Pregame Skate: Sharks look to join low-seeded road warriors

By Brian Stubits |

7:30 ET, San Jose at St. Louis, Game 2 (CNBC)

Before the playoffs began I came across this little piece from contributor Ray Ratto ranking the playoff series. He warned people of the Bay Area that while it was nice and all having the Sharks in the playoffs, this series was likely going to be a snoozer.

If Game 1 was an indication, I'm thinking it has a bit more juice than advertised. It was one of four Game 1s that needed overtime to settle the score, but it was the first and only one so far that need a second overtime. All of that bonus hockey, how can that not be great?

The question before the playoffs that everybody had regarding St. Louis was if it could actually produces enough offense. Well even though they only scored two goals in more than 80 minutes, they didn't have a problem shooting the puck. That's some generation of offense. They fired a total of 42 shots on Antti Niemi in Game 1. Keep up those shot totals and, well, I have my doubts Niemi be able to keep that level up. He might, but I'd take my chances he doesn't.

Still, who thought we'd see Niemi outplaying Jaroslav Halak in this series? There is no better way to steal games on the road than with goaltending. If they get that again from Niemi, the Sharks can put the Blues in the same hole as other top seeds in Pittsburgh and Vancouver.

3 ET, Washington at Boston, Game 2 (NBC)

Game 1 was scoreless until the 62nd minute of the night. A contributing factor to that was that the teams had 47 shots in the game. Combined. The Capitals only contributed 17 of those shots. Let me frame it this way, in almost 62 minutes the Caps had nine fewer shots on goal than the Devils had in the first period in Florida on Friday.

This isn't completely new for the Caps, they have been outshot a lot this season, particularly under coach Dale Hunter. If you are looking for answers as to why the Caps' offense was middle of the road this season with some of the scorers they employ, that would be reasons 1, 2 and 3 to look at. Understanding full well that Tim Thomas is excellent, particularly on shots from the outside, the Caps would still be wise to just fire some more pucks, don't always look for the extra pass.

Of course, when the Bruins are on their game, they aren't going to give up a lot of shots to any team. They possess the puck well and are very tough -- both physically and difficulty wise.

The biggest surprise of Game 1 was probably the Bruins' offense failure to score on Caps goaltender Braden Holtby. A lot of people in Washington are very excited about his future from the glimpses he has shown in the last two seasons, and performances like Game 1 will only convert more fans. Washington could use another performance like that from Holtby if they want to take one win out of Boston.

7 ET, Ottawa at Rangers, Game 2 (NBC Sports Network)

It was a short stretch in the third period that put Game 1 to bed for the Rangers. Outside of that, the Senators weren't that far off. There's your fountain of optimism going into Game 2 if you're Ottawa, they just fell asleep behind the wheel for a couple of minutes and things went bad.

Now keep in mind that it's coachspeak and all that, but don't think John Tortorella didn't notice the Sens weren't that far off from competing with the Rangers.

The Rangers were led in Game 1 by the guys who are supposed to lead. It's always nice when a plan comes together like that. Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik had 10 of the Rangers' 31 shots. It shouldn't surprise that they each scored a goal, too. Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan contributed four more shots and the two other goals.

It's kind of nice to see that one home team handled their business on their own ice like they should have in Game 1. The Rangers are pretty much the only top seed to actually look the part so far, which makes you wonder; can the Sens make this one a series today too?

10 ET, Chicago at Phoenix, Game 2 (NBC Sports Network)

Your daily reminder/warning: Don't sleep on the Coyotes. It's very easy to do so, everybody did during the preseason and continued to do so through most of the year, but this team is tough. Just in case Chicago might have felt good before this series began playing a team with fewer points than them, the first game was a wakeup call.

Really there wasn't a whole lot that went wrong for the Blackhawks in Game 1. They played their game, Jonathan Toews came back and contributed. They just couldn't beat Mike Smith and Cory Crawford wasn't good enough. If there is an edge in this series that favors the Coyotes, that's where. It lies, in goal.

Normally home-ice advantage and Phoenix never go together. The exception is the playoffs. They make the building rock and did so again on Thursday. I have a feeling the crowd will be even more juiced if they smell blood in the water, i.e. strike first on Saturday night.

You don't get the feeling that this series is over at all if the Blackhawks fall down 0-2 on Saturday night. They have three games to play at home still in this series. But I wouldn't suggest they try and find out.

Daily miscellany

  • Best of Friday
  • This is interesting. Jets coach Claude Noel supposedly had a very honest conversation with a fan, who relayed what the coach said. Some harsh takes, but did it happen? (Globe & Mail)
  • Are the Flyers in the Penguins' heads? Flyers chairman Ed Snyder thinks so. (CSN Philly)
  • Lastly, we've seen a lot of highlights in the playoffs, but what about the bloopers? Florida's Scottie Upshall provided this one Friday night.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

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