We all expected Game 1 to be the start of an extremely physical series.
One of the things we also expected was for the Los Angeles Kings to be able to out-muscle the San Jose Sharks and play their game of hard and aggressive forecheck. However, I don’t think any of us expected the Sharks to be able to outplay the L.A. Kings as well as they did in the first two periods.
How exactly did San Jose make it 5-0 in those two periods? It’s simple. They simply wanted the puck more. We know that both L.A. and San Jose are two of the top-1o puck possession teams in the NHL, and we all thought it was going to be a real challenge for the Sharks to get and retain puck possession from the L.A. Kings.
One other thing we know is that they both love to lay big hits on one other, not just because of the rivalry but also because when one team doesn’t have the puck, they’ll do everything they can to strip their opponent of it as long as it doesn’t result in a really bad penalty against them. L.A. had the puck, but the Sharks just outplayed them physically. When they have the puck, are skating well, and are making good, smart decisions on and off the puck, not to mention taking more shots on goal, they have the potential to run their opponent out of the building which they did in the first two periods, chasing Kings’ goalie Jonathan Quick out of the net.
Also, what a difference Sharks’ rookie Tomas Hertl made in the lineup. He boosted the Sharks’ speed and offensive ability, and was just a big contributing factor for San Jose. Of course, no one should be surprised with that.
Again, though, I must emphasize that was just 40 minutes of hockey because the Sharks let their guard down a little in the third.
I’m sure regardless of what type of hockey they’re playing, the coaching staff will remind them to play a full, hard 60 minutes (and more, if needed) of hockey. In the regular season, they might be able to get away with some miscues and sleepers.
Not in the playoffs, they won’t.
Let’s face it. This is the L.A. Kings we’re talking about, the Stanley Cup Champions of 2012. There’s a reason why they won that championship, because the Kings head coach Darryl Sutter and the rest of the coaching staff will not let his guys off the hook easily. It’s just part of that championship coaching and team mentality. One miscue — like the one Sharks defenseman Jason Demers made in his own zone — could potentially result in momentum going the other way, and it did when Kings’ defenseman Jake Muzzin cut the Sharks’ lead to four.
Still, though, the Sharks responded well to the challenge and we can and should expect them to play this well (along with a MUCH better third) in Game 2 on Easter Sunday.
We now really know how well San Jose is capable of playing when they’re doing pretty much everything right and playing their game, and we certain know how well L.A. plays and how they won’t back down. Rest assured Game 2 won’t be this easy, or I’ll be speechless.