A look at how the Sharks and Predators match up against one another, headed into their second round series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
San Jose: Joe Pavelski paced the Sharks forwards in the first round with five goals, scoring at least once in all four of San Jose’s wins. He and Logan Couture each had six points in the series. San Jose’s depth players finally showed up on the scoresheet late against the Kings, with Joonas Donskoi (two goals), Chris Tierney, Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson (empty net) all lighting the lamp in the clincher. Ten of the Sharks’ 12 active forwards had at least one point in the series.
Nashville: Colin Wilson led all Nashville forwards with five points (2g, 3a), while James Neal, Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg all posted three points in the seven-game series win over Anaheim in which the Predators scored just 14 goals. The flashy Forsberg led the Preds in the regular season with 33 goals and 64 points, while Johansen, a midseason acquisition, gives Nashville the top line center it hasn’t had in many years.
Advantage: Sharks. Both teams have decent depth, but the Sharks’ top players up front, including Pavelski, Couture, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl, are simply more dangerous and consistent than Nashville’s best.
San Jose: Brent Burns had eight points in the first round, leading the Sharks and all NHL defensemen and placing him fifth in the league in overall scoring headed into Thursday’s games. His partner, Paul Martin, led the Sharks’ blueliners in shot attempt-percentage (51.6) and plus/minus (plus-4). Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun round out the top four, while Roman Polak and Brenden Dillon give the Sharks some size and ruggedness on the third pair. All did a superb job in front of Martin Jones against Los Angeles.
Nashville: The Predators generated 203 points from their back end in the regular season, tied for most in the league. Shea Weber posted five points in the first round (2g, 3a), tying him for the team lead with Wilson. Roman Josi, 25, has developed into a defenseman just as dangerous as Weber, too, and his 61 points (14g, 47a) placed him second on the team in scoring in the regular season.
Advantage: Predators. With Weber and Josi, the Predators have a pair of legitimate Norris Trophy candidates. Don’t overlook 25-year-old former first round pick Ryan Ellis, either, who is strong on both ends.
San Jose: The biggest question for the Sharks headed into the playoffs was Martin Jones, who had never started in the postseason before. All the 26-year-old did was outplay Jonathan Quick in winning four of his first five games, allowing 11 goals on 125 shots (2.18 goals-against average, .912 save percentage). Backup James Reimer is still around, too, if Jones gets hurt or struggles.
Nashville: Pekka Rinne had a so-so regular season, with a 2.48 GAA and .908 SP in 66 games, and wasn’t exactly lights-out early in the first round, either. Still, he played well when it mattered most in games six and seven in helping the Preds pull off the upset, finishing with a 2.45 GAA and .915 SP in seven games. Journeyman Carter Hutton, who has never started a playoff game, backs him up.
Advantage: Even. Jones’ body of work from October through the first round is better than Rinne’s, but the Nashville goalie has shown to be one of the best in the World during stretches in his career.
San Jose: The Sharks, who posted the third-ranked power play in the regular season, went 5-for-21 in the first round (23.8 percent). Pavelski had two of them. The penalty kill – 21st in the regular season – allowed three Kings goals on 14 chances (78.6 percent). The Sharks allowed a shorthanded goal in Game 1.
Nashville: The Predators managed just one power play goal in seven games against Anaheim in 26 chances (3.8 percent), while going 21-for-25 on the penalty kill (84.0 percent). In the regular season, the Predators had the NHL’s 10th best power play (19.7 percent) and its 16th-ranked PK (81.2 percent).
Advantage: Sharks. Even when the Sharks’ power play wasn’t scoring against the Kings, it looked generally dangerous other than in Game 3. San Jose also did an admirable job staying disciplined, particularly late in the series. Nashville’s power play was abysmal against Anaheim.
San Jose: None.
Nashville: Little-used forward Cody Bass left Game 6 with a lower body injury and his status is unknown for Game 1.
Advantage: Sharks. Sure, both teams are seemingly very healthy, but the Sharks will have had a week off headed into Friday’s Game 1. The Preds are surely dealing with more bumps and bruises after going seven games with Anaheim.