One of the reasons I love this Sharks-Ducks series is because it’s two veteran teams going head-to-head in a best-of-seven series. Both sides have been there, they’ve done that and they understand that this is a playoff series, not a one and done. Which means that now the fun really starts.
Can the Sharks weather the push back?
When vets go up against each other in a series, the serious stuff doesn’t start until Game 2. The Sharks tossed out the opening volley with a Game 1 win, which is awesome, but count on the Ducks to respond.
You can bet there’s going to be a lot of hitting. I mean a lot. The Ducks will do what they do best and get nasty. The Sharks will need to be ready for heavy hits that are just a second too late. Be on the look out for face washes and sticks that get up a little too high. I wouldn’t be surprised if Martin Jones gets bumped too.
The Sharks will have to take the hits and play their game. When the Ducks play nasty, they also take more trips to the penalty box. The Sharks cannot get dragged into offsetting penalties and must continue to make the Ducks pay on special teams. If the Sharks can weather the storm and continue to play their game, they’ll return to San Jose up 2-0 in the series.
Will Jumbo play?
Joe Thornton took the ice with the Sharks before Thursday’s game, but he did not slot into the final lineup. So will he play tonight?
My gut feeling is no. Letting Thornton skate on Thursday was a mind game Pete DeBoer was playing with Randy Carlyle. I seriously doubt Thornton is 100%.
That said, if the Sharks lost Game 1, we would be having a different conversation. The fact that the Sharks are up 1-0 in the series gives the Sharks’ trainers and DeBoer the leverage to advise Joe to hold off on his return. And trust me, it’s advice. No one puts baby in a corner and no one tells Joe Thornton to watch from the press box during the playoffs.
If the Sharks throw up a stinker in Game 2, or worse yet, go down 2-1 in the series, Jumbo will be in the lineup. After all, an 80% first ballot hall of famer is better than a 100% Marcus Sorensen any day of the week.
Can John Gibson steal a game?
The Ducks have a pretty simple defensive strategy coming into this series, let Gibson go to work. When you have a goaltender like Gibson, it’s not a horrible strategy.
The Ducks are thin on blueline experience. With Cam Fowler and Kevin Bieksa injured, they’re relying on two rookies—Andy Welinski and Marcus Pettersson who have played just 29 NHL games combined—to pick up the slack.
Add to that the fact that the Sharks had six power plays in Game 1, including a 5-on-3 and registered 34 shots on goal and it’s no wonder that Gibson let in a few.
If the Ducks want to stay in this series, Gibson will have to steal a few games, starting with Game 2.
Chris Tierney vs. Adam Henrique
The Ducks killed it when they traded for Adam Henrique mid-season. It made Anaheim so deep down the middle that they were able to field a roster not primarily composed of players from the San Diego Gulls by the regular season’s end.
So when this series was set, a lot was made about the Ducks’ depth at center and the Sharks’ lack of it. But don’t tell Tierney he’s the underdog. When you’re comparing third-line centers in Game 1, it’s Tierney who comes out on top. Henrique was 46.2% in the face-off circle, while Tierney was 57.1%. Henrique finished the game a minus-1, while Tierney finished a plus-1. Tierney’s proven himself as a playoff performer — he’s not going to let Henrique run him over.
In the playoffs, it’s the depth guys that can really push you through to the next round. The Tierney-Henrique match up could be the key in this one.
Can Mikkel Boedker prove his worth?
Oh, Boedker. On paper he looks so good and he’s fast with good hands. But he’s never really panned out of the Sharks. I’ll admit, he’s shown flashes of brilliance in the past few months. He’s played some of his best hockey in a teal uniform in 2018, but never for very long. Now it’s the playoffs and he needs to step it up.
Boedker had a few breakaways in Game 1, but never found the back of the net. It will be interesting to see if he continues to push the pace of the play and finally breaks through, or if he fades away the way he has done so many times in the past.