The San Jose Sharks are set to take on the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference Semifinals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Game 1 is set to begin at 7:30 PT at the SAP Center in San Jose, California.
With that in mind, here are five reasons why the San Jose Sharks will beat Nashville and advance to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since 2011.
1. Road Ice Advantage
I know, I made this comment many times before and I know it sounds odd too, but the San Jose Sharks do, in fact, have the so called “Road Ice Advantage”.
Normally, a team will want to capture “Home Ice Advantage”, however for San Jose, they have the best road record in the NHL (28-10-3). Their road power was proven vs Los Angeles, having not lost a single game at Staples Center.
The so called “Road Ice Advantage” comes more towards the fact that San Jose plays much better on the road then they do at home. So, if San Jose wins one or both of their home games, they will have a much easier path ahead of them for the rest of the series, given their “Road Ice Advantage” still stands.
2. Martin Jones and San Jose’s Defense
This is a group of great talent who did not allow the Los Angeles Kings to score more than three goals in any of the five games of the Battle of California series.
San Jose’s Goaltender, Martin Jones had just won his first playoff series as a starter and posted a .912 save percentage and a 2.18 goals against average. But many times,with the assistance of some of the best defensive players in the league, the puck will not even reach Jones.
Paul Martin, Justin Braun, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Brent Burns are all names that do not go unnoticed for San Jose’s defense. Together, all of San Jose’s defense combined for a total of 115 blocked shots in the first round of the playoffs.
The San Jose Shark’s first line forwards have become incredibly dangerous and a force to be reckoned with. During the Battle of California series, on numerous occasions would this line would start a period and score within a few minutes or less.
This first line is so dangerous that both they combine for over 300 points that include numbers from defensemen Brent Burns and Paul Martin..
But points are also spread across the depth chart. Second line forwards Jonas Donskoi, Joel Ward, and Logan Couture. combine for 115 points, while third-liners Patrick Marleau, Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson combine for another 84.
Even the goaltender position has depth. San Jose has a fantastic backup option in James Reimer in the case Martin Jones goes down or out.
4. Youthful Talent + Experienced Leadership
Shark’s general manager, Doug Wilson, had once said his goal to restructure this team was to bring in young talent coupled with veteran experience. That is exactly what he did.
Over the last few years, Wilson had brought in young players, Jonas Donskoi, Chris Tierney, Matt Nieto, Melker Karlsson, and Tomas Hertl. Many of the players play a great role in adding a much needed depth to the Sharks third and fourth lines. This is especially true for Tomas Hertl, who was promoted to the first line with two veteran Joe’s.
We also must not count out the value of rookie Jonas Donskoi. He scored two in game 5 last week, including the game winning goal in the third period.
Wilson’s second part of his goal had been fulfilled by keeping those veterans who would prove to be great leaders and set examples for the youth. Joe Thornton, Logan Couture, Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are all players whom the entire Sharks organization have the utmost respect.
Veteran Joe Pavelski does not get left out of the picture, though. There is a reason, head coach Peter DeBoer gave Pavelski the title as captain, everyone loves him and respects, and him, and he is an overall fantastic hockey player.
The Nashville Predators finished off the Anaheim Ducks in game seven on Wednesday night. With very little rest, they had to board the plane from Anaheim to San Jose and be ready to play another series versus San Jose.
Meanwhile, the San Jose Sharks have been able to rest up for the last week after beating the Kings in five games.
With great rest comes great responsibility, though. A team that gets the opportunity to receive a week’s rest between series must capitalize that opportunity and not be caught sleeping on their next matchup.
San Jose chose to capitalize. Upon returning home from the LA series, the Sharks took to the practice rink and began preparing for the next series with full drills and every player accounted for.
Given the above reasons, if San Jose can keep their teamwork together as they did versus Los Angeles, they should be able to beat Nashville and advance to the Western Conference Finals. San Jose 4 – Nashville 2
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