So, we finally know what team the Canucks will be playing in the Western Conference Finals. And it’s in the San Jose Sharks.
The Canuck Way has decided to do a little mini-preview to get you ready for Sunday’s Game 1 tilt between the two squads.
In terms of seeding, we have the top two teams from the regular season. The #1 seeded Canucks versus the #2 seeded Sharks.
The Canucks earned their top playoff seed by going 54-19-9 in the regular season, earning them 117 points. The Sharks finished 12 points back with 105 and had a record of 48-25-9 during the regular season.
The Canucks got themselves one round away from a berth in the Stanley Cup finals by taking out the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs in seven games and then disposing of the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference semi-finals in six games. The Sharks had to go through the LA Kings in six games and then the Detroit Red Wings in their own seven game series.
During the regular season the Sharks and the Canucks played against each other four times. Of those three contests, the Canucks came away with three victories. However, other than a 6-1 blowout, all games were decided by one goal and two of them went to shootouts. The Canucks won twice in San Jose while San Jose won once in Vancouver so playing on the road would be daunting to either team.
The playoff leading scorers for the Canucks are Ryan Kesler who has 5 goals, 10 assists and 15 points to go with a Plus+6 rating and Daniel Sedin who has 6 goals and 4 assists for 10 points but has Minus-8 rating. Christian Ehrhoff and Henrik Sedin are tied for third with 9 points. The Sharks have been led by the trio of Ryan Clowe, Logan Couture and Joe Thornton who have 13, 12 and 11 points, respectively.
One indictor of predicting playoff success is seeing who wins the first game. Both teams have won the first game in both of their previous series’ during this season’s playoffs but all those games were on home ice and the Sharks won’t have that advantage being the #2 seed. This is actually the first time since the 2007 Western Conference semi-finals where the Sharks have had to start a series on the road.
Both teams have a lot of pressure heaped upon them going into the series. The Canucks have never won the Stanley Cup and after finishing in first place overall in the NHL many made them the favourites to win the Stanley Cup even though they haven’t been able to last long into the playoffs previous years. The Sharks come in having played deep into the playoffs for years only to always lose out before reaching the final stage.
Is this the year of Vancouver or will the Sharks finally rid themselves of their “choker” label?