The number 1 seeded Sharks and the number 2 seeded Blackhawks square off in game 1 starting at high noon(PST) on Sunday. This is as big of a challenge for the Sharks as facing the Wings was. San Jose only won 1 game in the regular season vs Chicago and were 1-1-2 overall. But what can we learn from the prior series? Past games mean nothing.
The road that the Sharks took in the 1st and 2nd rounds were just preparations to get to this point. The Avalance were a young team with a lot of speed; and the Wings had a very high level of skill, veteran leadership and the ability to be a pest in the crease. I see the Hawks as a combination of those 2 teams: A young team with a crazy amount of skill and speed. They also have a pest in front of the net with Dustin Byfuglien who has a ton of ability and is a brick house with his 6’4 260lb frame. Fortunately for the Sharks, they do not have to deal with 3 of him like they did with Detroit (Bertuzzi, Franzen and Holmstrom).
Keys For The Sharks:
1.) Do NOT let the Hawks get behind you. Chicago will take full advantage of you all series long if you do not constantly check for 5 players in front of you. They love the stretch pass because they are a team with outstanding speed and if they do get it then pray that your goaltender can bail you out.
2.) Be physical. Use your big bodies against the smaller team. The more you check, the easier it will be in the later games. The top 2 lines are extremely slippery so you have to make sure to get a body on them; if you miss them you allow #1 to happen and they will be out of reach before you can say “goal”.
3.) Traffic in the neutral zone. This is all about respecting the speed of the other team. Make them work to gain the zone, make them throw the puck into the corner and then retreave the puck by playing your game, which is strong work on the boards.
4.) Clear your crease. The Sharks need to step up on this a little bit but do not allow silly mistakes like leaving a man right next to your goaltender without anyone on him . Allow Nabby to see the puck because there is no way that he is going to see over or around big Byfuglien.
5.) Pucks at Niemi. The Sharks have never faced him before and it would be best to test him early. Get as many pucks as him as possible like they did against Howard in game 1. Statisticly speaking, the more you shoot the better chance you have to score.
Both teams are very deep on all ends of the ice so I expect this series to be a long one. I will give the Sharks a slight edge just due to the fact that they have a more experenced team, especially in the goaltending department.
Jumbo Joe is coming off a huge series against the wings (8pts in 5 gms) and his confidence is at an all time high. Although Marleau has had some extremely important goals, I know that he can score more often; 3 goals in 10 games does not cut it for the Sharks leading goal scorer(44) in the regular season. Pavelski is due for another outstanding few games with only being held to 1 point in his last 3 games. Expect San Jose to have their top 2 lines clicking on all cylinders.
Sharks in 7.
See you at the Tank tomorrow!
P.S. Remember to show up a little early due to enhanced security.
About the Author
Written by Justin Lewis