Sharks Playoff Gameday: It's Just Getting Started
SJS leads 1-0
| || |
It didn't take long for the physicality of the series to pick up, and for better or worse, it seemed as if Jarret Stoll's hit on Ian White was the turning point where Los Angeles seemed to truly understand that there best opportunity to stick with San Jose would be on the physical end of the docket. The Kings forecheck and low cycle caused a lot of issues for the Sharks in the as the game wore along, and you have to figure that's what LA will turn to yet again as they attempt to steal game two on the road.
Expect another tight-checking affair tonight, one filled with just as many hits and rough stuff in the corners as game one. It will be interesting to see how the officials manage tonight's game-- they let a lot go on both sides Thursday night, including Jason Demers' hit on Ryan Smyth that inspired Kings Head Coach Terry Murray to fire back at the League's disciplinary committee after Jarret Stoll was suspended for a game for his blindside hit on Ian White.
"But I want to say this: If Jarret Stoll gets suspended for that hit, then Demers’s is five times as severe a hit on Ryan Smyth than Jarret Stoll’s hit on Ian White.
"He (Demers) meets every criteria that you can read about from league memorandums," Murray continued. "Every coach, every player, every management, every owner knows about it. If you travel distance, you launch yourself two to three feet off the ice and throw an elbow at a person’s head, that is a suspension, a big-time suspension."
Building your case to the officials via the media is a time-honored tradition in the NHL, one that probably gives playoff beards a run for their money in terms of perennial appearances. Murray definitely has a case here considering Demers did make contact with Smyth's head after leaving his feet to make the hit, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the officials keep a close eye on Demers' tonight considering his physical play throughout the course of game one.
As for San Jose's defensive situation, numerous outlets are reporting McLellan does not expect White to make an appearance in game two. While unofficial at this point, and we'll learn more following the morning skate, expect Justin Braun or Kent Huskins to be in tonight for San Jose. Considering Huskins has been out since February 22nd with an undisclosed injury, as well as the fact that Braun has been an excellent contributor this season for the Sharks, Braun seems the likely solution on the backend to replace White.
Braun's development this season took him from an outstanding offensive player with a tendency for turnovers in his first stint with the team to a much more well-rounded player when he re-joined the team in late February. Braun gives San Jose some offensive pop from the backend that can help ease the loss of White during the man advantage, and also brings with him an ability to move the puck up the ice with a good first pass and strong skating ability. The only concern will be how he will handle the Kings forecheck-- while Braun has made some great strides defensively this season, his play in his own zone does lend itself to turnovers from time to time.
During an early season matchup with Detroit on November 30th, Detroit Head Coach Mike Babcock had his players put the puck onto Braun's side every single time the Wings chipped the puck into the Sharks defensive zone. Expect Terry Murray to instruct his players to do the same tonight in order to test the twenty four year old defenseman who will (likely) be playing in his first NHL postseason game.
Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan has never been one to pay too much attention to line-matching throughout the postseason, and history has shown that he's content to go power for power even with the last change at home. The Kings managed to get the pairing of Drew Doughty-Willie Mitchell out against Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi for the majority of the night, something that paid off dividends for Los Angeles-- although San Jose's top line didn't bleed very many shots in their own zone, they were contained for large portions of the night and had difficulty generating consistent scoring chances. The bulk of the Sharks' offensive opportunities came from lines centered by Couture and Pavelski.
If San Jose is going to take advantage of their superior scoring depth, it's imperative the top line manages to find a way to solve LA's top pairing. Mitchell had an excellent game one tasked against the Sharks big guns and showed just why he is one of the most dangerous and effective shutdown defenseman in the League.
If San Jose's top unit can crack their assignment early, things will fall into place all the way down the lineup. If not, San Jose could be in for another long night where a bounce here and there will dictate the outcome. Considering Jonathan Quick's 42 save performance in game one, the Kings control of the tempo for the majority of the second and third periods, and their superb commitment to team defense, a grind-em-out battle along the boards with the neutral zone clogged up like your toilet after a bad Thai meal doesn't play into the Sharks hands.
Steering clear of the prediction section today around considering this little bundle of sunshine.
Check back in later today for an update from the morning skate.