The San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks are set to play their third game of this first-round series tonight and it’s the first game of the series to be held in SAP Center. The Sharks are in the best position possible after winning the first two away games and enter tonight leading the series. Here is what to watch for in tonight’s contest:
Can San Jose keep this strong defensive game up?
The Sharks only let up 229 goals in the regular season, ninth overall, but they were assisted by early defensive success. After a rough defensive showing at the end of the season, San Jose has focused on tightening up their blueline and at the most important time. Through the first two games this series, the Sharks have only allowed two goals (both in the 3-2 win Thursday night) and have also only allowed 55 total shots. Brent Burns has been reunited with the Wookie Whisperer in Paul Martin and it doesn’t look as though that pairing will be going anywhere, even though Burns spent the regular season with rookie Joakim Ryan.
Will the Sharks continue to shut down the dynamic duo of Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf?
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry have been two of the most dynamic players in the whole NHL over the last decade, not only in the regular season, but also the playoffs. The duo has recorded a total of 166 career post-season points in only 170 combined games. So far through the series, Getzlaf and Perry have combined for a grand total of one assist and zero goals. The Sharks have seemed to shadow them for the most part and especially on the power play and in the high slot where they do most of their work. Shutting down the Ducks’ two biggest playoff performers is crucial to winning this series.
Can San Jose take advantage of an injury-ridden Anaheim defense?
The Ducks have been playing without their best defensemen in Cam Fowler, who did not travel with the team to San Jose. Kevin Bieska returned to the line up in Game 2, but is playing with an undisclosed injury. Two of their six defensemen are rookies Andy Welinski and Marcus Pettersson, who have a combined total of 31 career NHL games. Francois Beauchemin is the only other Ducks D-man over the age of 25. The defensive group in Anaheim is injured and inexperienced. San Jose needs to continue to leverage that to their advantage.
Can Logan Couture and Evander Kane continue this rapid scoring pace?
Couture and Kane have really stepped up for this team over the last month and led the Sharks without Jumbo Joe Thornton. Kane and Couture have combined for a total of four points through the first two games (one goal, three assists) and give the Sharks a real one-two punch in their first and second lines.
They’re also able to create buzz on the power play, where both of them have scored huge goals for the Sharks in the first two games. With the Ducks taking as many penalties as they have been, having two guys who can jump on those opportunities will be a difference maker.
Will the Sharks take a crucial 3-0 series lead after tonight?
The Sharks saw themselves lose home ice in this series after having held on to the second place spot for much of the year. After two big road wins, the series is coming home — an advantage for the Sharks. They held a 25-13-3 home record this year which is good for the 12th best record in the league and they’ll look to treat the home crowd with another huge win tonight.
But don’t count Anaheim out for an upset. The Sharks just won two road games and the Ducks are capable of dishing it right back to them. They’ve got to keep the pressure on at home and get one step closer to putting this series to bed.