Revisiting the biggest questions from beginning of Sharks vs Ducks
Looking back and looking ahead
The Sharks flew home late Saturday night with a 2-0 series lead after two wins against the Ducks in Anaheim, with home-ice advantage firmly in their possession.
We didn't expect either team to win both games at the Honda Center, given how close the matchup between the Pacific Division rivals appeared on paper. But the tenor of the series has clearly changed as it shifts back to San Jose, so we figured it was a good time to revisit the five questions we asked at the beginning of the series.
Are the Sharks' kids (still) alright?
They haven't yet scored, but the answer is a pretty resounding yes. Tomas Hertl scored the eventual game-winner on Saturday, Kevin Labanc set up the go-ahead goal, while Timo Meier and Chris Tierney have formed two-thirds of an outright dominant third line (66.67 percent five-on-five corsi-for; 84.62 five-on-five scoring chances-for, per Natural Stat Trick).
Just-turned-26-years-old Joonas Donskoi's struggled a bit (39.66 five-on-five corsi-for, zero shots on goal this series), but San Jose's gotten big contributions from Marcus Sorensen, another player that recently turned 26, this series. Those two are not quite kids anymore, but the rest of the Sharks' youth contingent is making key contributions.
Can Corey Perry get hot?
Perry rang a shot off of the post in Game 2, but now hasn't scored a goal in his last eight games dating back to the regular season. He's only attempted six shots at all strengths, just three of which came during five-on-five situations.
The Ducks winger has been more hot-headed than hot offensively, leveling Melker Karlsson at the edge of a puck battle along the boards and taking an ill-timed interference penalty with 3:43 remaining in regulation. He's long played with an edge, but Perry's now taken as many minor penalties as shots on goal this series, and that's a ratio that helps San Jose more than his own time.
Who gets better goaltending on the penalty kill?
John Gibson (0.889 save percentage, according to Corsica Hockey) has edged Martin Jones (0.857), but when you take out the five-on-three goal the Ducks allowed (the only two-man advantage this series), Gibson's edge grows (0.941). Yet, that discrepancy has been masked by the disparity on power play opportunities.
The Sharks have had four more chances on the man advantage (nine) than their Southern California rivals. If Anaheim can't stay out of the penalty box, its advantage in net on the penalty kill over San Jose won't matter as much as we initially thought.
Who ends up healthier?
Kevin Bieksa (hand) returned to the Ducks lineup for Game 2, but Cam Fowler (shoulder) still has not yet skated. Joe Thornton (right MCL), the Sharks' most notable injured player, suited up for warm-ups for each of the first two games of the series.
San Jose raced out to a 2-0 series lead without Thornton, would get a big boost with him back in the lineup. The 38-year-old may not return this series, but right now, he appears a lot closer to coming back than Fowler.
How much will home-ice advantage ultimately matter?
We'll have a better sense of the answer after Game 4, but it hasn't mattered all that much yet. The Sharks have not lost a game in Orange County all season, and since Dec. 9, 2016.
History suggests at least a split at SAP Center, as San Jose has lost three of its last five to Anaheim at home and has only once completed a sweep. This series hasn't really taken history's suggestions so far, though, and the Sharks are in position to wrap things up in front of their home crowd.