Six reasons Sharks beat Predators in Stanley Cup Playoffs
Six reasons Sharks defeated Predators in Stanley Cup Playoffs
The Sharks are headed to the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2011, and third time in the last seven seasons. It took seven games, but they downed the Predators in the second round to move on. Here are six keys to that victory…
1. Logan Couture’s dominance
No player was better against Nashville than Couture, who broke Igor Larionov’s 22-year-old franchise record for most points in a playoff series with 11. Couture enters the third round leading the NHL in playoff scoring with 17 points, and against the Predators, he skated on the Sharks’ most consistent line with Joonas Donskoi on one side and either Joel Ward and Patrick Marleau on the other.
2. Winning at home
A gigantic problem during the regular season has suddenly become a strength in the playoffs, as the Sharks are now 5-1 in their own building after going just 18-20-3 there in the regular season. That includes winning all four games against the Predators, as San Jose took advantage of the last change and was able to keep its best players away from the Preds’ top defense pair of Shea Weber and Roman Josi more often.
3. Power play
The Sharks finished the series scoring eight goals in 21 chances for a 30.9 percent success rate, including three by Couture and two by Joe Pavelski. The top unit that’s been together for so long combined for seven of the eight goals, and even when it wasn’t putting the puck in the net it looked dangerous. The Predators power play couldn’t keep up, scoring just three goals in 20 opportunities.
4. Forsberg kept at bay
While the Nashville line of Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson and James Neal was on fire, its leading goal scorer in the regular season, Filip Forsberg, had a miserable series. Forsberg managed just one goal, his only point, along with a brutal minus-nine rating. The Sharks’ depth on defense proved to be an advantage as Brenden Dillon and Roman Polak were responsible and effective.
5. Responding to adversity
While previous Sharks teams had a tendency to sink when the waters got rough, this version seems to be able to quickly put bad games behind it. The Predators secured a pair of emotional overtime wins at home in games four and six, but the Sharks responded each time dominant performances in games five and seven. Their Game 7 performance was particularly impressive, as they dominated from the opening faceoff until getting a insurmountable 5-0 lead in the third.
6. Staying healthy
Health is always a key in the playoffs, and Matt Nieto – a candidate to come out of the lineup anyway – was the only Sharks player hurt in the second round series. The Sharks’ older veteran core has been able to suit up for each of the first 12 playoff games, and by the time Game 1 rolls around on Sunday, will have the benefit of having played just one game in the previous five days. They should be rested and ready to go.