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Inside the Cage: #DuckHunted

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

And on the eighth day, the Sharks rested.

In the span of exactly one week San Jose won four pressure-packed games against a big, strong, veteran, postseason-tested rival to advance beyond the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the 13th time. It marked only the second time in 37 all-time playoff series' that the hosts swept an opponent.

"Any time you sweep a team it's a lot closer than you realize," Sharks captain Joe Pavelski said. "There were some key moments guys made some big plays. Definitely it gives us confidence we can win."

As important as closing out the Anaheim Ducks with a 2-1 victory in Game 4 on Wednesday at SAP Center is the fact the Sharks matched what their next opponent accomplished when Vegas dispatched the Los Angeles Kings in a minimum amount of games as well. Earning the same rest as the Golden Knights puts San Jose on similar footing in preparation to face the surprising expansion team in Round 2 next week.

"You never expect sweep, you always want sweep," Sharks alternate captain Logan Couture said. "You always want to win every game you play. They're a very good team over there. They didn't have their best in a few games. We took advantage of that and it's good to get some rest now."

With Vegas looming on the horizon, here's what went right to allow the Sharks to beat an Anaheim team they met for only the second time in postseason.

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Inside the Cage: All is Fehr

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

When asked after scoring a late regular-season goal against Detroit - his first as a Shark - Eric Fehr said he couldn't recall his last NHL goal, which came at Montreal in January of last season while a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

After scoring a highlight-reel doozy during San Jose's 8-1 rout of Anaheim in Game 3 on Monday, Fehr had better recollection of his previous playoff goal.

"That one I do," Fehr said with a smile. "And I don't talk about it around here."

And for good reason.

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Inside The Cage: In The Driver's Seat

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

Just what does it mean that the Sharks are the only team this playoff season to open a series with two wins on the road?

It's certainly meant something positive in the past for San Jose. The three times the Sharks have returned home with a 2-0 lead they've advanced in every instance. And, like this year's match-up against the rival Anaheim Ducks, all three have occurred in the opening round.

The Sharks needed five games to oust Los Angeles in 2016, swept Vancouver in 2013 and survived Calgary in double-overtime of Game 7 way back in 1995.

"We did our job so far. We don't want to look too far ahead," Sharks center Eric Fehr said. "We can't expect it to be easy when we get home. As long as we have the right mindset coming home, that we have to work the same way and play the same game that will be good for us."

"Overconfidence is not part of our DNA," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer added.

The flip side, of course, is the fact Anaheim lost the first two games of a second-round series against Edmonton last spring before rallying back to win four of five to dispatch the young Oilers in seven games.

"They've been in this position before and they have been able to claw their way back into a series," Sharks center Logan Couture said. "We know how important the next game is."

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Inside the Cage: Fourth-Man's Ice

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

A trend that was a point of emphasis from Day 1 of training camp continued Thursday as the Sharks seized Game 1 of a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series with a 3-0 win at Anaheim.

San Jose received key offensive contributions from its defense in the form of a goal, two points and 13 of the team's total of 34 shots on goal. The statistics, however, only represent results of a lot of hard work and a detailed strategy.

With the noticeable shift in how today's NHL is more about speed and skill, the Sharks are among the forerunners in incorporating a system that not only looks for but demands everyone on the blue line adding to the offense.

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Inside the Cage: Playoff Mode - Kane

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

The Stanley Cup playoffs have not been must-watch TV for Evander Kane.

The powerful forward, who re-energized the Sharks since acquired at the trade deadline, kept his remote close by once his regular seasons ended the same way year after year while playing for teams not good enough to reach the postseason.

Sometimes he was a willing viewer, other times he changed the channel. But this spring - finally - he'll be the one being watched.

"It was frustrating seeing what goes on and wanting to be a part of it," Kane said. "That's in the past. I'm looking forward to the future and, I'm looking forward to Game 1."

When Kane lines up alongside captain Joe Pavelski and right wing Joonas Donskoi Thursday night in Anaheim it will mark the first time in nine seasons and 574 games that "regular" gets replaced by "post" before the word "season" in his career log.

"I've said it in the past, I think I'm a playoff player," Kane said. "When I watch the style of play I've been jealous because I wasn't involved in it. Now I get that opportunity so I have to back those words up."

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Inside the Cage: Duck Hunt

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

As any veteran player or coach knows, the first task in preparing to open a Stanley Cup playoff series is to respect the opponent.

With regards to San Jose's Round 1 foe - the Anaheim Ducks - that's pretty easy to do.

"It's a great hockey team," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "They had 101 points and that was without (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Ryan) Kesler for big parts of the season so they're probably a 110-point team at the end of the day. It's going to take 20 guys, four lines and our best effort to have a chance here."

Not enough? How's about this, too.

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Inside The Cage: Five Pivotal Playoff Propelling Moments

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

The Sharks have postseason hockey to look forward to for the 13th time in 14 seasons. And a look back on this 2017-18 regular season reveals the five pivotal segments that propelled a transitioning San Jose roster back to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

ONE:

The Sharks were a pedestrian 4-5 following a 2-1 loss at Boston on Oct. 26. It wasn't the start the team wanted, and there was still one more stop on San Jose's first road trip - a five-game trek through the East in eight nights.

It was a dig-deep 3-2 win over Buffalo - a city the Sharks lost all 11 times before acquiring Joe Thornton in 2005 - that capped a winning trip (three up and two down) before heading home where the Sharks, with one idle day before hosting speedy and talented Toronto, also beat the Leafs 3-2.

A 4-1 win over Nashville and a 2-1 victory over division-rival Anaheim were next. And after a loss to Tampa Bay, the Sharks shut out Vancouver to close out a 4-1 homestand. But they weren't done. On the second night of back-to-back with travel to Los Angeles, San Jose beat the Kings 2-1 to find itself 10-6-0 after the stretch of six wins in seven games.

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Inside The Cage: Five Things About Eight Games

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

The Sharks sat in second place in the Pacific Division with a 36-23-9 record good for 81 points on March 11. While they trailed first-place Vegas by 12 points, the bigger concern was how tightly packed they were with three other division rivals.

San Jose's hold on a playoff spot was precarious at best as it led Anaheim by one point, Los Angeles by two and Calgary by three. The Sharks had the same number of games remaining as the Kings, one more left than Anaheim and two more than Calgary.

A 13th trip in 14 seasons to the Stanley Cup playoffs was anything but assured.

Then the Sharks went out and won eight in a row, and everything changed.

What did San Jose learn about itself during the run from March 12-March 26? Let us count the ways.

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Inside The Cage: Kane's Quest for the Playoffs

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

Evander Kane joked he hopes to be the next Ron Hainsey.

If the finish of Kane's season mirrors that of the veteran defenseman Hainsey's campaign last year, it certainly will be no joke. After having played 907 regular-season games, Hainsey finally reached the postseason for the first time but only after getting dealt from down-and-out Carolina to contending Pittsburgh at the trade deadline.

And, to top it off, Hainsey hit the jackpot in his playoff debut by lifting Lord Stanley's silver chalice when the Penguins won their second straight Stanley Cup.

Kane played 557 games with Atlanta, Winnipeg, and Buffalo before coming to San Jose on Feb. 26, and it appears now he doesn't have much longer to wait to break his personal non-playoff drought.

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Inside the Cage: Wilson's Impressive Track Record

In 1,100 games as general manager, Doug Wilson has sustained success through drafts, trades & free agency

by Ross McKeon @rossmckeon / sjsharks.com

Several months into his first year as general manager, and with the Sharks trailing at 40 minutes on the road, Doug Wilson sat between the two traveling newspaper beat writers.

San Jose rallied with a strong third period before ultimately losing. But the ever-superstitious Wilson made it a habit to sit between the two writers for the remaining of his team's road games all the way through Game 3 of the Western Conference against Calgary.

Wilson has learned a lot since those early days since being named the team's top decision-maker on May 13, 2003. One thing that has not changed during his 1,100 games as San Jose's GM is he believes in what he is doing, and he always puts the franchise first.

"Doug does things his way and doesn't worry about what others say," former hockey executive Wayne Thomas said not long ago after spending 22 years with the Sharks. "And it's hard to argue with his track record."

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