San Jose has had no answer for the trio of James Neal, Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher who have carried Nashville to this point.
Through the first six games of this best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series, the San Jose Sharks have been terrorized by three men for the Nashville Predators: James Neal, Colin Wilson and Mike Fisher.
The trio came up big once again in Game 6 as Neal and Wilson combined to tie things up at three less than three minutes after San Jose had retaken the lead in the third period. After Wilson’s goal, which extended his point streak to a franchise-best seven games, the line continued to cause havoc for the Sharks defense, firing nine shots on goal combined over the course of the game.
With things shifting back to the Bay Area for Game 7 on Thursday night, San Jose has to find a way to slow down this dangerous trio who have almost single-handedly carried Nashville to this point.
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Much of the burden and responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, who Peter DeBoer has leaned on as his shutdown pair. At times, they’ve been very good in limiting chances, but they’ve had their moments where they’ve been victimized as well.
The Sharks will need their best effort on Thursday night because team teal has allowed this trio way too much time and space in the offensive zone.
It all begins with Wilson who’s been an absolute force for Nashville this postseason. He leads the Predators with five goals and eight assists and a staggering plus-10 rating throughout these playoffs after recording just six goals during the regular season. He has three goals and five assists alone against San Jose.
His speed has been his biggest asset to help back off the defense and create room for Neal and Fisher.
With Neal, it’s fairly simple as he likes to fire the puck at the net from all angles, recording 22 shots on goal. He’s got two goals and three assists thus far, and he’s one of the emotional leaders for this Predators team.
Finally, there’s the wily veteran in Fisher who seems to have the puck following him around. He’s recorded four goals and two assists, including the game-winner in Game 4.
The best way for the Sharks to contain this trio is to make them defend. In San Jose’s best game of the series in Game 5, they were able to limit their offensive time by constantly having the puck.
The Sharks best defense may be their offense, and continuing to attack the Predators is the best way to shut down this top line.
San Jose has to find a way to slow down this lethal trio to give themselves a better chance of taking Game 7. Granted, they’ve been much better at limiting them at SAP Center so a return home should give team teal more confidence.
The Sharks have been unable to limit this top line through the first six games, but they only need one great defensive effort on Thursday night to help them advance to the next round.