Anaheim Ducks (Pacific – 2) vs San Jose Sharks (Pacific – 3)
In four games against the Ducks during the 2017-18 season, the Sharks took three of them. They may have taken advantage of a beat up Ducks team, but the Sharks are capable of doing the same in the first round of the playoffs.
Three out of the four games went to a shootout. The first one of those, turned into a 2-1 Sharks win. Ryan Miller looked unstoppable making 44 saves on 45 shots, but Joel Ward found the back of the net halfway through the third period. In the sixth round of the shootout, Joonas Donskoi snuck one past Miller to win it for the Sharks.
Antoine Vermette sealed the deal for the Ducks in a shootout in the second meeting between both California teams. The shootout hero for the Sharks in the first game, Joonas Donskoi scored both San Jose goals in this one, his last being the goal that sent it into extra time. In the ninth round of the shootout, Vermette ended it, sealing Reto Berra’s first win as a Duck as the goaltender made 40 saves on 42 shots.
The only game not to be decided by a shootout was a 6-2 win for San Jose. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Labanc, Mikkel Boedker (2), Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson all scored to send San Jose to a 2-1 season-series lead. Backup goaltender Aaron Dell made 33 saves on 35 shots for the Sharks as well.
San Jose’s third win came of course, via shootout, by a score of 3-2. After Ondrej Kase and Cam Fowler gave the Ducks a 2-0 lead, Logan Couture and Timo Meier both scored in the third period. Meier’s goal came with 53 seconds left to send the game into OT. The game went to a shootout where again Couture scored as well as Joe Pavelski to clinch the series for the Sharks.
Anaheim Ducks – 44-25-13
After winning the Pacific division last year and falling two games short of the Stanley Cup final, the Ducks could be that team that surprises everyone and goes all the way. They have most of the same roster as last year and as strong veteran core.
The Ducks finished with 101 points (44-25-13) and were the 4th best team in the NHL in goals against with a 2.55 average. Anaheim fell in the bottom 10 with a 17.8% power play efficiency but they did have the 5th best penalty kill at 83.2%.
The Ducks however had the sixth fewest shot attempts per game (30.2) and gave up the seventh most shot attempts on the year (33.1).
Anaheim haven’t had one or two players stand out on the score sheet with their highest point production coming from Rickard Rakell (69 points). This stems from the team not being able to stay healthy.
Ryan Getzlaff (56GP), Corey Perry (71GP), Jakob Selferberg (77GP), Cam Fowler (67GP), Ryan Kessler (44GP) and Kevin Bieksa (59GP) have all missed significant time.
Goaltender John Gibson has also missed time this year starting in 60 games but winning 31 of those starts, a career record, along with his best SV% of his career at .923%.
The Ducks are banged up heading into the playoffs, with Gibson, Getzlaf and Fowler all entering the post-season with injuries. The Ducks did make a point of adding veteran goaltender Ryan Miller in the off-season with Gibson having injury issues in the past.
Through 21 starts this year Miller held a 12-6-6 record and a .928 SV% and 2.35 GAA. If the Ducks can get some of their key players back and keep them healthy they could have the veteran leadership and experience to go far into the playoffs. If not they could be too worn down to make it past the first round.
San Jose Sharks – 45-27-10
The San Jose Sharks are another one of those teams that could creep their way into the Western Conference finals. They have a solid veteran core like the Ducks, but the addition of Evander Kane may be what puts them over the top.
Kane has put up a total of 54 points on the year (29G-25A). But his trade to San Jose at the deadline has seemed to spark something explosive in the winger. Since being traded in February, Kane has scored nine goals and added five assists for 14 points in 17 games as a Shark.
Brent Burns (67), Joe Pavelski (66), and Logan Couture (61) provided a ton of depth scoring with all three reaching 60+ points. They have a solid top six line-up especially when Kane is back from an arm injury and be ready for the playoffs.
The Sharks have been one of the best defensive teams this year. They’ve given up the sixth-fewest shot attempts per game in league with a 30.3 average, along with giving up the ninth fewest goals against with a per game average of 2.76.
San Jose has the second-best penalty kill at 84.8%, just behind the Kings. Their power play, however, is right around the middle of league average at 20.6%.
Goaltending has been sharp for the Sharks this year but not outstanding. Martin Jones sported a 30-22-6 record through 60 starts this year, with a .915 SV% and a 2.55 GAA.
Backup Aaron Dell started 22 games for San Jose this year winning 15 of those starts. His numbers weren’t too far from Jones’ with a .913 SV% and a 2.64 GAA.
The Sharks have a solid defence and can show some explosiveness offensively. Will they return to the finals like they did a few years ago?
Much like the Ducks if they can stay healthy and their veteran players can contribute at a level they’re capable of then I believe they could go as far as they want. It will be difficult for either of these California teams to get past a Nashville or Winnipeg squad, but regardless it should make for one hell of a first round.
I see the Sharks edging out the Ducks with a healthier and slightly younger roster.
My Prediction: Sharks in 7 games.