In what will be their first ever meeting in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Canucks and San Jose Sharks get set to meet each other in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals tonight at Rogers Arena.
The Canucks went 3-0-1 in four regular season meetings with the Sharks, out-scoring their Bay Area rivals 15-9. Daniel Sedin (2g,4a), Henrik Sedin (1g,4a), and Alex Burrows (3g.1a) led Vancouver in head-to-head scoring while Dany Heatley (1g,3a), Ryane Clowe (3g), and Joe Thorton (3a) led San Jose.
Roberto Luongo is the fourth goalie in the NHL’s expansion era (since 1968) to record shut-outs in the first game of back-to-back playoff series in the same year.
Luongo went 1-0-1 against San Jose with a combined 0.96 GAA and .975 save percentage. Lifetime he is 7-10-3 against the Sharks, a team he has never shut out. In fact, it’s been ten years since the Canucks held San Jose off the scoreboard. The last Vancouver goalie to shut out the Sharks was Bob Essensa in a 0-0 tie on Feb. 8, 2001.
Ryan Kesler enters this series leading the NHL playoffs in scoring (5g,10a). Kesler made franchise history in the Western Conference Semi Finals against the Nashville Predators when he became the first Canucks player to register four straight multi-point games in one playoff year.
This is Vancouver’s third trip to a conference final, with the two previous coming in 1982 vs Chicago and 1994 vs Toronto. Only three players on the Canucks line-up have appeared in a conference final prior to this year, including Mikael Samuelsson (Detroit), Maxim Lapierre (Montreal), and Raffi Torres (Edmonton).
Having not played since their 2-1 victory last Monday, the Canucks took the opportunity this week to rest a handful of players who are battling through injuries. Samuelsson is not expected to start this series. Based on the optional morning skate, Victor Oreskovich is expected to draw into the line-up while Jeff Tambellini is likely going to be a healthy scratch.
The Sharks enter this series having allowed the most goals against of any team in the NHL playoffs (38). As a road team in the post season, they are first in the league in goals for (24) and last in goals against (21).
Despite having the most power plays of any team in the playoffs (51), San Jose has scored just seven times, giving them a success rate of 13.7%. They have yet to allow a short-handed goal against in 13 playoff games.
San Jose made it to last year’s Western final where they wound up being eliminated in four straight by the Chiacgo Blackhawks. Their only previous appearance in a conference final was 2004 when they lost in six games to the Calgary Flames.
The Sharks have three players on their line-up who have won the Stanley Cup. They are goalie Antti Niemi and forward Ben Eager (Chicago-2010) and defenceman Dan Boyle (Tampa Bay-2004).