As the trite cliche goes, if you'd told the Sharks a week and a half ago they would be up 3-1 on the Los Angeles Kings with a chance to close them out on home ice in Game 5, they would have taken it. They've defeated the Kings in San Jose in each of their last five meetings in the playoffs and haven't lost a postseason home game to anyone since 2012. Still, there's no question doubt will start to creep in and the franchise's old playoff demons may pay a visit if they're unable to get the job done tonight.
The good news is that the Sharks have thoroughly outplayed the Kings in this series, even in their 6-3 loss on Thursday, and should be able to close things out if they bring the same effort they brought throughout the first four games. On the other hand, the Kings received production from two of their four revamped line combinations which more closely resemble the forward lineup Darryl Sutter ran down the stretch in the regular season when L.A. was dominant. Again, Todd McLellan needs to counter this by going three-deep down the middle but it doesn't seem likely that will happen. Instead, Tomas Hertl, James Sheppard and Tommy Wingels will need to be as good as they were in Game 4 while the top line needs to be better.
San Jose could also stand to take fewer penalties. They've had four more power play opportunities than the Kings in the series, and are clicking at a 23.5% rate, but much of that edge in penalties drawn came near the end of the 7-2 laugher in Game 2. The Sharks were shorthanded nine times in Los Angeles and gave up three goals to the Kings on those opportunities. If they can retain their even-strength game and draw more penalties than L.A., San Jose's chances of avoiding an anxiety-laden Game 6 are good. Still, tonight's game should inspire plenty of nervous energy on its own.