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Going into this series it’s important not to focus too far into the past. This will be the first time in the Sharks 25 year history to reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but that is because the team that has been assembled this past season is a significantly stronger and more confident one than they have had in the past. The Penguins struggled at the beginning of the regular season, but 28 games in Mike Sullivan took over coaching duties and worked to amplify the team’s assets and push a fast pace breathing new life into the Pittsburgh team.

Penguins: Pittsburgh was 15-10-3 when general manager Jim Rutherford decided to replace Mike Johnston with Mike Sullivan as coach, and it was the game changer the Penguins needed. Under Johnston the greatest assets of the team were stifled, but with the entrance of Sullivan Pittsburgh was given the freedom to use all the weapons in their arsenal to play a faster more productive game. He has added a calmness on the bench and brought the team together. He pushes the players to embrace their individual skills while playing as a team and pushed a more aggressive and faster pace.

The Penguins have a stacked offensive unit. Crosby scored 36 goals and had 85 points during the regular season, and he and Malkin each have 15 points in the playoffs. Malkin went six games earlier this postseason without a point, but with a five-game point streak (one goal and five assists) he seems to be hitting his stride. It is often forgotten that Crosby and Malkin are not the only offensive weapons that Pittsburgh has in their arsenal.

There was talk that Phil Kessel is the most overrated player in the league, but his play has certainly disputed that as the team has greatly benefited from his acquisition from the Toronto Maple Leafs last summer. Kessel has shown his worth leading Pittsburgh this postseason in scoring with 18 points (nine goals and nine assists) in as many games. The line of Carl Hagelin, Nick Bonino, and Phil Kessel has been dynamite for the Penguins. Bonino has 12 assists in 18 games, and Hagelin has five goals and seven assists, and is one of the fastest skaters in the league.

Conor Sheary has two goals in 17 games, and Patrick Hornqvist has seven goals and four assists. The two have shared much of their time on the ice on a line with Sidney Crosby.

This is Bryan Rust’s first playoffs, but he isn’t showing it as he is playing with the confidence of a more experienced player. He scored each of Pittsburgh’s goals in a 2-1 win in Game 7 against the Lightning. We will likely see Rust alongside Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz. Kunitz has racked up 10 points in 18 games.

Veterans Matt Cullen and Eric Fehr reside on the Penguins fourth line with rookie Tom Kuhnhackl. Cullen has scored is crucial moments and is solid on both ends of the ice.

The Penguins defense has been the thorn in this lion’s paw. Opponents have recognized its weakness battering on its strongest player, Kris Letang, in efforts to neutralize him and leaving the rest of the defensive unit to self-destruct.

Letang is one of the top offensive defensemen in the NHL. He is averaging 28:46 of ice time in the playoffs, and has two goals and eight assists in 17 games. But he only had two points in the Eastern Conference Final. It will be crucial that he step up his game in the Final. Brian Dumoulin is Letang’s primary defensive partner. He plays more than 20 minutes per game and is a solid defensive player and a strong skater.

Olli Maatta has he played 19:34 and was plus-2 in Game 7 against Tampa Bay, but has been inconsistent. Maatta will more than likely be paired with Ben Lovejoy who has played more than 20 minutes in each of the past three games.

Justin Schultz played 12:50 in Game 7 against Tampa Bay, and Ian Cole played less than 11 minutes. If the pair gets enough ice time Schultz will have the opportunity to provide the team with extra offense.

Trevor Daley is currently out with a lower-body injury, but could provide a boon to the defensive unit when he returns.

During the regular season the Penguins power play was nothing to brag about, but in the playoffs their power play is converting at 23.4 percent while their penalty kill has a success rate of 83.6 percent in the playoffs, fifth in the NHL.

Matt Murray is 11-4 in the playoffs with a 2.21 GAA and .924 save percentage, and if the Penguins win the Cup he is most likely to be awarded the Conn Smyth Trophy. Murray is a rookie, but Sullivan has faith in him from his time with him at Wilkes-Barr/Scranton. Coaches and teammates alike have commented on the 22 year old’s maturity and calmness throughout the playoffs as being that of a more experience goaltender.

If Murray has difficulties in the Final the Penguins will have the more than able and experienced Marc-Andre Fleury to take over in goal.

Sharks: Patrick Marleau has played 1,411 regular-season games with the Sharks and another 165 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Marleau has 12 points in the playoffs, but has gone six straight games without a goal, and it will be crucial that he find the back of the net in this series. Joe Thornton arrived in 2005 in a trade with the Boston Bruins. Thornton is second in the NHL in assists this postseason with 15. The two veteran forwards will be leaned on heavily for their experience throughout this series.

First year captain, Joe Pavelski, has 13 goals in 18 games this postseason, including four game-winners. He is one of the primary reasons this team has come this far in big part to his leadership on and off the ice. Tomas Hertl has five goals and five assists this postseason, and adds extra size the line with Thornton and Pavelski.

Center Logan Couture is first in the NHL in assists this postseason with 16. He is a creative player and can produce anywhere in the offensive zone, and he contributes greatly on the power play.

San Jose’s second line is made up of Marleau, Couture and Joonas Donskoi, and is a force to be reckoned with. Donskoi had 11 goals in 76 regular-season games, has five goals in the playoffs.

Joel Ward has 11 points in 18 playoff games. He has a familiarity with the Penguins from his days facing them on the Capitals. Centering Ward’s line is Chris Tierney, who had seven goals in 79 regular-season games and has five in the playoffs. On the left wing of this line is Melker Karlsson who plays well at both ends of the ice.

Dainius Zubrus hasn’t produced as much offense as he has in the past, but has contributed on the fourth line alongside Nick Spaling and Tommy Wingels, who leads the Sharks with 58 hits this postseason.

Sharks defenseman Brent Burns is a Norris Trophy contender. Burns had 75 points (27 goals and 48 assists) in the regular season. In post season he is San Jose’s third leading scorer with 20 points (six goals and 14 assists) and is averaging more than 25 minutes of ice time. Burns has great chemistry with his defensive partner, Paul Martin, who is very familiar with Pittsburgh’s team as he played five seasons on the team.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic has been phenomenal this postseason. Vlasic has the ability to shut down scoring from the top offensive players in the league. He is paired with Justin Braun, who was plus-3 in Game 5 against St. Louis, and played 22:23.

Roman Polak and Brenden Dillon make up the Sharks’ third pair. They add grit and roughness that will plague the Penguins throughout the series.

San Jose’s power play was third in the League at 22.5 percent in the regular season, and now is ranked second in the postseason at 27.0 percent. Their penalty kill has a success rate of 80.4 percent this postseason, seventh in the NHL.

Martin Jones won 37 games during the regular season and going 12-6 with a 2.12 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in the playoffs. The team trusts him in the net, and he often sets the tone for the team. Jones will be backed up by James Reimer, who has played 29 minutes in the postseason, all during a 6-3 loss to St. Louis in Game 4 of the conference final.

Prediction: Penguins in 7

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Key Matchups-

Brent Burns and Shea Weber will be expected to light the lamp for their respective teams. Burns was number one among defensemen scoring 27 goals this season. He can move the puck in the offensive zone and is aggressive on the forecheck. He put 353 shots on net making him second in that aspect to Alex Ovechkin. Weber was fourth for goals and finished the season with 20 goals; his third time doing so. Burns is the superior offensive player while Weber has impressive shot suppression numbers, and has already been chosen to play for Team Canada’s World Cup squad.

San Jose Sharks–

Coach Peter DeBoer prefers to roll four lines, keeping his forwards fresh. In Round 1 the top line dominated scoring seven of its 16 goals. All forwards averaged a minimum of 11 minutes of ice time per game except Tommy Wingels who is second among forwards with 11 shots on goal and averaged 9:49 per game. The Sharks’ Joes Pavelski and Joe Thornton made an impressive showing in the first round. Pavelski scored five goals in five games, with two coming on the power play and one standing as a game winner. Thornton had a goal and two assists, and was one of the most solid players on the ice. Logan Couture, Joonas Donskoi, and Patrick Marleau, were an offensive powerhouse trio against the Kings. Joel Ward had four assists and made his presence known alone the walls. Center Chris Tierney and left wing Matt Nieto also made contributions.

Brent Burns has been a force to be reckoned with the past two seasons, and it’s going to be a battle for the Predators’ defense to keep him at bay while trying to hold off Pavelski and Thornton. Burns lead the Sharks with eight points in the first round. Paul Martin was Burns’ partner in Round 1and his adept play allowed for Burns to thrive. Marc-Edouard Vlasic made his contribution averaging 23:12 of ice time per game and leading the Sharks with 18 blocked shots.

The Sharks are a team of playmakers who proved how important puck possession and seizing scoring opportunities is during their matchup with the Kings and the past season. For every 60 minutes played at 5-on-5, the Sharks generated about 13 chances from the slot and allowed less than 10 against per 60 minutes. Against the Kings the Sharks were able to average 13 chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in the first round.

The Sharks goaltending has something to be desired. Martin Jones isn’t the caliber of goalie you hope to see in the playoffs. His .912 save percentage was right in the middle of the pack for goaltenders in the first round. He’ll need to be better against the Predators for the team to win the series, and if he is the Sharks could be back in the Western Conference final for the first time since 2011.

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Nashville Predators-

The Predators are a defense dominant team with Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. In Round 1 Weber and Josi combined for two goals and eight points, playing nearly half of each game and played a crucial role in shutting down Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. In Round Two, they’ll be tasked with slowing down Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Brent Burns. Josi averaged 27:16 of ice time and 33.6 shifts per game. His average shift length was 48 seconds. Fourth-line center Paul Gaustad brought a physical presence in the first round. Gaustad has been proven effective in the faceoff circle; he won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs against the Ducks and had a 54.1 winning percentage in the defensive zone. Nashville finished the regular season tied for the most points in the NHL by defensemen.

Nashville’s penalty kill faced the league’s best power play in Round One and only allowed four power play goals against in 25 attempts. That made for the sixth-best penalty kill in Round 1 against the Ducks. Nashville’s penalty kill is going to be utilized against San Jose who drew the fifth-most power plays in the regular season and had the league’s third-ranked power play. Nashville’s power play struggled in the first round, going 1-for-26.

Nashville offensive production is lacking compared to San Jose’s. The Sharks could win with forward depth if the Preds forwards can’t get the puck to the back of the net, but there is hope for the offense with Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and James Neal, but it’ll be crucial that they are better than they were in Round 1.

Pekka Rinne had issues in the first five games. In Game 7 Rinne played a solidly and saved the Predators by making 36 saves, allowing one goal, on a power play. Rinne finished the series with 2.45 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

Prediction: Sharks in 6

Follow us on Twitter @TristinHuntamer and @BandBHockey

Read our analysis of the Predators and the Sharks Round 1 matchups to learn more about these teams.

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Key Matchup-

Two of the league’s best centers are going head to head. Anze Kopitar and Joe Thornton will be a fantastic matchup to witness. While Kopitar has score more goals than Thornton this season Kopitar has a lower shot rate this year than he has in the past, and Thornton has one of the best Corsi Rel% in the league.

LA Kings-

Winning Formula: 

The Kings strategy is to win faceoffs and dominate other teams by keeping puck possession. LA is the best in the league at outshooting their adversaries. Jeff Carter , Kopitar, and Tyler Toffoli are all great on offense but compared to other teams in the league the rest of the players are there to suppress the other team and not necessarily add to the goal count. This team plays a heavy defensive game with the likes of Drew Doughty who is a force to be reckoned with and Jake Muzzin. Jonathan Quick will be in the crease yet again to stand on his head throughout any playoff run.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less:  

If the Sharks perform their penalty kills without giving a point the Kings will lose much of their offensive opportunities. The Kings defense is a burly bunch and when faced with superior speed and puck movement they can by stymied.

San Jose Sharks –

Winning Formula:

The Sharks are productive on all lines with Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joel Ward, Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi, as well as Brent Burns. Their defense is solid as well with the aforementioned Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Paul Martin, Justin Braun, Roman Polak and Brenden Dillon.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less: 

Evgeni Nabokov and Antti Niemi have both faultered in net in the past during the playoffs. Now we will have to see if Martin Jones will follow suit or maintain his phenominal level of play during the post season. San Jose has a bevy of veterans, but as much experience and skill as they provide they can also slow the team down.

Follow us on Twitter @TristinHuntamer and @BandBHockey

Prediction: Sharks in 7

 

 

WINNIPEG – The Jets were feeling the heat as they are in must-win mode almost every game as they are in a dog fight for those wild card spots in the West. They were looking to put some distance between themselves and tenth place San Jose as they welcomed the Sharks to town. The Jets sent their fans home happy with a 5-2 victory over the Sharks and now are six points up on them.

Ondrej Pavelec got his second consecutive start in goal; it was the first time since November that he has done that. He was sharp as he stopped 38 out of 40 Sharks shots and was named the game’s first star.

“We got some really good goaltending,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “He was just aggressive trying to find pucks. He was fighting.”

Antti Niemi was in net for San Jose and gave up three goals on eight shots before getting pulled at 13:01 of the first period. Alex Stalock came in and finished the game making 12 saves off 14 shots.

“The start was not what we needed in a building that just seems to build with energy,” San Jose coach Todd McLellan said.

Winnipeg got goals from Adam Lowry his 8th , Mark Scheifele his 12th , Andrew Ladd his 24th , Blake Wheeler got a pair his 21st and 22nd of the year.

Buckets and Blades Hockey Store

“[Scheifele and Stafford] are buzzing right now,” Wheeler said. “When [Scheifele] is skating like he is right now, he’s great to play with. [Stafford] is just so strong on the puck. He makes such smart, simple plays; I think he makes a good complement for the two of us.”

San Jose got a pair of goals off the stick of Joe Pavelski his 33rd and 34th of the season.

“Every game right now, if you don’t win it, it’s a setback, bottom line,” Pavelski said. “Nobody in here can hang their heads right now. We’ve got to get ready for the next game.”

The Jets got off to a fast start as they burst out to a 3-0 lead early in the first, but the Sharks took it to them the rest of the way and Pavelec shut the door and they held on for a big win. The power play was a big reason for the win as the Jets cashed in twice on three attempts .

Winnipeg used more of a physical game on the Sharks.

“We’re moving on,” McLellan said. “We’ve got to go to Toronto. By the time we [get on] the plane, we should be recharging our batteries and getting ready to play in Toronto.

“Now we get on the plane, we eat, we review the game, we have a good skate [Wednesday], we practice and away we go. There is nothing else we can do. We could sit in the corner and cry if we wanted to, but that’s not going to help us one bit.

“If something negative happens, we’ve got to park it and move on. We have no other options.”

The Jets got multi-point games from Ladd who had a two-point night , Wheeler and Sheifele had three-point nights, Drew Stafford also had a two-point game.

Wheeler showed his leadership qualities and how much he wants to win by blocking 2 shots with the inside of his leg with under two minutes to go and the score 5-2 . This is the kind of character that playoff teams want.

The team received some good news as Tyler Myers was back in the lineup after missing one game with an upper body injury. Dustin Byfuglien was a game time decision and did not dress but should be back this week.

“[Byfuglien] was ready to go, and he got through the morning skate,” Maurice said. “But sometimes you have to pull a guy back a little bit, and I just didn’t think it was the right time for him to come in.

“We want to be sure with [Byfuglien] that when he comes back in, he doesn’t go back out again.”

With the win, the Jets moved past LA and Calgary into 7th place in the West.

The Jets will welcome the St. Louis Blues to MTS Centre on Thursday night.

Follow me on Twitter @hrank94

WINNIPEG – Coming off a huge win Saturday night and getting ready to head out on the road for five of the next six games, the Jets were looking to stay ahead against Western foes the San Jose Sharks.

With the Sharks sitting just two points back in the standings they were hungry to take a bite out of the Jets Monday night. It was pretty much a one-sided affair but the Jets did manage to keep it close before losing a heartbreaker, getting scored on with just five seconds left in the game going down 3-2.

“We couldn’t be happier to get the win and fix what was broken,” San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. “We didn’t play very well against St. Louis, and [Winnipeg] plays a similar game. Heavy, hard, a lot of pinching.”

“I thought we got [a better commitment to the team game],” McLellan said. “We needed to get back on track tonight. We needed to become the competitive group that we can be, and for the most part we got that.

“I thought we did a much better job tonight, so to get the reward at the end of the night was icing on the cake, and now we have to keep that recipe going.”

Rookie goalie Michael Hutchinson was getting back-to-back starts again as head coach Paul Maurice has said he is going with the hot hand. Hutchinson faced 37 shots and made 34 saves but would probably like to have a couple back! He falls to 10-4-2 on the season.

Antti Niemi wasn’t as busy as he only faced 19 Winnipeg shots and stopped 17 of them. He improved to 16-9-4 on the season.

Winnipeg seemed to be flat all game as the passes were not very smooth and they couldn’t generate much if any, on their forecheck, although it was a pretty one sided game for penalties as the Sharks were on the power play seven times going 1-7. The Jets went 2-3 and probably could have used a few more special teams’ chances on the game.

Winnipeg got both goals on the power play; Andrew Ladd ripped home his 15th of the season, Jay Harrison got his 2nd of the year.

“It’s going to sting tonight, but we don’t have time to sit here and sulk,” Ladd said. “We’ll chalk it up as a learning experience and make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

San Jose got goals from Brent Burns his 11th an absolute rocket from the point on the power play, Melker Karlsson tipped in his 3rd, Marc-Edouard Vlasic got his 5th which ended up the winner.

“I was in the right spot at the right time,” Vlasic said. “We played hard against a very fast and physical team. It [was] nice to finish it off before overtime.”

The Jets were led by big Dustin Byfuglien as he logged almost 30 minutes of ice time, killing penalties, running the power plays and even throwing some nasty checks. Adam Pardy also had a very strong game playing just under 21 minutes. Although they were very flat and sluggish the team will need to refocus as they have a tough trip coming this week and will want to get back in the win column ASAP.

The Jets fall to 20-13-7 on the season and see themselves holding down a top eight spot still with teams breathing down their necks.

“Our margin for error is thin,” Maurice said. “Our special teams has really been the difference in this stretch of games. Our power play has been great, [our] penalty kill has been outstanding. Tonight, I just didn’t think we were at the level we’ve been at pretty much all year in the first 30 [minutes of the game].”

Follow me on Twitter @hrank94

10-12-14

SAN JOSE, Calif – The Winnipeg Jets were looking to continue their strong start as they hoped to take down the powerful Sharks in the SAP Center.

Both teams were coming off impressive wins to open up the 2014/15 season as the Jets beat the Coyotes and the Sharks shut out the LA Kings.

The Sharks sank their teeth into the Jets as they earned another shut out with a 3-0 victory on home ice.

“People who didn’t see the game, they’re going to say, ‘Boy, the Sharks are off to a pretty good start,’” Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said. “But that was not a well-played game on our behalf by any means. I thought we played a good 26, 27 minutes. Then after that we weren’t close to being the better team. I thought our power play absolutely sucked the life out of our team today. That’s probably as weak as it’s been in a long, long time. We have some work to do there.”

San Jose goalie Alex Stalock was very sharp as he made 30 saves to get the win along with the shut out.

“Obviously the hard work we put in early on is paying off, and we’re having a little success early,” Stalock said. “The penalty kill has been sharp early, and that’s huge, special teams. Second chances, they haven’t had many, so it’s been good.

Ondrej Pavelec was sharp but not sharp enough as he allowed three goals on 26 shots to take the loss.

The Jets were thrown for a loop when they lost scoring winger Evander Kane to a lower body injury in the opener but it’s not as bad as first thought as Kane will miss two weeks with the injury. Matt Halischuk got into the lineup and Dustin Byfuglien moved up to take Kane’s spot.

San Jose got goals from Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Tomas Hertl and Patrick Marleau.

The Jets were bombed by a strong Shark attack early as they were outshot 15-3 in the first period and down 2-0.

The Jets were shorthanded eight times and luckily the Sharks went 0-8 on the power play or this game could have been really ugly.

“We had to spend almost an entire period in the box,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “There was some frustration that got built over the first 30 minutes, but we can’t spend so much time in the box.”

Stalock was the first star of the game and in the third period he showed why as the Jets took over the game but couldn’t find the back of the net as they outshot the Sharks 14-0 in the final frame.

Toby Enstromled the Jets with 24 minutes of ice time and Byfuglien led the team with 16 minutes in penalties as he lost his cool in the third.

Winnipeg knew if they couldn’t weather the storm early they were in trouble and getting down 2-0 in the first made it really tough in this building against a strong team to mount any type of attack.

They will look to regroup as they head to LA to face a struggling winless Kings team on Sunday before heading home.