Sharks

Sharks vs. Avalanche: What to watch in NHL playoff second-round series

Sharks

SAN JOSE — It's hard to think about what's next after the Sharks' dramatic Game 7 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, but the Stanley Cup playoff show must go on.

Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche are next up for the Sharks, with the second-round series beginning Friday in San Jose.

When asked after Tuesday night's win if he’d thought about the Avs series yet, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer gave a sigh and a chuckle before shaking his head “no.” (The guy did just come off coaching his team to a huge come-from-behind victory, after all.)

But that didn’t stop the rest of us from looking ahead. Here are three things to keep in mind for the second-round matchup with Colorado.

Rest and repair

Of course, one of the biggest differences between the Sharks and Avs heading into this series is the amount of rest each team has had before the start of the second round. Colorado made quick work of its first-round opponent, dousing the Calgary Flames in a five-game set.

San Jose had a very different route to the second round, playing a full seven games against Vegas. Given the incredibly physical nature of the Sharks-Golden Knights series — there was no shortage of extracurriculars during those contests — San Jose certainly will enter the second round with a little less time to take a breath and regroup.

 

The lack of a long break also could play in the Sharks’ favor, though. San Jose enters the series riding a three-game winning streak and the confidence to come back from any deficit. So even though their opponent will change, the Sharks already will have forward momentum going into the next round.

How the teams matched up in the regular season

You might look on paper and see that the Sharks took the season series against the Avalanche 3-0-0. Keep in mind, though, the Sharks didn’t run away with any of those contests.

After going up 5-1 in the second period of their first meeting on Jan. 2, San Jose allowed Colorado to answer with three goals to make the score 5-4 late in the third frame. San Jose held on to win the game by one goal.

Their second meeting, on March 1, was more one-sided but still ended with the Sharks narrowly winning 4-3. 

The Sharks’ best performance against the Avalanche was a 5-2 victory in their regular-season finale. After surrendering the first goal at 2:56 in the first period, San Jose dug deep to attack back with three unanswered goals in the later part of the game. To beat this team in a playoff series, the Sharks have to be even better than that.

The key to beating the ‘Lanche

Team Teal can start by taking what made them successful against Vegas and applying it to this series. Strong starts -- preferably without giving up a goal in the first five minutes -- and offensive contributions from all parts of the lineup remain important.

But perhaps the best thing San Jose can do is shut down Colorado’s hot hands. Much like they had to slow down Vegas’ Mark Stone-led line, the Sharks’ defense will have to halt a second-line combination containing Mikko Rantanen, who leads all Avs skaters in the playoffs with nine points (five goals, four assists.)

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Plus, nobody can forget about MacKinnon, who has carried his dominant play from the regular season right into the playoffs. The Sharks have the firepower to counter Colorado’s forward assault, but holding these players off the scoreboard also will be key.