Around the League: Sharks in Five

If you're like me, then your hours are turning into days, and the days are turning into weeks. Game 1 of the playoffs can't come soon enough. To kill some of that time, I read up on what others are saying about the Sharks' chances in the first round.

I decided to limit these insights to those who are not directly connected to both organizations. We all know David Pollak is not going to pick the Avs in this match up. At the same time, Denver Post's Adrian Dater is not going to be speaking too highly of Joe Thornton. Putting team biases aside, this is what others are thinking going to happen in this series.

ESPN was one of the first resources online to break down all match up. Citing the Avs' lack of experience, a bad post-Olympic stretch, and a mis-match between Sharks' stellar power play and the Avs mediocre penalty kill, Scott Burnside is picking the Sharks in five:

The Sharks have a wealth of experience, while the Avs pretty much turned over the keys to a bunch of talented kids this season. The strategy yielded unexpected results -- a playoff berth -- but it may not amount to much more than that when the dust settles in this first-round matchup.

The detailed preview of the series from Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo's Puck Daddy blog is going to be posted later today.  But when previewing the entertainment factor of the series yesterday, he thinks that this series may be fun to watch, but the upset is not likely.

All things considered, this could be a firecracker of a series because of the way both teams play. But an upset here would be an enormous surprise, even given the Sharks' propensity for playoff floppage.

The Hockey News gives the edge to the Sharks in all categories, except goaltending and coaching where neither team have an edge and they're also picking the Sharks in five. They know that the Sharks troubles typically don't start until the second round of playoffs, and they are picking the Sharks in five.

Not close. There's a huge matchup problem for Colorado, particularly on the back end. They don't have the size or the strength to defend against San Jose's weight.

Ross McKeon from Yahoo! Sports , who often sits in pre-game and post game shows in the CSN BA studio, is feeling even more confident han that about the Sharks and is picking them in four:

San Jose is healthy as it enters the postseason, vastly different from last spring when Patrick Marleau basically was playing on one leg and long-departed veterans Jeremy Roenick, Mike Grier and Claude Lemieux were being rushed back into the lineup. Evgeni Nabokov has been up and down following his disappointing Olympics, but he was strong in his last couple appearances and he, like Marleau, wants to atone for last year's early exit.

In their official preview TSN did not make a specific prediction, but they're thinking that this may be a special year for the Sharks.

After past playoff failures, many fans are leery of jumping on the Sharks bandwagon; however the addition of proven playoff performers and an injection of confidence in four of their top players thanks to a gold medal at the Olympics, this may finally be the year that the Sharks breakthrough and reach their potential.

TSN's analyst and a former NHL player Ray Ferraro is more specific, and is also picking the Sharks in five.

In the West, I like San Jose over Colorado. Nothing is easy for the Sharks, but they are too much for a young Avalanche team.

Another TSN's analyst James Cybulski thinks it's too early to pick against the Sharks, and he's joining the bandwagon of "Sharks in Five".

Time for the Sharks' Big-3 to put up or fold like a tent. Evgeni Nabokov, you need to finally do something in the spring too. The real test comes next round.

In his prediction for Fox Sports, Kyle Richardson (aka "Spector") agrees with general consensus that the Sharks' experience and depth is going to help them prevail in five.

The rebuilding Avalanche surprised many this season by making the playoffs, which is attributable to rising young talent like Chris Stewart and Matt Duchene plus the strong goaltending of Craig Anderson. Their poor defensive game, however, seems to have worn down the overworked Anderson heading into this series. The Avs will be game opponents, but the Sharks bite should prove too powerful to snow under.

Finally, a bold prediction from our old friend and a former Sharks Andrei Nazarov, who is now coaching Team Russia:

San Jose Sharks will no doubt beat Colorado Avalanche. The Sharks are a faster and a more unified team of players.

More previews will come out later today as media and fans are gearing up for the best part of the season that starts tomorrow. As you come across predictions we have not yet covered here, feel free to share them in the comments.