After destroying the [insert gratuitous air quotes] "best team in the West" on Thursday, the Sharks will try their hands at toppling the actual best team in the conference tonight as they host the high-flying Chicago Blackhawks. With an obscene amount of forward depth highlighted by finally acquiring a number two center better than Michal Handzus, the Hawks are once again a trendy Cup pick. They've already beaten the Sharks in the Windy City this year, albeit under trying circumstances as San Jose was on the second half of a back-to-back on the road. This time, it'll be the Blackhawks playing their second road game in as many nights as the Sharks will try to give them a taste of their own medicine.
Tale Of The Tape
|31-16-2, 64 points
||Record||26-17-6, 58 points|
|3rd in Central||Rank||2nd in Pacific
Projected Sharks Lineup
Joe Pavelski - Joe Thornton - Melker Karlsson
Patrick Marleau - Logan Couture - Matt Nieto
Tomas Hertl - James Sheppard - Barclay Goodrow
John Scott - Andrew Desjardins - Tye McGinn
Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon - Matt Tennyson
Matt Irwin - Scott Hannan
Projected Blackhawks Lineup
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Teuvo Teravainen - Andrew Shaw
Joakim Nordstrom - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith
Duncan Keith - David Rundblad
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Michal Rozsival
Led by Trevor van Riemsdyk's first NHL goal, the Blackhawks stormed out of the gate to a 3-0 first period lead before a pair of tallies by Joe Pavelski brought the Sharks to within striking distance. Unfortunately, Barclay Goodrow couldn't capitalize on a subsequent breakaway and San Jose eventually fell by a 5-2 final score in the second half of a back-to-back.
- Apparently the Sharks are now the team that opponents start their backup goalies against. After facing Ilya Bryzgalov when the Ducks were in town Thursday, the Sharks will be shooting on Chicago's #2 netminder Antti Raanta tonight. In both cases, San Jose was facing a team on one leg of a back-to-back so that mitigates the indignity a bit but hopefully the Sharks are motivated to light up Raanta the way they did Bryzgalov.
- Tyler Kennedy doesn't appear to be ready to draw back into the lineup after taking most of his rushes at morning skate alongside fellow scratch Mirco Mueller so it'll be the same forward lines and defense pairings taking the ice tonight that blew out the Ducks on Thursday.
- Chicago is undergoing a bit of a rough patch in their season by their lofty standards, with a 5-5 record in their past ten games, but this is very much still the best team in the West. The Blackhawks lead the conference in goal differential, Score-Adjusted Corsi% and penalty kill efficiency, three of the best team-level predictors of postseason success. They might not win the Central Division but having finally shored up their center depth with a rejuvenated Brad Richards and rookie Teuvo Teravainen, would it really surprise anyone if they're the last team standing again in June?