The 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs have arrived, so have Puck Daddy’s preview of all playoff series. Enjoy!
The San Jose Sharks head into the playoffs as a wounded group that struggled down the stretch of the regular season. From March 14 onward, the Sharks went 4-9-2 and fell to third-place in the Pacific Division.
During that time, San Jose lost centers Joe Thornton (knee) and Logan Couture (mouth) to injuries. Both have said they will be ready for the playoffs, but it’s unclear if either will be near his best when the postseason starts.
Despite their health issues, the Sharks still boast one of the more talented lineups in the NHL. Defenseman Brent Burns led the team in scoring with 76 points in 82 games. Captain Joe Pavelski scored 29 goals and Patrick Marleau scored 27.
San Jose was one of the top defensive teams this season allowing 2.44 goals per-game to rank fifth in the NHL. Goaltender Martin Jones struggled near the end of the season but finished with a 2.40 goal-against average and .912 save percentage.
Edmonton got out to a strong start this year at 7-1-0 in their first eight games consistently stayed in the playoff hunt. They enter the postseason on fire, having gone 12-2-0 in their last 14 games. This is their first playoff appearance since the 2005-06 season when they made the Stanley Cup Final.
Captain Connor McDavid led the NHL in scoring with 100 points in 82 games and found chemistry with Leon Draisaitl on the wing to form one of the best duos in the NHL. Draisaitl ranked second on the Oilers with 29 goals and 77 points.
Goaltender Cam Talbot was the backbone of the team’s defense with a 2.39 goal-against average and .919 save percentage.
In the past Edmonton’s defensive struggles had trumped its offensive talent, but this year the Oilers’ blue line proved more than capable in limiting offensive chances. Edmonton’s 2.52 goals allowed per-game ranked eighth in the NHL.
Edmonton Oilers (P2) vs. San Jose Sharks (P3)
Wednesday, April 12, 10 pm: Sharks @ Oilers | Sportsnet, TVA Sports, USA
Friday, April 14, 10:30 pm: Sharks @ Oilers | Sportsnet, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Sunday, April 16, 10 pm: Oilers @ Sharks | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Tuesday, April 18, 10 pm: Oilers @ Sharks | NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
*Thursday, April 20 TBD: Sharks @ Oilers | TBD
*Saturday, April 22 TBD: Oilers @ Sharks | TBD
*Monday, April 24 TBD: Sharks @ Oilers | TBD
3 KEYS FOR THE SHARKS
1 – Get Healthy. San Jose has no shot in this series if Thornton and Couture aren’t healthy. The two combined for 102 points and between them averaged over half a game of ice-time total. Last season, Couture led the playoffs with 30 points and would have probably won the Conn Smythe Trophy if San Jose had won the Stanley Cup.
2 – Match-up Vlasic with McDavid. San Jose defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic is arguably the best match-up defender in the game and the Sharks should try to to get him on the ice whenever they see McDavid jump over the boards for a shift. Vlasic probably won’t be able to totally stop McDavid but he can try to limit his overall effectiveness to some degree.
3 – Unleash Burns. The San Jose blue liner is almost as tough to defend as McDavid and is the Sharks’ biggest weapon. San Jose will need to figure out a way to get him the puck as often as possible.
3 KEYS FOR THE OILERS
1 – Utilize your speed. The Oilers have arguably the best team speed in the playoffs and if they use this properly, they should be able to beat the Sharks. McDavid is one of the NHL’s fastest players, and the Oilers have fleet-footed guys further down the lineup who can get behind San Jose’s defense.
2 – Follow McDavid’s lead. In his last 13 games, McDavid picked up his scoring pace with 24 points to help give Edmonton home ice advantage in the first-round of the postseason. He’s Edmonton’s best offensive player and the Oilers need him to have a big series in order to beat San Jose.
3 – Have fun. There’s really very little pressure on the Oilers heading into this series and a lot of the stress should be on San Jose – a more veteran team nearing the end of its Stanley Cup window. If Edmonton plays loose and has fun, the Oilers should give the Sharks a tough series. If they play tight then the Sharks could exploit them.
5 STATS OF NOTE
1 – The Sharks ranked fifth in the NHL in adjusted 5-on-5 CF% at 51.9. Edmonton ranked 16th at 50.36.
2 – McDavid was the only NHL player to eclipse the century mark in scoring this season. His 1.22 points per-game also led the league.
3 – San Jose’s power play percentage was 16.7 which ranked 25th in the NHL. Last season, San Jose ranked third in the league at 22.5 percent. The Oilers ranked fifth in the NHL this season on the man-advantage at 22.9 percent. Both teams held an 80.7 penalty killing percentage.
4 – The total number of playoff games played by the Oilers’ top line of Draisaitl, McDavid and Patrick Maroon is 29. All those games were played by Maroon. Thornton and Pavelski – San Jose’s main top line duo – combined have played 261.
5 – The average age of the Sharks’ roster is 28.8. The Oilers’ is 26.9.
Oilers in 6
San Jose’s injuries down the stretch have severely damaged the Sharks’ Stanley Cup hopes. Even if Thornton and Couture return it’s unlikely both will be at 100 percent. In last year’s Stanley Cup Final, the Sharks were exploited by a Pittsburgh Penguins team with superior speed. The Oilers’ skating ability should trump the Sharks’ experience.
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