Tonight's game marks the end of the season series between the Sharks and Canucks. It's pretty early to be ending a season series, but I'm sure these two teams have had enough of each other. Four of the Sharks first 19 games have been against Vancouver, as well as a few pre-season games and a four game sweep of the 'Nucks in last years playoffs.
The Sharks took the first two games of the season series by a score of 4-1 before losing 4-2 to Vancouver in the midst of their 5-game losing streak. After beating Calgary in overtime two nights ago, the Sharks will look to keep themselves on track as they move deeper into the road swing.
The biggest question for the Sharks right now is when are they going to stop blowing leads? The lack of consistency with a lead almost cost them another win against the Flames as they allowed a lackluster Calgary unit to crawl back into the game and give the Sharks a scare.
Tonight's match against the Canucks isn't a situation where the Sharks should allow their combatant back into the game should they find themselves with a lead. The key for tonight's game is to contain the Sedin twins. If you can render the twins ineffective, no matter what match-up is on the ice, you basically kill Vancouver's offense. The Canucks go as the Sedin's go, that's most evident in the playoffs if you look beyond the Luongo-bashing.
So how do the Sharks maintain a lead without a collapse?
They continue to push, plain and simple. Push defensively and offensively. Play the exact same game throughout the entire 60 minutes and don't adjust the gameplan on the fly to compensate a lead. I despise when teams get a lead and play kiddie-bar-the-door. The best example of this was game seven of the Leafs-Bruins series when Leafs bench boss Randy Carlyle decided to protect his lead rather than continue with what had worked all game, and the previous games. Well we all know the end of that story and it happens more often than not, that example was magnified due to the teams involved and the time of year it happened.
Continue to forecheck, continue to break out of defensive zone with the best available option and not with whatever becomes available to eat clock. The confidence is back in the room for the Sharks and they need to feed off of that immediately. While they are back on the right track, the Sharks need the leadership group to continue to pull this team through a few more wins to make sure everyone is in the clear.
It should be a feisty game given the recent history of these two clubs which will make for an exciting hockey game.
Sharks Three Keys:
1. Keep the PP going in the right direction.
2. Contain #33 and #22.
3. Don't stray from the gameplan.
Puck drop is at 10pmET.
Here are some thoughts on some other news around the league that I just can't avoid voicing my two cents on.
1. Nazem Kadri hit(s) on Backstrom and Granlund
I'll take Backstrom first. This was a bad move by the Leafs youngster. Kadri knew where he was on the ice and moved his arms from his body through Backstrom, essentially laying a hit to the head on the goaltender. As a first time offender I'd hand Kadri a 3 game suspension, keeping to the tune of Shanaban's theories on suspension length. We'll see what comes of the phone hearing for this collision today.
Next up is the hit on Granlund. I watched the replay's over and over, and I'm still looking for this vicious hit that angry, non-Leaf, fans are talking about. This hit definitely did not deserve a match penalty, that I'm sure of. I'm sure Kerry Fraser will have his inbox full of questions asking for clarity. Kadri made initial contact with the shoulder/high chest area as he caught the Wild player with his head down. In the natural motion of hitting, Kadri came back up. When you bend your legs you tend to un-bend them, thus straightening you out and returning you back to your original height. This hit wasn't from behind, it wasn't boarding, it wasn't late, it wasn't a blindside. If this is the type of hit that people want out of the game then the NHL might as well removing hitting completely. My advice to Granlund? Keep your chin out of your chest protector.
2. Overtime Change Talk
I'm all for the change to a 10-minute 4-on-4 OT period. I think in a 5 minute, like it is currently, the intensity just isn't the same. I think a lot of players would rather it get to a shootout so they can have a clean break on the goalie. Increasing to 10 minutes would drive the intensity level up and force teams to want to end it before the shootout arrived and more rest was lost.
I don't like the idea of 3-on-3 that Ken Holland suggested, however. This isn't pond hockey, or the circus. Four on four hockey happens routinely during games, it's a natural scene. Three on three hockey happens when teams are woefully undisciplined and provides a spectacle of sheer madness on the ice as defensemen hum and haw over whether or not to pinch in to the play.
4-on-4, 10 minutes. Make it happen.
3. Congratulations to Buffalo Sabre fans who finally got the news that Regier and Rolston were canned. This organization can finally move on and really get into a rebuild that already has some nice pieces to it. Regier was one of the more awful GM's in the league, in my opinion, and I thought he should have been fired before Ruff, or along with him.
If you want to have a firesale, the Sharks will take Tyler Myers off your hands.
That's all for now, thanks for reading!