The Morning After: The Sharks decisively beat L.A.
The Sharks took care of business on the road Friday night.
Coming into this series my concerns laid almost entirely in the Kings' stifling possession game and the lack of power play time the Sharks were sure to get. San Jose summarily dismissed those concerns and played out of their minds in what was a dominant 4-1 series victory over their SoCal rivals.
In San Jose's wins it's been difficult to pick just one area to focus on. So many things clicked for the Sharks in order to pick up this series victory, which puts them in prime position to make a deep run this postseason. Not only did the possession game fire on all cylinders, the Sharks' power play looked as dangerous as it had all season long.
San Jose's score-adjusted Fenwick for percentage sits at a pretty 52.2 after the five-game series, which would be relatively impressive against any team — to do it against the best possession team in the NHL? That's incredible. The Sharks beat the Kings at their game, and for good measure featured better special teams and better goaltending. Martin Jones didn't steal any games this series, but he provided a solid presence in net (.917 even strength save percentage) — something we just haven't gotten enough of in San Jose.
Joe Pavelski scored five goals in five games, providing the offense San Jose desperately needed to top the Kings. The Sharks leaned on their top line, much in the same way they did all season long, and Pavelski answered the call time and again to keep San Jose in this series. His five goals are tied for the lead in playoff goal scoring with Nikita Kucherov (Tampa) and his six points are tied for seventh. The captain came up big in this series and scored this dagger.
While Pavelski stole some headlines during the playoffs, Brent Burns is tied for the lead in points with eight during the playoffs and his six assists are the most in the league. Beyond his stellar offensive performance, Burns played very well defensively during this series — an improvement in his game that really can't be overlooked. Despite starting just 16.67 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, Burns was only a -2 in even strength corsi. In score-adjusted shots, Burns was one of the few Sharks to end up on the positive end of the spectrum.
That's good, I think. Also note that Drew Doughty finally played a solid game in this series after being shut down in the first four games of the series. The Sharks top players were, largely, able to shut down the Kings' top players in this series. One of my keys to this series was the play of Joe Thornton vs. Anze Kopitar, and while Kopitar scored on Friday night the Thornton line did what they needed to do throughout the series.
What's most encouraging about the Sharks series victory isn't just that they fought through adversity, and they did, it's that they by and large outplayed the Kings. San Jose didn't luck into this victory by any means, the strong play of the stars, great special teams play and good goaltending has the Sharks in the second round of the playoffs. We can worry about the Sharks' next opponent tomorrow — today, let's appreciate how thoroughly San Jose deserve to win this series.