It has been quite a season for the San Jose Sharks – from struggling to find consistency to surging into a 4th straight Pacific Division title. This team has a different make-up from Sharks teams of the past in the fact that there is a real sense of improvement as the season progressed.
As noted in my season preview, I felt that if the Sharks had to battle for a higher seed, especially within their own division, and that may bode well for them as they enter the playoffs – and I still feel that way. The Sharks will face-off as the #2 seed against the 7th place Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
The Sharks went 3-1-2 against the Kings during the regular season but shootouts won’t be able to help LA in the playoffs. Tremendous credit goes to Antti Niemi, who went 25-4-4 with a 2.63 goals-against-average and a .910 save percentage in 34 consecutive starts from January 1st to April 4th. I was very critical of Niemi’s play early in season, and rightfully so since his numbers were awful, but the amount of work he has put in with the coaches is apparent and the team has responded accordingly. Doug Wilson’s additions of Kyle Wellwood, Ben Eager, and Ian White have given the Sharks enough depth and grit to allow their core players excel on both sides of the ice.
If you look at the way these two teams have been playing recently, it’s hard to imagine LA coming up with an upset because of their injuries to Kopitar and Justin Williams, though the latter may be ready to go in this series. Never count out Dustin Brown aka “Captain America”, who finished the year with 9 points in his last 10 games, but he will need the support of the other Dustin (Penner) to contribute to the scoresheet. Penner has only 6 points in the 19 games since being acquired from Edmonton.
I predict the Sharks winning this series in 5 games.
About the Author
Written by Alex Wasserstrom
Native Californian, former minor league pro, and current men's league superstar, Alex Wasserstrom is ProSportsBlogging.com's San Jose Sharks correspondent. Wanna talk puck? Shoot him an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or follow him on Twitter (@Awassers).