This is it, friendos. The San Jose Sharks (45-27-10, 3rd Pacific) begin that most hallowed of all quests for the glittering Chalice of his Excellency Lord Stanley this very night, venturing far into the depths of that wretched hive of scum and villainy, Anaheim, California, to vanquish its eternal guardians, the Ducks (44-25-13, 2nd Pacific). Sorry, the Vegas pregame ceremony last night really got to me.
The Sharks and Ducks last met in the playoffs in 2009 after the Sharks won the Presidents' Trophy for the NHL's best regular season record, but nobody remembers what happened that year because everyone in the world was out bowling at the time. This time around, the Sharks will attempt to stymie a Ducks team that ended the regular season on fire. With five games remaining, Anaheim trailed our Sharkies by seven points. The Ducks closed out the season 5-0-0, the Sharks 1-4-0 and Game 1 travels southward. However, as Kyle wrote earlier today, the concept of regular season success carrying over into the playoffs is pretty overblown.
The effect of home ice has also been hotly debated over the course of a seven game series, but for this match up, the data are controversial. The Ducks are riding a seven game winning streak at home, part of a 26-10-5 record over the season, and a ridiculous 14-1-2 since 23 Jan. The Sharks, however, have bucked this trend, winning both games in Anaheim during the season. Considering, though, that their last meeting was in February, when the Ducks were just beginning to check players out of various southern California hospitals, that record may not hold as much water as we'd like.
Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer has said that all of his players are ready and available except for Joe Thornton, who has no knees. That means a career playoff debut for Evander Kane. Kane has played nine seasons in the NHL, a total of 574 games with four teams. The pace of playoff hockey in the NHL is starkly different than the regular 82, but I have a feeling Kane will be up to the task.
As mentioned in a very silly article earlier today, where a bunch of schmucks make jokes about Dallas Stars forwards for some reason, this series' goal tending match up will be key. John Gibson's health is in question, but he will start tonight after missing the last two games of the regular season. Before that, though, Gibson holds a 6-1-1 record, a 1.85 GAA, and a .938 save percentage in his last eight starts. His very small sample against San Jose this season is less impressive: 0-1-1, 3.59 GAA, .885 save percentage. We can hope that Gibson shows up tonight.
Evander Kane -- Joe Pavelski -- Joonas Donskoi
Tomas Hertl -- Logan Couture -- Mikkel Boedker
Timo Meier -- Chris Tierney -- Kevin Labanc
Marcus Sorensen -- Eric Fehr -- Melker Karlsson
Paul Martin -- Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon -- Dylan DeMelo
Scratched: Joel Ward, Barclay Goodrow, Jannik Hansen, Dylan Gambrell, Antoine Bibeau, Joakim Ryan
Injured: Joe Thornton (knee)
Rickard Rakell -- Ryan Getzlaf -- Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano -- Ryan Kesler -- Jakob Silfverberg
Nick Ritchie -- Adam Henrique -- Ondrej Kase
Antoine Vermette -- Derek Grant -- J.T. Brown
Josh Manson -- Hampus Lindholm
Francois Beauchemin -- Brandon Montour
Marcus Pettersson -- Andy Welinski
Scratched: Jason Chimera, Korbinian Holzer, Chris Kelly, Troy Terry
Injured: Patrick Eaves (illness), Kevin Bieksa (hand), Cam Fowler (shoulder)
Where to watch
Broadcast: USA, SN 360, TVAS2, PRIME, NBCSCA
Stream: NHL.tv / NHL App
Radio: 98.5 KFOX / NHL App / Sharks App