The San Jose Sharks took Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Nashville Predators. They’ll hit the road with a 2-0 series lead into Games 3 and 4 at Bridgestone Arena. But there are some concerns in a series that has been close despite San Jose emerging with victories in the first two games.
San Jose won two consecutive games at SAP Center. Their home record (18-20-3) in the 2015-16 season was mediocre. Besides Sharks fans, who else would’ve thought this would be possible?
Let’s take a look at Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
The Sharks defeated the Predators 5-2 last Friday.
Nashville struck first, causing San Jose to trail 1-0 after two periods. The home team couldn’t generate any goals in the first 40 minutes, but overcame their sluggish start. They exploded in the third period with five goals, two of which came from the power play.
Special teams were a huge factor in the Sharks’ success.
In the series opener, Nashville outshot San Jose 39-25 and outhit them 46-26. The Predators put a brilliant goaltender, Pekka Rinne, in net. Rinne made 33 saves and blocked plenty of shots made by the Sharks.
The Sharks didn’t play their best 60 minutes, but came out of Game 1 with a 5-2 win over the Predators. It was nice to know San Jose didn’t slow down despite not playing for a week after clinching their first-round series against the Los Angeles Kings.
However, the Sharks shouldn’t continually put themselves in this position. San Jose needs to take an early lead in a game or two in their second-round series. They can’t always wait to make a comeback late in a game.
San Jose needs to try to play their best hockey because they’re the underdogs, not the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, and certainly not a physical team like the rival Los Angeles Kings.
Even if San Jose was a consistent team, they shouldn’t slack off. Look at what happened to the Blackhawks and Kings this year. They were both eliminated by the humble Sharks and Blues, which most likely ruined your NHL bracket.
Let’s look at Game 2 now.
The Sharks beat the Predators 3-2 on Sunday.
San Jose took a 2-0 series lead, but it wasn’t a dominant performance.
Neither team capitalized on the power play in the first period and the contest was scoreless after 20 minutes.
The Sharks finally opened the scoring on the power play with 1:24 left in the second period. Logan Couture slammed a rebound past Pekka Rinne to give his team a 1-0 lead.
The Predators tied the contest 1-1 at 12:56 of the third period, thanks to a snap shot by Mattias Elkholm that beat Martin Jones.
However, Team Teal bounced back with two goals. Joe Pavelski scored the go-ahead goal with 2:40 remaining to break the tie. Less than two minutes later, Joe Thornton followed with an insurance goal, an empty-net goal after Rinne was pulled, his second of the playoffs.
Jones made a couple of great saves, but after further review, Ryan Johansen’s goal was good. The Predators pulled within one with just four seconds left in regulation, but it wasn’t enough.
The Sharks escaped with a 3-2 win over the Predators in Game 2, taking a 2-0 series lead to Tennessee. San Jose went 1-2 on the power play.
Pekka Rinne is a great goaltender who can make quality saves and handle the puck efficiently. Since Game 6 of the first round, Rinne has a 1.79 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.
Therefore, the Sharks cannot play like this in Nashville.
First off, the Predators have home ice advantage.
Next, the Predators won their first two games against the Anaheim Ducks, taking a 2-0 lead for the first time in franchise history. About 86 percent of teams that win the first two games of a seven-game series historically prevail, just like Nashville did against Anaheim. The Predators are now in the same dilemma, losing the first two games at SAP Center to return to Nashville down by two. The difference in this series so far is that San Jose has made the plays when it needed them, like Pavelski’s rebound goal with 2:40 left in the third.
Nashville did a sufficient job of generating high quality scoring chances, but the Predators need to hunt for rebounds like the Sharks did on Sunday.
The Sharks are a good road team, finishing 28-10-3 at the end of the regular season, but third period comebacks don’t always happen. They must play a complete, 60 minute game — Grab an early lead and sustain it. Win faceoffs, capitalize on man advantages, and just shoot the puck.
Game 3 is Tuesday at 8:00 pm CT on TVA, USA.
Game 4 is Thursday at 8:00 pm CT on CNBC, TVA.