San Jose-Anaheim Preview
Season Series- Sharks 4-2
The San Jose Sharks, fresh off a President’s Trophy win, will now have to put that regular season glory behind them and concentrate on the playoff success that has eluded them thus far. Their opponent will be the wily and grizzled Anaheim Ducks, who willed their way into the playoffs despite a massive dump of players at the deadline.
Let’s break down the match-up in a number of areas:
The Sharks are led by Evgeni Nabokov, who has been a top 10 goalie in the NHL for some time. An excellent technical goaltender, Nabokov is certainly good enough to win a series all by himself. Though he put up 41 wins in the regular season, Nabokov has been so-so in the playoffs, going 30 and 27 thus far. If he can’t get on track this year, will the Sharks look towards experienced back up Brian Boucher?
The Ducks goaltending situation is a little more fluid. JS Giguere played only 46 games this year, and was somewhat supplanted by Jonas Hiller. Despite a minor goaltending controversy, it looks like Giguere will get the nod to start the series, likely given his extensive playoff experience. I do think his leash will be short, and Hiller is more than capable of coming in and winning.
Edge: San Jose
The Sharks boast a stable of capable defensemen, many of whom are Stanley Cup champions. Rob Blake (who had a renaissance year), Dan Boyle and Brad Lukowich are all excellent defenders. Blake is quite physical, Boyle and Blake can really move the puck and the Sharks top it all off with Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Douglas Murray and Christian Erfhoff, steady defenders in their own right. The Sharks may also see a return of Kent Huskins, who is on the DL with a broken foot.
The Ducks also boast a very good defensive core. Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger highlight a group that is long on playoff experience. The Ducks also added Ryan Whitney and James Wisniewski to their group, and as such boast a Top 4 that can skate and move the puck well. The Top 6 is rounded out by Francois Beauchemin, a great playoff performer. Brendan Mikkelson is also available
The Sharks have a big, dynamic group of forwards that supply balanced scoring. Patrick Marleau led the team with 38 goals, while 6 different forwards topped the 20 goal plateau. In addition to their size, the Sharks have some speedsters who can break a game open. Devon Setoguchi, Joe Pavelski, Ryan Clowe and Milan Michalek all have excellent skill levels and can supply goals by the bucket full. Lest we forget, the Sharks are led by Joe Thornton, who has become one of the NHL’s most feared playmakers. A couple of overlooked players are playoff pest extraordinaire Claude Lemieux, Travis Moen and (former?) sniper Jonathan Cheechoo, who may be a darkhorse if he can regain his scoring touch.
The Ducks forwards are not nearly as dynamic as the Sharks, but they are still dangerous. Led by young stars Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perrey and Bobby Ryan, the Ducks can score and play a gritty game, which should make this series fun to watch. Wily vets Teemu Selanne is still a top flight offensive player, and the fourth line of Petteri Nokelainen, George Parros and Mike Brown add some sandpaper to the Ducks roster. Andrew Ebbett has been on a hot streak as of late. Despite the experience and talent, I still think San Jose’s group is better.
Edge: San Jose
First year head coach Todd McClellan obviously had great success in his inaugural campaign. He brought his power play coaching skills with him from Detroit and has installed the program in San Jose, whose well oiled attack should serve them well in the post-season. As mentioned, the San Jose PP is quite lethal and scores at about a 25% clip. The penalty is also good, though not a strength of note. The intangibles here are how well Captain Thornton performs and whether or not super pest Claude Lemieux can rattle teams like he used to.
Randy Carlyle has the edge in games coached and experience, so you likely won’t fool him with anything in this round. He has been in Anaheim a while and has veteran charges, so motivation shouldn’t be a factor. How he manages his goalies may well be the deciding factor here. Anaheim’s power play is also good, coming in 5th out of 30 teams. They do, however, suck on the penalty with an abysmal 79.7% success rate. As for intangibles, the Ducks boast a lot of experience and veteran moxie. If they can get the jump on the Sharks early, they know how to go in for the kill
Prediction: Sharks in 6. They have too much firepower and will be hungry for a win. I think their PP will be the difference.