The Sharks have been on a roll in the playoffs, winning five of six games, and they will go for another this afternoon against the Predators.
Game Two is an important one for both squads, as the San Jose Sharks look to protect home ice and go up 2-0, while the Nashville Predators attempt to steal one on the road before heading back to Music City.
Despite going goal-less for the first 40 minutes of the series opener, the Sharks would get five past Pekka Rinne in the final frame, tying a franchise record for most goals in a period, and they’ll look to keep that momentum rolling against the Predators, a team that has proven their resiliency this spring by winning two straight to beat the Ducks in seven in round one.
Team teal has seen contributions from their whole roster during the playoffs, doing a nice job balancing out the scoring. The same cannot be said for the Predators, who have been carried by their defense for the majority of the playoffs. Five Predators have yet to tally a point through eight playoff games, and important pieces such as James Neal (three points) and Mike Ribeiro (one point) have been especially underwhelming. They’ll need to get those two going, especially Neal, to have a decent shot this series.
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It will be Martin Jones in net again for the Sharks, facing Rinne for the Preds. Jones has solid playoff numbers – .917 save percentage, 2.15 GAA – and more importantly, has kept the Sharks in every game, allowing three goals or less in each playoff contest. The same can’t be said for Rinne, who has been more inconsistent than Jones despite having similar numbers. Rinne has allowed four goals or more in two postseason games.
Players to Watch
Sharks: Joel Ward. The first-year Shark and known playoff-hero in the past has been just what GM Doug Wilson was hoping for when he snatched him last summer. Ward has six playoff points, a far cry from his output to end the regular season where he notched a single point in his final six games. A filthy move put on Rinne in Game One would end up being the game-winner. Having a new face such as Ward who has made playoff pushes before with other teams eases the pressure put on fellow Sharks veterans, and is someone younger players can take notice of. He’s also on a three-game point-streak.
Predators: James Neal. It has really been a struggle for the 2016 All-Star in the postseason, as he has scored in only one game since Game One of the Anaheim series. He did get six shots on goal Friday night, but he posted a minus-two rating along with no recorded hits or blocked shots. Neal scored 31 goals in the regular season, but only has two so far in the playoffs. As their first-line winger, Nashville needs to see more production from Neal very soon.
Keys to the Game
1. Keep Getting Production From the Fourth Line
This line was the story of both Games Two and Three of the Kings series, as the trio of Nick Spaling – Tommy Wingels – Chris Tierney looked all out of sorts taking bad penalties and not being effective. But it’s been a different story since, including on Friday night where Wingels scored a goal and Spaling and Wingels both had plus-two ratings. We’ll see if they can keep up the solid play tonight.
2. Score Three Goals
The Predators are a very defensive-oriented team and struggles to keep up in high scoring games. They have won just twice since Dec. 28 when opponents score three goals.
3. Limit Colin Wilson
For some reason, Wilson has been a much better playoff performer in recent years than in the regular season. He has never scored more than 42 points in a season, but he has 11 points in his last 14 playoff games, including six in eight games this year, which leads the team. Nashville has welcomed the surprise production from their third-liner Wilson.