After a nice beginning to our 2013 Playoff write-ups last night with a big Blues victory, we’re back at it tonight in another jam-packed evening of big games. Our record on our featured selections is now 35-23 in all of 2013, and 1-0 for the post-season. Tonight, two games involve big favourites but we’ll instead focus on a fairly balanced match-up involving two desperate teams in the Sharks and the Canucks.
San Jose Sharks (+120) @ Vancouver Canucks (-140)
After countless years of playoff futility from both the Sharks and Canucks, this could be a watershed post-season for these teams. Management of both squads surely have to be fed up with all of the post-season failures of years past, and as a result many experts are predicting the loser of this series will have to endure mass changes to team personnel in the off-season.
San Jose has long been considered a team that thrives in the regular season, before ultimately choking in the playoffs. This year, they enter a little more under the radar and look for that to work to their advantage against an up-and-down Canucks squad. Meanwhile, Vancouver is no different. This team has been simply stacked for years, but after many seasons of missed opportunities and drama surrounding this club, another first-round exit would surely lead to changes within the organization. A ton is at stake in tonight’s first game of the series, as setting the tone in this series could be especially important given how things have gone for these teams of late. This should be a long and hard-fought series, kicking off with a thrilling Game 1.
The Sharks enter this series an incredibly underrated team. They do the little things of the game exceptionally well and play to their strengths. They are the NHL’s 2nd-best faceoff team and that could be big against Vancouver as it means they’ll possess the puck for longer stretches, keeping it out of the hands of the skilled Sedin twins. San Jose also has an excellent penalty kill and keeps many chances to the perimeter. Vancouver is a highly skilled team, and though their powerplay hasn’t been as great as it has in years past, it can still burn you at any given moment. For the Sharks to be tight defensively will be paramount to any success they’ll have over the next two weeks.
Vancouver’s aforementioned powerplay has to improve, but whether it can remains to be seen. They sat 22nd in the NHL with the man-advantage, and generating chances won’t be easy against a stifling Sharks team. The Canucks know there is massive pressure on their team, so if things start slowly, the crowd and the entire city could get on this vulnerable group. Moreover, the situation surrounding the Canucks is circus-like, and truthfully it’s been like that all year. General Manager Mike Gillis failed to deal away back-up goalie Roberto Luongo this year and as a result this team has to endure far too much drama for their own good. This goaltending controversy has only magnified the issues within this Vancouver dressing room.
This will be a series, and a first game that involves two very evenly matched opponents. With so much riding on Game 1, both teams will surely be nervous, but the atmosphere surrounding the Canucks right now seems toxic. Vancouver has struggled selling playoff tickets in 2013, speaking to the mood surrounding their fan base. After countless failures, fans are fed up and for the Sharks to start on the road seems like an ideal scenario. San Jose has exceptional depth down the middle with Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Scott Gomez at the centre ice position. Expect those four solid players to wear down the Canucks, and look for San Jose’s physicality and size to overwhelm a Vancouver squad that has been lacking that element for years. The Sharks will win this series, and they’ll start it out with a big road victory in Game 1.
PICK = San Jose (+120)