Full NHL brackets, schedule
The San Jose Sharks, a franchise celebrating their 20th season in existence, often see their postseasons run through Hockeytown USA. This is their fifth postseason meeting overall and the second consecutive season the clubs have met in the second round. (The Sharks advanced in five games a season ago.) The teams have split the four playoff series overall, which stretches back to the Sharks’ seven-game upset of the Wings in 1994. But San Jose coach Todd McLellan, a former assistant with the Wings, asked not to read much into the prologue.
“One of our biggest jobs as a coaching staff is to separate last year from this year,” McLellan told reporters this week. “We are a very different team when you look at our goaltending, the blue line and the forwards we’ll be using. That lineup will definitely be different. The circumstances are different. If we reach too far back to those experiences last year in that playoff series, we’ll be trailing before we know it.”
Here’s the breakdown:
Forwards: After sweeping the Phoenix Coyotes, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and his coaching staff have experimented with different lines in practice. It’s a luxury --- now that Henrik Zetterberg , who missed the first round with a lower-body injury, is healthy --- rather than a necessity. The Wings will also have the services of playoff beast Johan Franzen, who missed the final game of the first round with an ankle injury. Pavel Datsyuk, who had injury woes of his own in the regular season, was a force in the first round with six points (two goals, four assists). Sharks captain Joe Thornton may have shed – or maybe at least shrunk --- the notion he’s an underperformer in the playoffs. He scored in OT of Game 6 as the Sharks clinched the series against the Los Angeles Kings. Hardnosed Ryane Clowe led the Sharks in scoring (seven points) in the first round. The Sharks have also gotten decent secondary scoring from Kyle Wellwood and Torrey Mitchell among others.
Defense: Nicklas Lidstrom is, well, still Niclkas Lidstrom. This is his 19th season in the league and it might not just be a coincidence this is the Wings 20th consecutive season in the playoffs. Now that defensive partner Brian Rafalski is healthy, they’ll be the best 1-2 combo in the series. San Jose will counter with Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle. But the most productive pairing of the first round was Niclas Wallin and Ian White. White, who missed a game with a concussion, still managed to lead all Sharks defenders in scoring with five points.
Edge: Red Wings
Goalies: Jimmy Howard was in net last season as a rookie when the Wings fell to the Sharks. Now, he doesn’t have the luxury of a tested backup since Chris Osgood is done for the year after hernia surgery. He stopped .915 percent of the shots he saw in the first round. After letting Evgeni Nabokov walk last offseason, the Sharks signed Antti Niemi. He hasn’t been on top of his game ---and nowhere close where he was when he led the Chicago Blackhawks to the title a season ago -- but he has the faith of McLellan. Niemi was yanked twice in the first round and finished the series with a horrid goals-against average (3.99) and mediocre save percentage (.863). On the plus side, Antero Niittymaki was solid in relief.
Special teams: The Wings had a success rate of 26.7 percent in the first round, the second-best rate among teams who made it to the second round. Detroit, however, struggled on the kill. The Wings allowed six goals on 18 shorthanded opportunities for a 66.7 kill percentage, the worst of the 16 playoff teams. Maybe the Wings’ PK is just what the Sharks need to kick start their moribund power play. San Jose scored only twice in 23 trips to the power play (8.7 percent). San Jose got better after a shaky start on the kill against the Kings as the series progressed, highlighted by a five-minute kill that stretched from the end of regulation and into OT in Game 6.
Edge: Red Wings
Prediction: The Sharks are still (barely) in the stage where they are a year more experienced rather than just a year older. Niemi should be able to rebound from his shaky first-round performance and the Sharks will eventually break out of their power play malaise. The Sharks should win this in six.
|No. 2 San Jose vs. No. 3 Detroit - Series tied, 0-0|
|April 29||at SJ||10 p.m.|
|May 1||at SJ||3 p.m.|
|May 4||at DET||8 p.m.|
|May 6||at DET||7 p.m.|
|* May 8||at SJ||8 p.m.|
|* May 10||at DET||TBA|
|* May 12||at SJ||TBA|
-- A.J. Perez