The San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks will renew recent hostilities with each other tonight, as the teams open their respective seasons at the Shark Tank. These two teams met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2013, with the Sharks prevailing via an impressive sweep. Vancouver has had all summer to simmer over that embarrassing showing, and will likely come out like it has something to prove tonight.
Don’t expect the Sharks to just roll over and take a beating though. The expectations for this club are as high as ever, and starting a new season with a string of victories is a good way to move toward winning a Stanley Cup. Just ask the Chicago Blackhawks, who steamrolled their way to the trophy after gaining points in each of their first 24 games.
San Jose started off just as hot in 2013, winning its first seven games before falling off the table. They’ll look to avoid a similar drop off as they take on the Canucks tonight.
Keys to Victory
The Canucks are going to come out looking to set the world on fire in their first regular season game under John Tortorella. You can bet that the abrasive coach has brought up Vancouver’s embarrassing first-round exit and has them fired up and looking for revenge.
If there’s a storm, weathering it is important, but it isn’t like the Sharks have struggled with halting the Sedin Twins and Co. recently. Getting in Roberto Luongo‘s kitchen will be paramount. He likes his space, and San Jose’s forwards have a noticeable size advantage. They need to plant their skates right in front of the blue paint and let ‘er rip.
Players to Watch
Who will step up in the wake of the Raffi Torres injury? That’s been the biggest question for the Sharks since the aggressive forward went down during the preseason. Everyone knows what guys like Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski are going to bring to the table. What will be interesting to watch is how the likes of Tomas Hertl or Matt Nieto raise their level of play despite not having track records at all in the NHL.
My money is on Hertl, who has been the most well-regarded prospect for the Sharks since they drafted him in 2012. He was outstanding while playing in the Czech Republic and has the kind of all-around skill set that is useful on any line. Hertl’s shot is deadly, and watching him blow holes in the back of the net with Pavelki will be entertaining.
Predicted Final Score
After trailing on two separate occasions, the Sharks manage to go ahead in the third period to secure the victory. 3-2 final.
This is the first of four meetings between the Canucks and the Sharks.
The game is available on TSN in Canada and CSN California, with the start time listed as 10 P.M. ET.