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We may have underestimated the Sharks’ potential as Stanley Cup contenders


More than the Sharks’ Three-Zero collection lead, it is the manner San Jose’s whole lineup has carried out – and the impending return of a key cog – that has them wanting like a critical risk in the West.

It was an excellent ol’ normal whooping. In a pivotal Game Three, San Jose hung an eight-spot on Anaheim, with a four-goal second interval resulting in a three-goal third body by which the Sharks refused to take their foot off the Ducks’ throat. Already up 6-1 in the closing minutes, San Jose pumped two extra energy play objectives — their third and fourth extra-man tallies of the outing — previous Anaheim backup Ryan Miller. 

By the time the contest ended, the Ducks skated away shellshocked and questioning how on earth they’re going to climb out of the worst attainable playoff gap. But the actuality is that there may be no method to get out from beneath the Three-Zero collection deficit towards a Sharks staff that seems significantly better than most gave them credit score for getting into the post-season.

True as it’s that one sport doesn’t make a collection, the Eight-1 drubbing the Sharks laid on the Ducks on Monday evening was certainly one of the most spectacular playoff performances we have seen by way of the 20-plus video games that have been performed in the first spherical. And true as it may be that San Jose didn’t personal the possession sport or carry the play all evening lengthy, what the Sharks did is the identical factor they’ve performed all collection lengthy: make the most of each alternative whereas shutting down, irritating and inflicting the Ducks to nearly totally implode. And by way of three video games, the manner the Sharks have carried out is sufficient to make one marvel if we haven’t vastly underestimated their potential in the Western Conference. 

Start by contemplating the play between the pipes. Throughout the early a part of this collection, San Jose netminder Martin Jones has been a no-bones-about-it difference-maker. He opened the collection with an excellent 25-save shutout by which he stayed calm beneath stress and held quick regardless of Anaheim repeatedly attending to high quality scoring areas. In Game 2, it was a lot of the identical from Jones, who made 28 saves on 30 pictures and stopped all the pieces that got here his method to protect a one-goal lead throughout the closing 12 minutes of the third body. And Game Three’s efficiency may have been his best but, even when it did include sufficient run assist that he might have performed blindfolded and nonetheless earned the win. Jones stared down 46 pictures on Monday night in San Jose. He was crushed as soon as — Rickard Rakell blasted house an influence play purpose — however refused to permit something extra and utterly flummoxed the Ducks’ attackers. And now, although it’s solely been three video games, Jones’ numbers learn like these of a veritable world-beater: he sports activities a .970 save share and 1.00 goals-against common, permitting simply three objectives on 101 pictures.

Given his mediocre common season efficiency — he managed a .915 SP in any respect strengths in 60 video games for the Sharks, however had the fifth-worst 5-on-5 SP of the 36 goaltenders to play 1,500 minutes – Jones’ brilliance by way of the early a part of the playoffs comes as a nice shock. That stated, we shouldn’t be altogether shocked that Jones has turned his sport on at the proper time as a result of the post-season has appeared to deliver the greatest out of him. In 2015-16, Jones’ first 12 months with the Sharks and first as a starter, his SP jumped from .918 throughout the common season to .923 in the playoffs as San Jose got here inside two wins of the Stanley Cup. In 2016-17, Jones’ .912 SP in the common season was a priority getting into the post-season, however he principally stored the Sharks alive towards the Edmonton Oilers, delivering a .935 SP throughout six video games earlier than San Jose was ousted. And this time round, nicely, we’ve already famous the enchancment. The improve from the common to post-season has been mammoth.

Jones is just one piece of the puzzle, although, and a goaltender alone can win a sport or two, however uncommon are the examples of these netminders who win a collection by their lonesome. One want look no additional than a couple of hours down the highway, the place Jonathan Quick is posting a .945 SP but the Kings sit in a three-game gap. What the Sharks have proven past goaltending, although, is a depth of offense that wasn’t there in the early a part of the season.

An eight-goal outing helps, to make certain, but it surely doesn’t take away from the truth San Jose has 11 gamers with no less than two factors in the collection and each single ahead that has seen the ice towards Anaheim has discovered the scoresheet no less than as soon as. Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are main the manner with 5 factors apiece. Tomas Hertl, Marcus Sorensen, Joonas Donskoi and Timo Meier are point-per-game gamers by way of the first three outings. And commerce deadline acquisition Evander Kane is wanting like the greatest deadline pickup of the season. After ready almost 600 video games to see playoff motion up shut and private, Kane has three objectives and 4 factors, he’s put 17 pictures on purpose, has a mean ice time of 18:30 per sport and he’s been bodily, laying six hits in three video games. That’s one was to make your presence felt — a playoff participant, certainly.

Frighteningly, the Sharks’ offense has true potential to get higher as the playoffs roll on. Not due to some intangible purpose such as chemistry or what have you, both. No, San Jose’s assault stands to enhance on condition that Joe Thornton — who has skated in pre-game warmups on this collection however hasn’t suited up for a contest — is seemingly on the verge of returning. Thornton was scoring at higher than three-quarters-of-a-point per sport when he fell injured halfway by way of the marketing campaign, and that he might enter the lineup and additional bolster the offensive depth is a scary proposition for many who have visions of creating it out of the Western Conference.

And there’s one closing side of the Sharks’ efficiency by way of the first three video games of the post-season that means San Jose would possibly have what it takes to make a run of it: poise. 

In a primary spherical that has already seen its justifiable share of considerably meaningless tough stuff — from suspendable acts of retribution to pricey retaliatory minor penalties — the Sharks haven’t bitten, in case you’ll pardon the pun. The Boston Bruins are the solely staff to take fewer penalties per sport by way of the early a part of the first spherical, and when Monday’s Game Three acquired derailed by an unglued Anaheim staff, San Jose appeared content material to skate away from each fracas. As Anaheim’s management group, together with captain Ryan Getzlaf (roughing, slashing and a 10-minute misconduct after some heated phrases with officers), Corey Perry (cross-checking) and Ryan Kesler (slashing) paraded to the field throughout the closing body, San Jose refused to combine it up realizing full nicely they’d come out higher for it. And higher for it they had been as the Sharks used the energy play to punish the Ducks, scoring 4 occasions on the man benefit.

And whenever you mix the Sharks’ composed angle with their deep offense, soon-to-return star and excellent goaltending, they start to appear to be a extra full package deal than they have at some other level in the marketing campaign. So, certain, it’s solely been three video games, but when San Jose can proceed to play as they have towards Anaheim, the Sharks would possibly show to be certainly one of the extra critical Stanley Cup contenders.

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