After an 8-1 shellacking of the Anaheim Ducks in Game 3, it’s tough to look ahead to Game 4, but here we go. Here’s five things to look out for.
Can the Sharks continue to punish the Ducks?
I’m not talking about hits; that’s the Ducks territory and I think it’s safe say that the current game plan is working perfectly. What I’m talking about is where it counts — on the scoreboard. The Ducks dished out hit after dirty hit in Game 3 and the Sharks dished out goal after power play goal. It was a humiliating loss for the Ducks and the best punishment possible for a team that was playing over the edge.
If the Sharks continue to make the Ducks pay on the man-advantage, they should skate away with a Game 4 win.
The brick wall that is Martin Jones
This one isn’t in the form of a question only because there’s no question about Martin Jones’ play of late. The guy has a .970 save percentage going into Game 4 and a 1.00 goals against average. Aside from a shutout, it’s tough to imagine him doing any better than he is in this series.
Jones will be a big key in Game 4. I expect the Ducks to put on a push early. If Jones can come up with those big saves, it will frustrate the Ducks and lead to undisciplined penalties.
Can the Sharks take a lead into the second period?
The Ducks are playing like a fragile team that could go off the rails at any moment. The leadership—Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry—seem to be leading the charge in that regard. The pair have shown a lack of discipline in this series and it’s been allowed to pervade throughout the lineup. When that happens, the Ducks fall apart. They make passes that don’t connect and slash and crosscheck the Sharks at inopportune moments.
If the Sharks take a 2-0 lead or greater into the second period, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ducks rollover and let San Jose have the series. It’s often said, “there’s too much pride in that locker room” when talking about a team that’s down in a playoff series, but I get the sense the pride has seeped out of the Ducks locker room. They certainly weren’t playing with pride in Game 3.
Can the Sharks “team effort” continue in Game 4?
Eight goals by eight different players and all 12 forwards with at least a point in Game 3, that’s a pretty impressive stat. The reason the Sharks are winning this series is that they’re doing it as a team. I know it’s the classic sound bite during this time of year, but it doesn’t make it any less true. If all four lines play like they have been throughout this series, it will be too much for the Ducks to handle.
Can the Sharks complete the sweep?
On its face, this sounds like a stupid question, because of course, you always want to sweep a team in the playoffs. However, the Vegas Golden Knights just finished their sweep of the Los Angeles Kings last night. That means tonight the Knights will be sitting at home with ice on their bumps and bruises, elevating their tired legs, and watching the Ducks and Sharks dish out bumps and bruises of their own. A sweep means the boys in teal are just as rested as the Golden Knights, instead of flying to Anaheim to grind this out again in two days.
If you watched the Kings-Knights series, then you know the Knights played fast and they played hard. In order to beat a team like that, the Sharks need to start out on even ground, which means the shorter they can make this first round series, the better.