Sharks

Five things that stood out as Sharks go up 2-0 on Ducks

Five things that stood out as Sharks go up 2-0 on Ducks

In my series opening feature, I offered one piece of advice: Expect the unexpected.

It’s not to say the Sharks weren’t capable of jumping out to a two-game lead, on the road. But when you consider how their regular season ended (1-4-1), how Anaheim’s schedule closed out (seven-straight home wins), and how tight all their games with the Ducks were (three of four finished via shootouts), nothing entering this matchup was a guarantee for San Jose.

Statistics say teams with a 2-0 lead go on to win an NHL playoff series 82 percent of the time.

Furthermore, the Sharks have taken 2-0 series leads on the road three times before in franchise history (1995, 2013, 2016) and ended up winning every time.

San Jose has put themselves in an excellent position, in a round where the temperature might have just doubled from Game 1 to 2.

But make no mistake, there’s still long roads ahead for this group.

1: Anaheim threw the first punches on the scoreboard, and ice, but the Sharks response was even greater

As if their first goal :41 seconds into the game wasn’t enough of an eye-opener, the Ducks clearly executed on a more physical game-plan right off the opening draw. I won’t expand into the nature and/or legality of contact, but lets just say there were some “borderline” plays at best. Lindholm on Kane, Beauchemin on Labanc, Rakell on Braun, Perry on Karlsson. You get the idea. But the bottom line is how the Sharks ultimately responded: by lighting the lamp in repetition. They got the middle 3 goals in the game, and fended off Anaheim’s scoring and physical pushes. That response spoke louder than any of the Ducks’ actions.

2: Anaheim’s lack of discipline has been costly, but in two different ways

In Game 1 it was the frequency of penalties: seven minors to be precise. In Game 2, it was the timing of the penalties: one example would be Perry running Karlsson and getting 2 minutes for interference - with his team down a goal, and less than 4 minutes left in the 3rd period. Not an outstanding time to be shorthanded. Similar to when Brandon Montour went in the box at 13:37 of the first for hooking. The Sharks were already making a push, and with the extra attacker scored about 1 minute into their Power Play on Couture’s first of the playoffs. It makes you wonder, do the Ducks even have the ability to get away from their penalty problems if it becomes THE prime concern of the series?

3: The Sharks depth is on full display

San Jose has six goals in the first two games, from five different scorers. This was actually a weak point of the team’s Stanley Cup Final run two years ago: the reliance on a limited amount of players to get goals. Nowadays it’s more than just Burns, Pavelski, and Couture… Kane, Hertl, and Sorensen have all picked up markers, and you get the feeling a few more new names will emerge sooner than later.

4: The Ducks have been here before

Specifically last season. In Round 2, Edmonton rolled into Honda Center and took Games 1 and 2 from Anaheim. Sound familiar? The Ducks responded by winning 3, 4, and 5. And ultimately beating the Oilers in 7. While the Getzlaf-led Ducks are feeling sore and sour right now, don’t think for one second they aren’t reflecting on being in this predicament before. The Sharks have faced other playoff opponents over the years who were not as post-season-savvy as these Ducks are. Experience is two-sided in this matchup, and neither team will be folding until somebody has four wins.

5: All of this buys Joe Thornton time

I promise Jumbo won’t be part of all my written pieces. Although it is fun to see him in warmups. And as Logan Couture told us Saturday, Joe’s presence alone on the road trip is fun: “He’s positive, everyone looks up to him as a leader." I have no great knowledge of how that right knee is progressing. Nobody does except Joe and the doctors. And it’s not in their best tactical interest to share, so don’t hold your breath. But holding a 2-0 lead means one of two things: You're going to win this series, and play into the month of May with Round 2. Or, this first round will go the distance and chew up some more time to recover. I’m not sure what we’d eventually get from No. 19 in different timeframes - but I know this early success and the time it buys certainly can’t hurt.

Banged up Sharks making full use of two-day break ahead of Game 6 in Vegas

Banged up Sharks making full use of two-day break ahead of Game 6 in Vegas

SAN JOSE – Up until this point in the first round, the Sharks and Golden Knights have squared off every other night. Now, after staving off elimination with a crucial Game 5 victory, Team Teal has a whopping two days to prepare for Game 6 back in Las Vegas.

“We have two days now,” Tomas Hertl said after San Jose’s 5-2 victory. “Have to take a little breath and rest and be ready for that.”

This isn’t to say that San Jose is playing at any more of a grueling pace than other teams in the playoffs. But bumps and bruises are quite common this time of year. Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed two straight playoff games after being hit by a puck during Game 2, Erik Karlsson is still bouncing back from a regular- season injury -- heck, Logan Couture is the second player who has had to make a trip to the dentist after losing teeth during a game.

Between the ailments being common and the current series being incredibly physical, getting an extra 24 hours in between games is a big help, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media on Friday morning following.

“We’ve got to use it to get rest, to get guys healthy,” DeBoer said, before adding: “But also to prepare. I think we’re going to have to find another level in our game obviously to win Game 6 in there. That’s what the two days have to be used for, too.”

DeBoer isn’t wrong. The Sharks haven’t faired well in many of their visits to the Knights’ home barn, particularly during the current best-of-seven series. San Jose was outscored 11-3 in Games 3 and 4 at T-Mobile Arena and went 1-for-7 on the power play, which is not good when you’re trying to defeat a team that is stealthy at capitalizing on their opponents mistakes. While their Game 5 performance was a vast improvement – they finally kept that Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone line off the scoreboard, for starters – they still need to use the two days prep for Game 6 wisely.

Plus, Vegas gets that time to prepare as well.

“They get the same luxury,” Karlsson pointed out, before adding that San Jose isn’t putting too much thought into what the other team is doing. “I think our biggest focus is on ourselves and what we have to do to be successful.”

[RELATED: Five observations from Game 5 win]

After finding that success on their home ice, the Sharks are even more motivated to put on a good showing in Sin CIty on Easter Sunday, forcing a Game 7 back in San Jose. It's no easy feat, but two days worth of prep can help.

"We know it will be really hard, but we are ready for this challenge," Hertl said on Friday morning. "We want to show them we can beat them there too."

Where does series stand after Sharks' season-saving win in Game 5?

Where does series stand after Sharks' season-saving win in Game 5?

Twenty-five years to the day since their very first playoff game, the Sharks evaded elimination Thursday night at SAP Center, and reinvigorated the fanbase with a convincing performance in their 5-2 win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.

This series has shown two sides of San Jose — Games 1 and 5, where they were decidedly the better team through 60 minutes and controlled much of the play. That's a sharp contrast to Games 2, 3, and 4 — where it looked like summer could have an unfortunate early start after three convincing wins from Vegas.

Here are five observations from the Sharks' 5-2 win that sent the series back to Vegas with the San Jose trailing 3-2:

Jones steps up

Martin Jones was the headliner of Game 5, and he deserves to be. This was a critical decision for Peter DeBoer to give Jones the starting assignment -- some would even say against the grain -- after Jones had been pulled in each of the previous two losses.

It was a solid performance by the Sharks’ primary netminder through the first 40-plus minutes, but it turned into an exceptional one when he stoned Reilly Smith in the third period.

That “wow” moment later led to a Sharks power play which saw Tomas Hertl give San Jose some insurance by lighting the lamp to extend the lead to two.

Puck possession that didn’t feed transition

The Sharks' prior two losses saw them struggle in the face-off circle, winning just 45 percent and 46 percent in Games 3 and 4, respectively. All San Jose did in Game 5 was win a whopping 63 percent of its draws, which led to the domino effect of having the puck, and not turning it over. This limited the quantity and quality of opportunities for Vegas, and therefore helped the cause in the crease.

The Sharks in front of Jones didn’t have to ask for a ton of (extra) key saves because they didn’t allow a ton of (extra) key chances.

Complete (early) role reversal

When the Sharks scored 76 seconds into the game, they gained the early lead that Vegas had rallied around in each of the last three contests. Making the Golden Knights play from behind for the first time in a week set the tone for the entire game. And just on body language alone, it seemed to give the Sharks a noticeable confidence boost.

Good for Goodrow

In the Sharks' second 5-2 win of the series, the winning marker may have got lost in the shuffle.

But it shouldn’t.

Barclay Goodrow notched his first ever Stanley Cup playoff goal, and the redirect was assisted by another guy who isn’t a primary scorer in Justin Braun. Depth scoring was a strong point for San Jose in the regular season, but it had yet to really make its mark in the second season.

[RELATED: Sharks keeps emotions in check, season alive in Game 5]

So, what now?

If the teams had alternated wins and losses to arrive at this juncture, nobody would be surprised. It would have seemed like a back-and-forth slugfest that the Golden Knights slightly held the edge in. But those three decisive Vegas wins really soured the San Jose perspective on the remainder of the series.

Regardless, here we are now with the rare two days off in between games. Where San Jose gets a little healthier, and Vegas has to dwell on their missed opportunity of closing the door in Game 5.

The pressure shifts to Vegas to close out the series in Game 6, otherwise, they'll be forced to come back to The Tank for a do-or-die Game 7 they likely want no part of.