Now that the opponent has been determined, here are three keys to the second round series for the Sharks against the Predators.
The Sharks will obviously be the more rested club heading into this series as Nashville is coming off a grueling, seven-game series win over Anaheim. San Jose will need to be on their toes from the get go as they don’t want to give the Predators any signs of life or momentum.
With things now shifting back to hockey for team teal, here are three keys in what is sure to be another tightly-contested series out West:
1. Play With The Lead
In their first round series against L.A., the Sharks only trailed for 4:02 with all of that coming in Game 1. San Jose did a tremendous job of dictating the pace of play in the opening round as they were always able to keep the Kings at bay.
Team teal will look for a similar game plan against Nashville who are a stingy defensive unit. In their seven-game victory over the Ducks, the Predators won three of the four games in which they scored first.
During the regular season, Nashville took two out of the three contests and forced San Jose to play from behind for most of those games. The Sharks will be in trouble if they are constantly chasing the game against a Predators team that prides itself on their defense.
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2. Special Teams
Special teams played a pivotal role for team teal in round one as they went 5-for-21 (23.8 percent) with the man advantage, including all three goals in their Game 4 win. The Sharks will need to step their game up a notch in round two as the Predators are a solid group on the penalty kill, killing off 21-of-25 attempts in their first-round upset of the Ducks.
On the flip side, Nashville’s power-play was simply dreadful going just 1-for-26 (3.8 percent), worst in the playoffs, against Anaheim as their only tally came on a one-time blast from captain Shea Weber. San Jose will have to key on Weber as a majority of the Predators attack is directed through him.
The Sharks could improve on their first-round effort as they killed off 11-of-14 attempts (78.6 percent), and held the Kings off the scoreboard with the man advantage in the final two games.
The Predators are a team that struggles to score so San Jose cannot allow Nashville’s power play to find any sort of success, while the Sharks need to do a good job of converting on their own opportunities. San Jose has a decided advantage in this area and needs to dominate the special teams department once again.
3. Traffic In Front
Pekka Rinne has long been a thorn in the side of the Sharks, and despite having an off year, he responded when the Predators’ backs were against the walls. After a so-so start to these playoffs, Rinne allowed just two goals on 64 shots (.969 save percentage) in Games six and seven to lead Nashville into round two.
In his two starts against San Jose in the regular season, Rinne was very good in posting a 1.50 GAA and a .941 save percentage.
I’m sure you’ll hear Peter DeBoer and the rest of the Sharks talking about the need to get bodies in front of Rinne and make life difficult for the Finnish netminder. San Jose was able to fluster Jonathan Quick by getting multiple players in and around the blue paint.
Rinne is known to give up rebounds and a key for the Sharks is tracking down those second and third chance opportunities and making him pay.
It should be a hard-hitting, tight-checking series, and the Sharks won’t have as easy of a time as they did against the Kings in round one.
However, San Jose proved they are up for the challenge and can’t wait to get this series started at the Tank on Friday night.