After a full week off between games, San Jose is ready for their Game 1 test against Nashville.
The wait is over.
The San Jose Sharks are rested and raring to go as they get set to host the Nashville Predators in Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series. This will be the first appearance for team teal in the second round since 2013, and the third all-time meeting between these two franchises, with San Jose capturing both of those series in five games.
These two teams met three times during the regular season with Nashville winning two out of the three meetings and outscoring the Sharks by a 10-5 margin. Those games will be completely meaningless once the puck drops a little past 7:30 tonight, but one takeaway is that this should be a tight-checking, low-scoring series.
It should be rocking inside the Shark Tank as team teal fans are ready to watch playoff hockey once again after taking a week hiatus.
Players to Watch
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Sharks: Logan Couture. The 27-year-old Couture is certainly a difference maker for this Sharks team, and he was great in their first-round series against the Kings. Couture is tied for second on the team with six points (one goal, five assists), including three helpers in their Game 5 victory last time out. With all of the defensive focus on the top line for San Jose, Couture and his linemates will be counted upon to chip in offensively in this series.
Predators: Colin Wilson. Wilson was a revelation for Nashville against Anaheim as he was perhaps their best forward over the course of the seven games. After scoring just 24 points (six goals, 18 assists) in 64 games during the regular season, Wilson is tied for the team-lead with two goals, three assists and five points this postseason, including scoring the opening goal in Game 7 on a beautiful backhand move. Similar to Couture for the Sharks, Wilson will have to step up his game for the Predators to have any shot as San Jose will key in on the top line for Nashville.
Keys to the Game
1. Quick Start
After a week off, the Sharks need to get themselves engaged in this game as quickly as possible. The Predators have momentum following their thrilling, comeback series victory over the Ducks and are playing with house money in Game 1. San Jose can ill-afford a sloppy start as they don’t want to be chasing a stingy Nashville defense for most of the night.
The Predators are a team that thrives on playing from ahead, but struggle when they’re forced to generate offense when trailing. Team teal did a great job of playing with the lead in round one, and establishing their presence from the onset and shaking off the rust will be something to watch in the early going of this one.
2. Speed Through Neutral Zone
Nashville is a team that likes to take away time and space from their opposition, but San Jose is a team that thrives on getting the puck up to their forwards and getting in on the forecheck. The Sharks can’t afford to turn the puck over in the neutral zone and they must support one another to get through the middle of the ice cleanly.
It all starts with the breakouts where team teal needs to be clean in this area to allow themselves to build up that speed to get in and cause havoc of the Predators defense.
3. Use Your Depth
Peter DeBoer has relied on rolling all four lines and six defensemen, and that certainly paid dividends in the first round. Look for him to continue that trend in this series as the Predators are a tired group from a grueling seven-game series against Anaheim.
With the Sharks being fully rested, they should have plenty of jump to push the pace on this Nashville team and try to wear them down over the course of 60 minutes tonight.