This is an important playoff series for both teams/organizations because someone will be getting bounced from the first round two years in a row, which means not meeting the high expectations that are set in both dressing rooms. The statistics from the regular season and the matchups have all the makings of a long, tough series. So in the end, what will push one to team victory and send the other to the golf course?
3 Keys to the Series
You need your goalie to be consistent, something Niemi has been all year for the Sharks, and not let in easy or soft game momentum changing goals. It's tough to rebound from a soft goal because it's so hard to score at this time of year. And it's nice if your goalie can steal a game or two. Look at Cup winners over the years and one thing is always front and center ... great goaltending.
2. Don't Be The First To Blink
Someone is going to make more mistakes and show they are frustrated. It could be in the form of taking penalties, turning the puck over, long shifts, or poor defensive coverage. Both teams will have momentum on their side at different junctures of each period and game, it's who handles the ebbs and flows of the game better that has the advantage in this series.
3. Special Teams
It's very difficult to score during the playoffs so special teams really comes to the forefront. The Sharks did not win the special teams battle two years ago against Vancouver and they did not do it last year against St. Louis. Winning the special teams battle will go a long way towards winning the series.