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

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

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.)

[RELATED: Marchessault rips refs for penalty that changed Game 7]

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.

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Sharks suddenly in better position with draft picks, college signings

Given the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we could all use a bit of a pick-me-up right now. It's understandably difficult, but focusing on what bright spots there are will help us get through this unprecedented time.

Taking the glass-half-full approach shouldn't be new to Sharks fans. They had a few months head start before the team's disappointing season was indefinitely paused.

Yes, it was clear early on that it was going to be a tough season in San Jose. The Sharks dropped their first four games of the season, and turned to former captain Patrick Marleau to get back on track. After a strong November, San Jose undid it all with a putrid December, and at that point, it became easy to focus on all of the things the franchise didn't have. The most notable absence was that of hope.

One by one, the Sharks' best players went down with severe season-ending injuries. One of them -- Erik Karlsson -- was like a double punch to the gut. Not only would San Jose not have the benefit of having the former Norris Trophy winner in the lineup, but the cost it took to acquire him -- including the Sharks' unprotected 2020 first-round draft pick -- looked disproportionally painful. Every team in the league would have made that trade for Karlsson -- and signed him to the same eight-year contract extension -- but nearly everything that occurred from that point on was a string of bad luck for San Jose.

There was an upside to losing all of those top players, though. Whatever lingering hopes of a playoff run existed soon went out the window. The Sharks and general manager Doug Wilson could turn their attention to the future, and that's exactly what they did.

In sending Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals, Marleau to the Pittsburgh Penguins and Barclay Goodrow to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the trade deadline, Wilson overhauled the Sharks' cupboard of draft picks in both quality and quantity. He acquired four picks -- including a 2020 first-rounder -- that will fall within the first three rounds, and San Jose now has seven selections in each of the next three drafts.

Those will come in very handy as the Sharks try to get back into contention -- and stay there. Sustained success is built through young, controllable assets, and the draft is the best way to acquire them.

That said, there are always some prospects that fall between the cracks. Brinson Pasichnuk was one such prospect who was never drafted, yet became one of the best players throughout all of NCAA Division I hockey. The Arizona State standout agreed to join the Sharks organization, Wilson announced Tuesday, adding to San Jose's collection of promising young defensemen, including Mario Ferraro and Ryan Merkley.

[RELATED: Sharks' Ferraro moved in with parents during NHL pause]

Shortly after Pasichnuck agreed to join the Sharks, Hobey Baker Award finalist John Leonard did the same. Leonard, San Jose's sixth-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, tallied 105 points over 106 career games at UMass Amherst. He had the option of returning to school for his senior season, but had little left to prove at the collegiate level. While he isn't a new prospect to the Sharks' system, it's nonetheless a positive development for San Jose.

Two months ago, the Sharks' future appeared as bleak as it had in nearly two decades. Since then, however, they've taken several steps in the right direction, and there is considerably more reason for hope.

We can all use a little of that right now.

Sharks' Mario Ferraro moved in with parents for NHL coronavirus pause

Sharks' Mario Ferraro moved in with parents for NHL coronavirus pause

Sharks defenseman Mario Ferraro normally would be spending recent nights in five-star hotels around the NHL. But he's back at home these days because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
As in, living with his parents in Toronto.
“Different vibes now, I don’t run the household anymore,” Ferraro joked Monday in a 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports California. “I told them already, 'If I’m in my room filming a YouTube video, limit the noise, and don’t come knocking on the door.' ”
Ferraro is becoming more well known for the side hustle of producing his YouTube channel, "Youngest of Plugs."
One of his latest uploads turned out to be among his most popular: A specific workout for staying at home, like so many of his fans are right now while social distancing.
“I like making videos, and I like working out,” Ferraro said. “So kind of just put the two and two together. I guess because of what’s going on now in the world, a lot of people are at home and need that entertainment.”
As for his day job, it was quite the bizarre rookie season in San Jose. Ferraro's first pro season included personal success, team struggles, a coaching change and, now, the unthinkable: A suspended NHL season, due to a pandemic.
“I don’t even know if bizarre would cut it,” Ferraro said. “Things that are happening right now are much more important than hockey, or sports in general. But when you do circle back since the beginning of the season and what’s happened, it was tough ups and downs.”

[RELATED: Promising D-man prospect Pasichnuk agrees to join Sharks]
Ferraro ended up playing in 61 of the Sharks' 70 games, and he was one of the few consistent bright spots of their season. There’s high optimism he’ll end up as a top-four defenseman in the near future.
But as for now, he’s like all of us. At home, and a bit scared of what the coronavirus pandemic is about to become around the globe.
“It’s hard to deny that,” Ferarro said. “It’s a scary time. When you think about how it affects not just you, or your family, it affects the whole world. Everybody is going through this.”