With puck drop just three and a half hours away, here are our final predictions for the upcoming series between theand the .
Ivan Makarov (IvanoM): I don't expect any of the games to be high scoring - the Kings defense and good goaltending will help the games to stay close. But in the end, the balanced scoring of the Sharks and lethal power play will be too much for Kings to handle. They may be able to slow down the top line, but more scoring chances will come when Couture, Pavelski, Clowe and Wellwood hit the ice. More trouble will come each time the Kings take penalties.
Quick will likely steal a game or two, but in the end, the Sharks will prevail in 6.
Matt Taylor (Matthew_Taylor): I’m supposed to write a whole paragraph about this thing, but to me, the argument is simple: Depth. The Sharks just have way too much of it in the forward department. Even with Los Angeles’ strong defensive unit, the Sharks’ ability to roll three scoring lines and a solid fourth line for energy should put them over the top here. There’s no way that Los Angeles will be able to stop all of San Jose’s weapons.
Niemi is going to have to have a good series, but that’s always the case in the playoffs. If the Sharks get the balanced scoring I expect they will, this serious could be over right quick. Sharks in 5.
Ann Frazier (mymclife): The Sharks go into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NHL. They have a balanced scoring attack, with seven different 20 goal scorers and three legitimate scoring lines. The Kings, on the other hand, go into the playoffs with their top two scorers out (althoughis supposed to be back for Game 1), but with a defense that is superior to the Sharks'. , with his WHL team on the brink of elimination from their playoffs, would bolster their offense if he does indeed get called up, but to expect a rookie to do well right out of the gate, in the playoffs no less, is a tall order. [Ed. Note: Schenn was assigned to Manchester today]
I can seeand the Kings defense stealing a few games a la and the in last year's first round, but the Sharks' offense will ultimately be too much for the Kings to handle. Plus, the Sharks also won their last game of the regular season. In this streak of playoff appearances dating back to the 2004 season, the Sharks have only won their final game two other times.Both of those seasons the Sharks made the Western Conference Finals.
How can you argue against history? Sharks in 6.
Jason Plank (Mr. Plank): I like the Kings goaltending, and I really like their blueline. I think that alone makes them a dangerous team during the postseason, and as Thornton mentioned earlier today, the Sharks are expecting a lot of 2-1 games during the series. If we're going with bold predictions, I expect Quick to come out and steal one of the first two games in San Jose. I have a feeling Terry Murray has a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to defensive schemes and that will be enough to push this into 1-1 territory heading to Staples Center.
However, after that initial blow at home is where San Jose's strength comes into play. The Sharks are just too deep on the forward front, and the Kings are just too offensively challenged without, for this series to see much extension. I think the Los Angeles defensive unit can hold the Sharks at bay for periods at a time, but without enough goal support, no amount of blocked shots and glove saves are going to put pucks past Niemi.
In terms of players to look for,and strike me as two players who are poised to have some big goals this series.
It's going to be a tight-checking affair all the way through, but at the end of the day San Jose's depth up front will be too much for even one of the best defensive teams in the National Hockey League. I considered hedging and going with Sharks in six, but this series feels like one that's going to go less. Sharks in 5.