San Jose Sharks Series Predictions

Mar 28, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) celebrates with center Joe Thornton (19) after scoring against the Los Angeles Kings in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2016; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns (88) celebrates with center Joe Thornton (19) after scoring against the Los Angeles Kings in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. Mandatory Credit: John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports /

With Game One finally upon us, the staff at Blades of Teal make their first round predictions ahead of tonight’s matchup.

The 2016 Stanley Cup playoffs are finally set to begin as it’s felt like there’s been plenty of build-up and hype for this first-round matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings.

San Jose and L.A. will be meeting for the fourth time in the past six playoffs with the Kings owning a 2-1 series advantage to this point. With the series beginning tonight, let’s take a look at our predictions for how this one will play out.

Felix Chow

I just feel like this is a much deeper team than in previous years with the addition of Joel Ward, Joonas Donskoi and Paul Martin, along with the midseason acquisitions of Nick Spaling, Roman Polak and Dainius Zubrus. The top line has been great lately with Joe Thornton playing perhaps his best hockey as a Shark. Joe Pavelski is scoring, and Tomas Hertl has more than enough confidence to play well on that line.

Then we have Brent Burns on defense, who shattered plenty of Sharks franchise records for a defenseman this year. All-in-all the guy is a gamer and sports a fantastic playoff beard already.

On top of that, the Sharks now have the best goalie tandem we’ve seen in years. Martin Jones has shown to be a bonafide number one in net, while the acquisition of James Reimer proved to be a very necessary one as he is a significant upgrade over Alex Stalock as a back-up.

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As for the Kings, they’re not the team they used to be. They’ve lost a few key role guys, so I honestly think they’ve lost a bit of that much-needed depth every team needs in the playoffs. Sure, they’re still plenty capable. They still have Anze Kopitar. They still have Drew Doughty. And of course, they still have Jonathan Quick, and there’s no question about his ability to steal a series.

I think Quick is going to give them a chance. I also think both teams will have good and bad games, especially considering the Sharks defense still has quite a few flaws. That’s why I think this series will be very close. The only problem for the Sharks would be if Marc-Edouard Vlasic goes down with an injury again. Other than that, the Sharks depth will be too much for the Kings to handle.

Prediction: Sharks in 7.

Mike McCareins

This will be a physical, competitive series that has a good chance to go the distance. Unlike in recent playoff appearances, the Sharks come in to the postseason with as a bit of an underdog, and I think that is a good thing for team teal. The Sharks finished with 111 points in 2014 when they infamously blew a 3-0 lead to the Kings, yet swept Vancouver in round one and took the Kings to seven games in the 2013 playoffs as the six seed in the West.

As a team that has very few weaknesses now that the entire lineup is back healthy, I think San Jose has more firepower this year as opposed to 2014 with good enough goaltending to beat L.A., although it will not be easy. Burns and Vlasic have developed into elite defensemen, and the Sharks forward depth can expose the Kings’ somewhat thin group on the blue line.

Prediction: Sharks in 7.

Bradley Phillipps

Without a doubt, this is the most exciting series of the first round. With two of the hottest teams in the NHL, all I know is this series is probably going the distance. But unlike 2014, the Sharks should be more prepared for the Kings this time around.

The main improvement of this year’s Sharks team has been goaltending. Unlike the adventurous duo of Antti Niemi and Alex Stalock, the tandem of Martin Jones and James Reimer will provide Sharks fans with a lot more confidence. Jones will start Game 1, but Peter DeBoer shouldn’t be afraid to use Reimer if Jones starts to falter.

Also, this team has more depth and is healthier than before. The trade for Roman Polak while an overpayment, gives the Sharks many options on defense and the return of Marc-Edouard Vlasic will be welcomed. Having Matt Nieto return from injury doesn’t hurt either. Having a healthy lineup will be imperative against a Kings team whose playing style is damaging to anyone with Cup aspirations.

I think the fate of this series will rest on the play of Jonathan Quick. Quick is considered an elite goaltender but if the Sharks can get him to move and control play as much as we think they can (although that might be asking for too much against the Kings), the Sharks can get into his head.

Overall, this is a series between two very dominant puck possession teams, and I think the winner will be the team that receives better goaltending. With the goaltending depth the Sharks have and the confidence they have on the road, the Sharks should feel good about their chances. If you were to ask me a month ago, I would have said the Sharks had no chance but their play of late has been inspirational towards this playoff run.

Prediction: Sharks in 7.

Patrick Leiva

This has the chance to be one of the best series of the entire playoffs, not just the first round. From the familiarity and animosity that exists between these two teams, this will be a hard-hitting, fast-paced series.

With the two teams being so evenly matched, this series will come down to goaltending and special teams. In the three victories this year, the Sharks owned the special teams battle, going 5-for-14 (35.7 percent) on the power play while killing off 11-of-12 (91.7 percent) penalties against. On the flip side, San Jose went 0-for-9 and killed off 5-of-8 penalties in the two defeats to the Kings.

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The Sharks have always relied upon their power play and it must convert, while the penalty killing has to be better than their regular percentage of 80.5 which ranked 21st.

If I were betting on this series, I’d be hard-pressed not to take the Kings based on everything that’s happened in the past, but I’m going with the heart in this one that the Sharks will be a motivated group that finds a way to eek past L.A.

Prediction: Sharks in 7.