrick Marleau who was called gutless by Jeremy Roenick, has typically wilted in the playoffs during his career. He can’t wait till game seven to score his first goal in this series and the Sharks will need much more out of him. Same for Dany Heatley and Jumbo Joe Thornton. A trio of players that pffffft at crunch time. Maybe this year is different. Maybe the series against the Wings will give them some life and inject some confidence. Their youngsters Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi work hard and can be spark plugs. Their defence and team physicality is something that could give the Canucks fits.
Lastly for San Jose is their final piece of the puzzle. Goaltender Antti Niemi who just happens to be a Stanley Cup winning goaltender, may have to win this by himself. While he’s not been called a superstar goaltender yet, you can see he’s poised, unflappable, and obviously knows what it takes to win. If the Sharks win this series, he could be the reason why, but I seriously doubt that if they lose, he’ll be the cause for blame.
As for Vancouver a team that I have loved to hate recently, they’ve been sitting around just waiting for their next opponent. Nursing injuries and resting their bodies, game one is more important for them, then for San Jose. If the Canucks who haven’t played in almost don’t win game one, there could be enough momentum for San Jose to take control of the series from the start. It will be interesting to see the style of play that Alain Vigneault has them play as well. Bumping, grinding, and physical. Or will he have them try and use their speed and skill instead?
Much like San Jose, the sisters twins Sedins will have to be a factor. After barely getting past both Chicago and Nashville, Daniella and Henrietta (sorry)….(no I’m not)…. will need to put points on the board. Riding the coattails of Ryan Kesler won’t be enough, as each series gets tougher and tougher. The Sharks are a mixture of the Hawks and the Preds, and if they had difficulty with those two teams, this one combined won’t be any different. Matter of fact it could be worse.
The whole series could be left up to goaltending. Which is where Vancouver in my mind doesn’t have an edge. The thing with Booby Lose is that come playoff time, you never know what you’re getting. The inconsistencies of his ways are mind boggling. I question his mental toughness, and his mental makeup. There I said it and it’s in print. (I still think I should have tripped him on State and Rush street in Chicago) The fact that he didn’t start one of the games against the Hawks, proves that there is a slight mistrust of his play. Sure he played good enough to beat Nashville, but the Predators aren’t exactly an offensive powerhouse. And he gave up some of the weirdest goals you’ll ever see in that series. He has yet to win the big one since he’s been with the Canucks. If Vancouver wins it won’t because of him….but if they lose, it all falls on his shoulders.
Vancouver will need to be consistent in their approach and not let the Sharks get into their heads. Ryan Kesler will need help, as I don’t see him keeping this pace up that he’s been playing at. While San Jose will need their best players to be and play like their best players. Everyone that is a big gun on that team better be locked and loaded. I had a thought that if this series came down to a game seven, both teams would go into a defensive shell, with neither one being aggressive enough to want to win….out of fear of
choking losing. With both teams making it this far, there’s been a lot of redemption for many people in each organEYEzation. However, the pressure is on the Canucks. Best team in the league, with the best record, the best (hearsay) goaltender, and all. They are Canada’s darlings right now. For me, and you know where this is going, I’m a Sharks fan till this one is over. I’ve already said that if Vancouver advanced past Nashville I’d eat my shoe. If they get win this one, I’ll be borderline suicidal.
Prediction: San Jose in 7! I’m hoping Niemi says no. Alot!
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