Western Conference Semi-Finals: San Jose Sharks vs. Detroit Red Wings

San Jose Sharks vs. Detroit Red Wings
By Stephanie Lee and Christina Roberts

It’s that time of year again for the fans of the San Jose Sharks to once again pull out their tin foil hats and watch their team face the Detroit Red Wings.  Why you ask do they need tin foil hats? The Detroit Red Wings are the New York Yankees of the National Hockey League. They are virtually untouchable.

Moving on…..

We are looking at a highly anticipated rematch between these two teams. Last season, the Sharks and Red Wings faced off in the second round with the Sharks coming out the victor winning 4-1. Granted, neither team is a carbon copy of last season, losing and acquiring new and key players. Most notably the loss of Evgeni Nabokov for the Sharks, while the Red Wings picked up former division foe Mike Modano.

But what exactly is it that will have the Sharks winning this series? It’s obviously not our stellar goaltending, as we saw in the LA series – Antti Niemi went 4-2 with 3.99 GAA and .863 SV% . Could it be our amazing scoring? Twenty one goals scored by 8 different members of the Sharks. Ryane Clowe picking up 4 of those with Joe Pavelski adding 3 of his own. I’m just not quite sure it will be that amazing talent we are harnessing. Maybe it’s our special teams, you know, with our 8th ranked penalty kill (79.2%). The Sharks have killed off 17 out of 22 possible PKs, allowing the Kings to score only five power play goals.

Although, it just might be Detroit’s year to beat San Jose in this semi finals match up. They practically beat down Phoenix by sweeping them 4-0 in the first round, and all without left winger Henrik Zetterberg. Zetterberg has been out since April 7th with an ankle injury and is prepared to return to the lineup for this series. His 24 goals and 56 assists really makes him an asset for the Wings. Not that they don’t have other capable players to do the job. In fact, they have the amazingly talented Pavel Datysuk, whose 6 points leads the team this postseason. And let’s be real, Jimmy Howard with the .920 SV% and 2.5 GAA.  Don’t count out the Wings and their special teams either, and I’m not talking about their penalty kill (16th in the playoffs at 66.7%); it’s more about their power play: Top 5 on the list, sitting pretty at 4th with 26.7%.

Obviously these teams know what they are doing and what they need to correct. There’s nothing about this series that will be a piece of cake. Detroit has had over a week off and is well rested. They will be roaring and ready to go. I am expecting Game 1 to be full energy, high impact, right from the drop of the puck.

Players you need to watch out for in this series would be Ryane Clowe on San Jose. His four playoff goals leads the Sharks.

I call it San Jose in 7. And that’s only because I am a Sharks fan who is realistic about the strength of the Wings.

Stephanie Lee
NHLHS San Jose Sharks Correspondent
Twitter: @OhMySwed3

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It’s the same second round matchup as last season. For the Red Wings, this must feel like a crazy case of déjà vu, having the same two first rounds as 2010; for San Jose, they must know that despite the similarities between the two seasons, this will not be the same battle as last year.

So why can Detroit win this series? Last year, this team took the Phoenix Coyotes to seven games and immediately after winning, flew to San Jose to play a day and a half later. This year, this team swept Phoenix and has had a week to sit back and watch the rest of the playoffs. This week-long break has given then two key players returning for this second round: Johan Franzen and Henrik Zetterberg. Their return could be pivotal; just look at how well the Red Wings fared last round missing Franzen for one game and Zetterberg for all four.

San Jose’s roster is full of a lot of big, physical players. The Red Wings are known as a not super violent European team. The feisty nature of players like Justin Abdelkader, Niklas Kronwall, and especially Todd Bertuzzi (Drew Miller could be thrown in here, too; he gets in some scraps) will be prevalent to help deter San Jose from roughing up star players like Zetterberg and Datsyuk. Bertuzzi was a key physical player in the first round and if he can keep that up, it would only be a good thing.

But as optimistic as I’d like to be, I have to look at some of the negatives as well.

Remember last year’s matchup and how many five-on-threes the San Jose Sharks had? Remember last round with how many penalties the Red Wings took and how many power play goals Phoenix had? The penalty box will be our downfall. Likewise, if Tomas Holmstrom doesn’t watch himself, I can see his butt being the cause of at least two goals being called off due to “goalie interference” on Niemi.

And while the week of rest may be a good thing for this team, it could also hurt them; game one will show whether rust has formed on the players or if getting back Zetterberg and Franzen will energize them enough. They seem to be mentally in the zone, but I think a week of rest for any team will cause some miniature downfalls.

This is a team that has that imaginary, impossible switch to suddenly play focused, intense playoff hockey. If any team can shake off rust spots after eight days off, it’s the Red Wings.

And since Stephanie made her prediction, I might as well do the same. I’m going with Red Wings in six, though I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets drawn out to seven.

Christina Roberts
NHLHS Detroit Red Wings Correspondent
Twitter: @franzenmuth
Email: christina.roberts@nhlhotstove.com