Hockey is a game of calculated risks. And I think this year's Sharks team beautifully exemplifies that. When building this team, Doug Wilson and Todd McLellan have both had to throw the dice a few times the last couple years and hope for the best:
-Thy traded for Martin Havlat: how much production could they get from him before an inevitable injury? Result: not much.
-The James Sheppard trade: could he recover from his ATV accident to become a useful bottom six player? Result: yes (although not at the goal-per-game rate my game preview predictions would have you believe).
-Moving Brent Burns to forward: what are the chances he remembers how to be an effective power forward? And would the blueline be too weak with him gone? Results: great and nope.
-The deadline deal for Scott Hannan: if there's an injury on defense, could he step up and be counted on? Result: a possibly surprising yes!
-The other deadline acquisition of Raffi Torres: can the depth and grit he adds pay off before he is eventually suspended? Result: uhh... yes? Although that suspension still came too soon.
If the NBCSN broadcast and whowins.com are correct, about 79% of the teams that win Game 5 take the series. As David Pollak wrote after the game, the Sharks are only 4-14 in their history in Game 6's (But 5-2 in Game 7's. So, tonight pretty much decides the series, eh?).
At this point though, you have to throw away a lot of the numbers. And no, I'm not saying "Just win the game."
Let the numbers guide your decisions, but don't cling to them. Because a lot of them are stacked against you. And the numbers that aren't, haven't really been helping you too much either. In this series, if the teams won all the games where they outplayed their opponents, the Sharks would have taken it in 4. Instead, they find themselves down and cornered.
Ah, screw it. Just win the game.
Projected Sharks Lineup
T.J. Galiardi - Joe Thornton - Brent Burns
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Joe Pavelski
James Sheppard - Scott Gomez - Tommy Wingels
Andrew Desjardins - Adam Burish - Bracken Kearns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Matt Irwin - Dan Boyle
Brad Stuart - Scott Hannan
Projected Kings Lineup
Kyle Clifford - Anze Kopitar - Justin Williams
Dustin Penner - Mike Richards - Jeff Carter
Dustin Brown - Trevor Lewis - Dwight King
Brad Richardson - Colin Fraser - Tyler Toffoli
Robyn Regehr - Drew Doughty
Slava Voynov - Rob Scuderi
Matt Greene - Jake Muzzin
If early reports are any indication, Adam Burish should be available tonight. He's not a game-changer, but he does improve the penalty kill, and keeps one of the AHL players out of lineup. It will be interesting to see what Coach McLellan does settle on for the rest of the lineup, though. One could imagine Joe Pavelski moved back down to third line center considering the way the team played in Game 5. On the other hand, the last time the Sharks had last change, the lines worked out pretty beautifully (at least early on).
Prediction: Sharks win 4-1. Goals by Burns (x3 - he and that line are due for a big game), and Sheppard. Meanwhile, thousands of Bay Area razors remain unused as playoff beards survive another day. Go Sharks.