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Instant Analysis: Preds Rematch with Sharks in Postseason

by Thomas Willis / Nashville Predators

Following a win in the first Game Seven in franchise history, the Nashville Predators advance to Round Two to face the San Jose Sharks, who defeated the Los Angeles Kings in their First Round series. The series begins on Friday night at the SAP Center in San Jose.

Date Time (CT)
Location TV Info
Tickets
Friday, April 29 9:30 pm SAP Center NBCSN Game 1
Sunday, May 1 7:00 pm SAP Center NBCSN Game 2
Tuesday, May 3 8:00 pm Bridgestone Arena USA Game 3
Thursday, May 5 8:00 pm Bridgestone Arena CNBC Game 4
Saturday, May 7 9:00 pm SAP Center NBCSN Game 5
Monday, May 9* TBD Bridgestone Arena TBD Game 6
Thursday, May 12* TBD SAP Center TBD Game 7

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*If necessary

Below, take a look at the Preds and Sharks season series, pivotal matchup points and pertinent stats.


Season Series:

Nashville regular-season record versus San Jose: 2-0-1

Scoring Leaders:

Nashville: Goals: Calle Jarnkrok (3)

Assists: Ryan Johansen, Mike Ribeiro (3)

Points: Shea Weber, Johansen, Ribeiro, Jarnkrok, Filip Forsberg: (3)

San Jose: Goals: Tomas Hertl (2)

Assists: Joe Thornton (3)

Points: Joe Thornton (3)

October 29, 2015, at SAP Center: Predators 2, Sharks 1

Calle Jarnkrok scored his first of three goals against the Sharks during the 2015-16 regular season at 8:52 of the third period, a score that would prove to be the game winner. Pekka Rinne made 21 saves and the Predators won a tight-checking contest that saw Nashville respond to San Jose tying the contest in the final frame with a goal of their own. The two goals for the Predators were actually their first scored in San Jose in more than a year; the visitors were shut out twice by 2-0 scores in their pair of trips to Northern California in 2014-15.

The victory improved the Predators to 7-1-1 on the young campaign and sat them atop the Western Conference at the time.

February 6, 2016, at Bridgestone Arena: Predators 6, Sharks 2

One of the Predators most dominant wins of the season came a few days after Music City had hosted the 2016 NHL All-Star Game, when the home team potted six goals versus the Sharks. Two goals for Viktor Arvidsson and three points for Filip Forsberg erased a three-game home losing streak for the Preds and bestowed a rare road loss to the Sharks.

Acquired exactly a month prior, center Ryan Johansen took in his first taste of the series, recording two assists (he would dish out a third helper in the teams’ next meeting).

“San Jose is a good team, and at times they were outplaying us, but when we were on our game and when we executed, we finished off plays,” Johansen said after the game. “You could see the smiles on guys and the confidence growing from that. So it was fun out there tonight.”

“Confidence is a contagious thing, and you can get on a little bit of a roll. We have to make sure [we keeping improving],” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said.

April 2, 2016, at Bridgestone Arena: Sharks 3, Predators 2 (SO)

The final, and therefore most recent meeting between the two clubs, brings to mind more what could have been for the Predators rather than what was. Skating with a 2-0 lead in the third period, Nashville saw Sharks forward Tomas Hertl tally twice in roughly an eight-minute span to send the game to overtime. A rare shootout loss for the home club then followed with Logan Couture netting the winner, and the Predators settling for a single point in the standings.

Backup goaltenders Carter Hutton and James Reimer faced off in the contest with Nashville’s netminder making 38 saves and Reimer 28 (including a perfect three-for-three in the breakaway competition).

“We have to play better than we did tonight,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said. “We weren’t ready to work. We have to work from the start to the finish, and the results, I think, reflected that. The good thing is, this week coming up, we have some practices, and we can get back to working on some things, push the pace, and look to straighten things out.”

Analysis:

Road Warriors: The Sharks claimed an NHL-leading 28 wins away from their home ice in 2015-16. In the postseason, all they’ve done is go into the Staples Center and win all three contests versus the 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup Champion Kings.

Nashville, on the other hand, stole three victories in the hostile environment of the Honda Center in their First Round matchup. The Sharks and Preds both won on the other’s home ice during the regular-season series, so seeing who wins the most while wearing white could go a long way in determining the Round Two winner.

“I think when you’re on the road, you see a greater challenge presented to you. You walk into the building that’s a hostile environment and the odds are more in the home team’s favor, so I guess you get up for those games a little more,” Preds blueliner Ryan Ellis said. “I think we’re going to have to appreciate each game at home or on the road and do whatever we can to win.”

“Sometimes I think the pressure is on the [home team], like in our [Game Seven] versus Anaheim,” Preds goalie Carter Hutton said. “We get the lead and then we’re just laying the pressure on them, they have the pressure to try and come back. For us, I think we’ve found a little bit of comfort being on the road, but of course at the same time, being at home in front of the home crowd is nice; to feed off that energy when things are going well. I think we’re comfortable on the road at this point, and both teams have really shown they can win anywhere.”

Goaltender Arrives: Goaltending is always a focal point during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Preds and Sharks Second Round series should fall right in line.

Martin Jones is the man in goal for San Jose, posting impressive numbers during his first year as a starting netminder in the NHL, just his third year in the League overall. After serving in a backup role to Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles from 2013-15, Jones was traded to Boston by Los Angeles as part of the deal that sent Milan Lucic from the Bruins to the Kings on June 26, 2015. But four days later, San Jose acquired the goaltender from Boston for Sean Kuraly and San Jose's first-round choice in the 2016 NHL Draft. Suddenly, the Sharks had a new goaltender who they believed could be a starter in the NHL.

Jones went 37-23-4 in net with a 2.27 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage through 65 games in the 2015-16 regular season, including a Sharks franchise record for the longest shutout streak, going 234:33 without allowing a goal back in October. In the current postseason, Jones is 4-1 and allowed no more than three goals in a single game on the way to defeating the Kings in five games.

Pekka Rinne is the constant on the Nashville side, stopping 62 of 64 shots combined in Games Six and Seven, allowing just one puck past him on each occasion. Rinne is 4-3 in these current playoffs with a .915 save percentage.

“If you think about what Pekka did in this series; you need to win four hockey games to get out and move on, and the four games he won, he was spectacular,” Head Coach Peter Laviolette said of Rinne’s performance against the Ducks. “That’s why we’re moving on.”

Past Success: The winner of their season series with the Sharks, some amount of confidence has to be instilled in the Predators going into their Round Two meeting. A 6-2 victory in February over San Jose included resiliency, offense and a rare home win over the League’s best road team. Coming right off a Game Seven triumph over the Pacific Division Champion Anaheim Ducks might be the predominate catalyst in the Predators momentum going into their series with the Sharks. Both Nashville goaltenders said they see their win in the franchise’s first Game Seven as a moment to rally from.

“I think confidence-wise, it’s huge. It changes everything,” Carter Hutton said. “Being able to know we can win in tough situations with our backs against the wall, whether it’s at home or on the road, that’s huge. We’re going to go into a pretty hostile environment. The Shark Tank can be pretty loud; I was with them five or six years ago for a playoff run and it was pretty crazy there. It’s something that’s going to be fun, and I think the challenge is one we’re going to be up to.”

The Sharks aren’t without their scrapbook moment this spring either, however. The underdog team from Northern California knocked off the Kings in five games in the first round, ensuring a team other than Los Angeles or Chicago will win the Stanley Cup for the first time in the last five years. Up front, the recipe for success is similar to what it has been for the past decade in San Jose, with center Joe Thornton again leading the way offensively.

“They each kind of bring something a little different, they’re all superstars in their own right,” Ellis said of the Sharks’ forward trio. “Joe Pavelski can shoot it, Joe Thornton can pass and Patrick Marleau has speed and can kind of do a bit of both. They’re great players, they’ve been in the League a long time, and I’ve been watching them for a long time when I was younger. We’re going to have to be on our game. They have some younger guys like Tomas Hertl that are very talented as well, so going forward, we’re going to have to be sharp and rise to the occasion.”

Moment of the Series: Feb. 6, 2016: Mike Ribeiro becomes the 300th NHLer all-time - and 22nd active player - to skate in his 1,000th NHL game. The 16-year veteran is the only current player in the League to record 12 consecutive seasons of 45 or more points.

Game of the Series: The Predators 6-2 win over the Sharks on Feb. 6 was something of a turning point for the club coming out of the All-Star Break. Six days later the Preds would embark on their franchise-record, 14-game point streak that saved the season by putting Nashville back into a postseason-qualifying spot. Viktor Arvidsson’s spin move at the blue line and then top-shelf shot without any feet on the ice sprung the game open for the Predators in the middle period.

X-Factors: Home success (San Jose); Pekka Rinne (Nashville)

The Sharks were the NHL’s best road team at 28-10-3, but were under .500 at home (18-20-30). With the first two games of the series being played in San Jose, can the Sharks use the passion of the Shark Tank to right their shaky stats in their own barn? (The Sharks were 1-1 at home in their First Round victory over the Los Angeles Kings).

The difference in Games Six and Seven for the Predators vesus the Ducks? Pekka Rinne making 62 saves and guiding his team to 3-1 and 2-1 triumphs over Anaheim. The Finnish goalie looked shaky at times during the team’s three-straight losses in Round One, but when his club locked things down in front of him in the latter part of the series, so did he, and the Predators moved on because of it.

History: The Predators and Sharks have met twice before in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. San Jose took out Nashville in five games in consecutive postseasons in the Four-Five matchup in the Western Conference in 2006 and 2007.

Preds Captain Shea Weber is the only remaining member on Nashville’s current roster to have faced the Sharks in the playoffs before. Four San Jose Sharks are still with the club from the 2007 playoff matchup: Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

In the regular season, Nashville posted a 13-3-5 record versus the Pacific Division. Including the playoffs, the Predators are 17-6-5 against the Pacific.

Games Three, Four and Six* (*if necessary) will be played at Bridgestone Arena. Buy Tickets


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