The San Jose Sharks
The San Jose Sharks are coming off a decisive 4-1 route of the Los Angeles Kings, who many (including myself) expected to go very far in the playoffs. Their big guns are shining with Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, and Joe Thornton making up 5 of the top 6 point scorers on their roster. They have also gotten good goaltending from Martin Jones, who only allowed 11 goals in 5 games against the Los Angeles Kings.
The aspect of the San Jose Sharks that really drives them is their offense. The Predators will have to do their best to shut down Pavelski, Thornton, Couture, and Marleau but even then guys like Joel Ward, Tomas Hertl, and Joonas Donskoi can swim up and bite them. The Sharks have two great defensemen in Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic but beyond that their defensemen play a bit more of a shutdown role and don't have a ton of ability for offense.
This is going to be a hard fought series for the Predators but the Sharks are not quite as deep defensively or as good in goal as the Ducks. Against this Sharks team the Predators will need to lock down the neutral and defensive zone. They should, however, be able to use their speed and create opportunities off the rush much more in this series.
For more information check out these Series Previews by Dan Bradley, Alex Daugherty, and Kristopher Martel:
The Nashville Predators
"PPW embodies an attitude that can unify all driven by a common aspiration, to defy the odds and to "Prove People Wrong." Let them keep doubting, keep writing you off, keep thinking you can't. Doubt never fills you. It fuels you."- PPW Staff
This is part of the mission statement of the popular hockey brand, PPW ("Prove People Wrong") which was started by a couple of kids who were always told they couldn't play college hockey because of one reason or another. If there was ever a statement that embodied this team this is it. The Predators were all but counted out against the Ducks and they come into this series again as the underdogs against the Sharks. Furthermore, guys like Colin Wilson, Paul Gaustad, Shea Weber, and Pekka Rinne were all doubted at one point or another this season by fans, media, or the like and all had big moments against the Ducks and eventually helped the team win the series.
This team might be counted out by outsiders but inside the locker room there is a unifying belief that they can beat anyone if they play their game. They were thrown up against the ropes by a good Anaheim Ducks team who took three straight games and then responded by taking the next two to win the series. This Predators team doesn't get discouraged and they don't let being underdogs change their mentality. They embrace the doubt and the challenge and let it fuel them.
Despite being underdogs yet again, this is a match up that the Predators like much more than the Ducks. My dad, who is in San Diego this week, met one of the Predators' professional scouts (who was at the Anaheim game the night before) in a hotel yesterday and he said as much. Furthermore, the Predators 2-0-1 record against the Sharks this season shows this and, quite frankly, Nashville was the better team in all of those games. Anything can happen in the playoffs but you can bet that there is a strong belief from the Nashville Predators that they can and will come out on top in this series.
All stats found using NHL.com.