The Morning After: Preview of potential playoff matchup
This could be a pretty tight series.
Few fans have grown so immune to moral victories as Sharks fans. So I'll understand if you're not interested in another yeah-the-sharks-lost-but-look-at-the-process morning after post. That being said, yeah the Sharks lost, but look at the process!
So the bad news is that the Sharks went 1-3 in the regular season against the team they're pretty darn likely to meet in the playoffs. The good news is that, by and large, San Jose has at least hung with Anaheim in those four games.
Our friends over at War On Ice can shed some light on the #fancystats in those games. San Jose has posted a 51.9 score-adjusted fenwick for percentage against Anaheim this year in even strength situations. While the Ducks have (finally) gotten better at putting pucks in the back of the net, the Ducks have been a pretty strong possession team all season, so this paints a pretty fair picture.
There's more to this matchup than just possession play, of course. While the Ducks struggled to fill the net early in the season, the Sharks have had trouble keeping pucks out of their own net. Martin Jones has been very average and we all know where we stand on the grand Alex Stalock experience. That's unlikely to be much of an issue come playoff time, where backups get very little action, but Anaheim has a slight goaltending edge (92.2 compared to 91.9).
That panned out last night, as Martin Jones stopped just .895 of the even strength shots he saw, while Frederik Andersen .923 of the Sharks even strength shots. Neither team managed to score in special teams, which was a nice change of pace for a mediocre Sharks penalty kill. Anaheim has been very adept on the penalty kill this season and it showed in a 3/3 effort for the Ducks' shorthanded crew.
Tuesday's game was sloppy for both teams and the Ducks managed to bury more of their chances than the Sharks. It's a tough loss, and I'm no fan of losing to Anaheim, but there's something positive to bring out of this game: San Jose can absolutely hang with Anaheim over a seven-game series. To win in the playoffs the Sharks will need to finish more of their chances and get better goaltending, but that's always been true. After a year where San Jose didn't belong in the playoffs (and missed), it's nice for the Sharks to rightfully be back in the mix.