Something we learned watching game 1 of the Kings/Sharks series was that no lead is ever safe in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Sharks burst out of the gate to a 5-0 lead after two periods. But it wasn’t by luck that the Los Angeles Kings won the Cup in 2012. Three 3rd period goals and a wave after wave attack by the Kings made it clear that each and every game will be a struggle.
It’s not a coincidence that when the San Jose club stopped finishing their checks the Kings came to life. Sunday’s Game 2 will start with a 0-0 tie and the Sharks need to again push the pace and play the body for all 60 minutes.
The Kings’ all-world netminder Jonathon Quick never seemed in control of his game following the Sharks crashing of the net from the opening faceoff. Expect Quick to rebound and give his team a great chance to win in Game 2. I’ll go out on a limb and say that Quick will not give up 5 goals again this series.
How different are the Sharks with Tomas Hertl and Raffi Torres back in the lineup? Hertl's debut in the Stanley Cup was impressive as he scored one goal and chipped in with an assist. The amazing thing about the Sharks’ rookie phenom is he doesn’t get rattled. He doesn’t shy away from physical play and works to make plays at every turn. As for Torres, his body on body style of play clearly rattled the Kings. If Torres can continue his hard-nosed style while staying out of the penalty box he will prove to be a force on every shift.
This season two Sharks in particular appeared grow their game by leaps and bounds. Jason Demers has blossomed into a solid, trusted puck-moving defenseman who also has upped his level of battle. Operating in the shadow of veteran d-man Dan Boyle for the past few seasons, Demers has been a good study and gives San Jose highly valuable right-handed blueliner.
Up front, James Sheppard is playing an inspired game. The former first-round pick of the Wild suffered a horrific ATV accident that put his career in Jeopardy. Sharks GM Doug Wilson identified Sheppard’s potential and said yes while many teams said no. That decision has been paying off as Sheppard was named the Sharks’ Player of the Month for March. Combined with the return of Hertl and Torres, Sheppard’s play makes match-ups difficult for the Kings’ bench boss Darryl Sutter.
This first-round matchup has the potential to be an epic test of wills. Enjoy.
Into Twitter? Do yourself a favor and follow Darin Stephens @SharksStats. Darin is the main graphics man for the Sharks television games on Comcast Sports Net California. His ability to get deep inside the numbers of hockey makes him the best in the biz.
Samples of his work from last night…
--The Sharks are the 1st team to score 6+ in their playoff opener since the 2007 Senators.
--Tomas Hertl (20 years old) is the youngest Shark to score a playoff goal since Patrick Marleau (19 years old) in 1999.
Make note of the 7:00 p.m. start time for this Sunday’s Game 2 in San Jose.
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