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(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (2) San Jose Sharks

by Adam Kimelman
Seeds: No. 1 vs. No 2; Canucks beat the Blackhawks in seven games in the first round, and then beat the Predators in six games in the second round. Sharks beat the Kings in six games in the first round, then beat the Red Wings in seven games in the second round.

The top two teams in the Western Conference collide with a berth in the Stanley Cup Final as the prize. The big question could be which team's superstars step to the fore. Will it be the Sedins, Ryan Kesler and Roberto Luongo for the Canucks? Or can the Sharks' Olympic line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley carry San Jose to its first Final?

Right here, right now: The Canucks won three of four regular-season meetings, but three of the four games were one-goal affairs, including two that went to shootouts. Vancouver showed it could win in San Jose, taking both games at HP Pavilion, including a 6-1 decision Nov. 26. However, San Jose won at Rogers Arena 2-1 in a shootout.

Coulda woulda: Each team survived nearly giving away a 3-0 series lead only to hold on for Game 7 victories. For the Canucks, it came in the first round against the Blackhawks. For the Sharks, they held on for a series win against the Red Wings in the conference semifinals, winning 3-2 in Game 7 on Thursday.

How important to win first game: Each team won Game 1 in its first two series, but both times they won it on home ice. For the Sharks, it will be the first time they open a series on the road since the 2007 conference semifinals.

The great unknown: How will the Canucks handle the pressure of playing this deep into the postseason? They only have threeplayers on their roster -- Mikael Samuelsson, Raffi Torres and Maxim Lapierre -- with conference final experience. The Sharks have been in this position before, but can this group finally get over the hump?

Finish line: The Canucks did just enough to outlast Nashville, with five of six games being one-goal affairs, including a pair of overtime thrillers. The Sharks held on to finally put away the Red Wings, winning a dramatic Game 7 in a series that saw six of seven games decided by one goal.
Contact Adam Kimelman at Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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