SAN JOSE – It didn’t have the drama of Tuesday's wild Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights, but Game 1 of the Sharks' Stanley Cup playoff second-round series with the Colorado Avalanche was entertaining nonetheless. After a somewhat uneven start, San Jose tilted the ice in its favor and pulled out a 5-2 win over the Avs.
Here are three takeaways from the Sharks taking a 1-0 series lead.
That Thornton line, though
San Jose has been at its best this postseason when depth players have done some of the heavy lifting. That could've been difficult Friday, since the Sharks missed injured forwards Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi. But their absences didn’t stop the Joe Thornton-led “third” line from having a fantastic game.
Marcus Sorensen set up two very nice goals in the second period, looking particularly patient with his assist on Thornton's first goal of the series.
Kevin Labanc, clearly channeling his Game 7 performance from Tuesday, danced through the offensive zone to score and give Sharks their first lead of the night in the second period.
Of course, you can’t talk about that line without talking about Thornton notching his 100th career playoff assist --- making him the 24th player in NHL history to do so – on Brent Burns’ second-period marker.
Speaking of which …
Brent Burns stepped up
The Sharks’ best bet at topping the Avalanche in a best-of-seven series is going to be getting prime performances from their big guns on the blue line, mainly Brent Burns. In Game 1, he delivered.
Burns and defensive partner Marc-Edouard Vlasic did good work on the defensive side of the puck for the majority of the game, but Burns’ three-point evening shifted the game in the Sharks' favor. If he continues to play like that all over the ice, it will give the injury-riddled Sharks’ offense a better chance of advancing to the Western Conference Final.
Adjusting to the speed
The biggest challenge for the Sharks heading into the second round – well, aside from the injuries – was going to be defending Colorado’s speed. They got a pretty good look at it on the first shift of the game when Avalanche superstar Nathan MacKinnon got the puck and coasted up the ice almost untouched. But as the game went on, San Jose visibly adjusted to the Avalanche’s pace and was able to break up some of their prime chances.
Sharks goaltender Martin Jones also deserves credit for stopping some of Colorado’s prime chances, particularly two big breakaway opportunities for Carl Soderberg in the first frame. Continuing his strong play from the latter part of the first round is one of the biggest keys for San Jose this series. So far, Jones doesn’t look too shabby.