San Jose set old playoff narratives on fire on Thursday night, dominating the Nashville Predators in game seven to reach the Western Conference Finals for just the fourth time in franchise history. The Sharks won 5-0 and never looked troubled while absolutely throttling the Predators in a way we just haven't seen this postseason.
Five different Sharks found the back of the net for San Jose and Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau both scored while Martin Jones made 20 saves in his finest performance of his young postseason career. The way San Jose played on Thursday defies explanation in the opposite fashion game six left me speechless. While the penultimate game of the season was about a poor effort by the Sharks' top line, game seven was all about the big guns coming up huge.
Thornton, Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture scored with Joel Ward chipping in his second of the postseason for good measure. The Predators managed only three shots on goal in the first period and a more defensive effort by the Sharks in the third only allowed Nashville to throw 20 shots on net.
The five goal margin of victory ties a franchise record in the playoffs. The Sharks beat the Avalanche 5-0 in 2010 and the Kings 7-2 in 2014. Add this to the list of most impressive playoff victories of all time.
The Sharks absolutely dominated through the first nine minutes of the game and got their first shot on the power play when Nashville took a delay of game penalty. San Jose threatened early, putting a slick shot on net that Rinne snagged with his glove, but Pavelski wasn't to be denied. Patrick Marleau threw a puck to Pavelski in front of the net and Little Joe fired it over Rinne.
Joel Ward took advantage of the shot disparity late in the first frame. First he gained the blue line using an absolutely filthy move and then he brought the puck from his forehand to backhand back to forehand to slide it by Rinne and make it 2-0 Sharks.
San Jose nearly went up 3-0 thanks to a late power play. Beautiful puck movement and some dangerous scoring chances didn't result with the third goal of the night but the Sharks looked absolutely incredible entering the first intermission. The Sharks led 17-3 in the shot column after one period.
A brief power-play stint to open the second period went fruitless, but Logan Couture caught a brutal Nashville turnover and buried it to make it 3-0 Sharks early in the second frame.
San Jose earned a power play as time expired in the second period and Joe Thornton took advantage early in the third. With the Predators attempting a shorthanded rush, Couture used a brilliant poke check to put the Sharks on a 4-on-1 rush. The initial shot from Couture was saved by Rinne but Thornton slipped the rebound underneath the Nashville netminder to make it 4-0 San Jose.
The Sharks stuck the dagger deep in the Predators chest thanks to an absolutely baffling play by Shea Weber. Weber chased a hit on Joonas Donskoi, but the Finnish forward was able to throw the park ahead to create a 2-on-1 with Couture and Patrick Marleau. Couture connected with Patty on a gorgeous saucer pass and Marleau scored his fourth goal of the playoffs to all but put the game to bed.
Bring on the Blues. Let's go Sharks.
Sharks goals (assists): Joe Pavelski (Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton), Joel Ward (Melker Karlsson, Marc-Edouard Vlasic), Logan Couture, Joe Thornton (Logan Couture), Patrick Marleau (Logan Couture, Joonas Donskoi)
Fear the Fin's Three Stars
1) Martin Jones
2) Logan Couture
3) Joe Thornton
4) Patrick Marleau