THE SANTA CLARA
May 12, 2016
Although the San Jose Sharks have not yet advanced to the Western Conference Finals of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they should be considered the new favorite to win the Cup.
Joe Pavelski has been one of the best players in the playoffs. The center has the second-most goals in the postseason with eight, to go along with his four assists. Pavelski has been the unquestioned emotional leader, firing up the team more and more with every goal he scores. As captain, Pavelski has done everything his team has asked of him and turned the Sharks into a true contender.
Although the Sharks are only the third seed in the Pacific Division, they have gotten hot in the playoffs. Perhaps the most important factor in making a deep playoff run in hockey is having a goaltender who is feeling it, which the Sharks certainly have with Martin Jones. He is tied for second in playoff wins this season and boasts a 91.8 save percentage while allowing only 2.27 goals per game.
The Sharks will face the Nashville Predators at home on Thursday night.Their home dominance in the series should guide them past Nashville. Getting past the Western Conference Finals will be challenging, but the Sharks have been playing better than either of the top two teams from the Central Division. Pretty much the only thing St. Louis has going for them is their own hot goaltender, Brian Elliott, who almost single-handedly beat the Chicago Blackhawks. In the series against Dallas, they have not gotten the production they need from star goal-scorer Vladimir Tarasenko. The Stars have not been able to find a good source of consistent goal-scoring either, critical at this point in the playoffs.
Jamie Benn has been outstanding at facilitating offense, but they will need him or Patrick Sharp to step up as a scorer, something that has not yet happened in these playoffs.
If the Sharks can advance to the Stanley Cup Finals, they will most likely face the Lightning. Tampa Bay has looked really good and will be very rested heading into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Penguins. The series between Washington and Pittsburgh has been a war of attrition, lasting a long, brutal six games.
The Lightning faced a New York Islanders squad that did not pose much of a threat outside of “Johnny Hockey” Tavares and were able to finish them off in a quick five games. The extra rest will prove critical in the East. Tampa Bay also sports the playoffs’ leading goal-scorer with Nikita Kucherov, 5’ 8” offensive speedster Tyler Johnson and reliable goaltender Ben Bishop.
However, if the Lightning and Sharks do meet in the 2016 Stanley Cup Finals, San Jose should have the upper-hand. The Sharks posted the best regular season road record in the league and have been dominant at home throughout the playoffs. San Jose is looking like the best team in hockey and at this rate they can’t be stopped.
Bo Kendall is a freshman communication major.