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Five Reasons the San Jose Sharks Advanced

Wednesday, 05.08.2013 / 12:19 PM / News
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Five Reasons the San Jose Sharks Advanced
Because their young players have stepped up and Antti Niemi has been strong in net, the Sharks are the first team to advance to the second round.


The recent history of the San Jose Sharks has seen them arrive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a title favorite only to disappoint.

There were few expectations this year, as they entered with most of the same players that had come up short in years past. However, the team played perhaps the most complete series in team history, capped by a 4-3 overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 of the teams' Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

So how were the Sharks able to sweep a team out of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history? Here are five reasons they're the first team to advance to the conference semifinals.

1. Focus in the right places -- After Game 1, the Canucks talked about how the Sharks were cheating on faceoffs. On the day between Games 3 and 4, the Canucks focused on how the Sharks were embellishing plays to draw penalties. All the while the Sharks players ignored the talk, played their game and won.

"Please, keep worrying about us," Sharks forward Adam Burish said Tuesday. "We're going to worry about our guys and what we have to do and how we can be better and not worry about the integrity of the game and having props in interviews and acting like a lawyer with video evidence and all that stuff. We're not worried about that stuff."

Keeping their focus on the ice, rather than off-ice arguments, is a major reason the Sharks were able to advance.

2. Putting the power in their power play -- No team has gotten more power-play chances than the Sharks, and they made the Canucks pay. San Jose scored seven times on 24 chances (29.2 percent) in the four games. The seven extra-man goals were nearly half the 15 they scored in total in the series.

Two of the biggest moments of the series came when the Sharks had the man-advantage. A pair of power-play goals 2:27 apart by Logan Couture was part of a three-goal outburst early in the third period of Game 3, turning a 2-1 Sharks lead into a 5-1 advantage. And the series-clinching goal by Patrick Marleau came 15 seconds after Daniel Sedin was sent off for boarding at 13:03 of overtime in Game 4.

3. Sharks' younger players step up -- The twin faces of the franchise for a number of years have been Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, but during this series a younger set of twin stars have stepped to the fore for the Sharks -- Couture, 24, and Joe Pavelski, 28. The duo is tied for the League lead with eight points each. Pavelski's four goals are tied for the League lead, and his three power-play goals are tied with Couture for first.

Marleau and Thornton, both 33, haven't disappeared -- Marleau also had four goals while Thornton had a goal and five assists -- but they have become complementary parts at this point, which has gone a long way toward making the Sharks better as a whole.

4. Winning the battle in net -- Much of the attention in the series was focused on who would be in net for Vancouver. But whether it was Roberto Luongo or Cory Schneider, the Sharks' Antti Niemi consistently out-played his Canucks counterpart.

Niemi wasn't exactly a brick wall -- he allowed eight goals in four games, including three in Game 4 -- but he seemed to make every important save. More than that, however, was the confidence he imbued in his teammates, that if there was a defensive breakdown, they could trust the man in net to bail them out. It didn't seem like the Canucks felt the same way about their goalie.

5. Playing from ahead -- There were 13 periods of hockey played in four games -- including the 13-plus minutes of overtime in Game 4 -- and at the end of each period, the Sharks either were tied or ahead at the end of all of them. In fact, the Canucks led for a total of 20:38 in the four games, and 11:58 of that total came in the second period of Game 2.

Only twice in the series did the Canucks score back-to-back goals -- the second period of Game 2 and the third period of Game 4. Both times those outbursts gave the Canucks the lead, but each time the Sharks got tying goals before the end of those periods.

Keeping the Canucks from building sustained momentum is one of the biggest reasons the Sharks are moving on and the Canucks are heading home.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 41 38 23 79
J. Thornton 82 11 65 20 76
P. Marleau 82 33 37 0 70
L. Couture 65 23 31 21 54
B. Burns 69 22 26 26 48
T. Wingels 77 16 22 11 38
D. Boyle 75 12 24 -8 36
J. Demers 75 5 29 14 34
T. Hertl 37 15 10 11 25
M. Nieto 66 10 14 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Stalock 12 5 2 .932 1.87
A. Niemi 39 17 7 .913 2.39
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