The introduction of a salary cap into the National Hockey League has dictated that at some point every team will reach a fork in the road. They may not reach this fork freely, but it will almost certainly alter their path. For the most part the road ahead presents two options: rebuild your team by acquiring prospects and draft picks or sacrifice those same assets for already established players. The later is by far the most risky.
What separates this series from essentially all the others in the 2013 NHL Playoffs is that both the Sharks and the Canucks have chosen to go all-in, taking a last ditch swipe at the Stanley Cup. They are both aging groups, very good regular season teams who have ultimately failed to realize the championship that their corps of players seems to suggest. The Canucks have come to closest but the Sharks have had a couple of close call scenarios as well, although all have ended in disappointment.
All of the moves that both of these teams have made in the past few years have indicated that they are not yet ready to let pass that fading, or somewhat fading chance at the ultimate goal in pro hockey. They have not stockpiled draft picks and prospects nor have they traded their key players for these assets. That would represent a team in rebuild and both the Sharks and the Canucks have made it clear that they are not rebuilding, at least not yet. However, for the Sharks at least that window of opportunity may already have passed.
Vancouver’s goaltending will, as usual, present the biggest story in this series. The recent Cory Schneider injury has once again put a big question mark in the goaltending section of the Canucks’ lineup sheet. Roberto Luongo is a clearly capable backup but Schneider has already been christened the starter in BC. Who starts Game One could be an interesting narrative and one that could dictate the terms of the team’s playoff run. The defence for the Canucks is solid, Jason Garrison, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler and Dan Hamhuis have all had excellent seasons.
The Stars are still present in Vancouver, the Sedins are dangerous as ever and lead a talented forward group. There is a lot of potential in the lineup to break out during these Stanley Cup Playoffs. Look for a player like Zach Kassian to thrive in the playoff atmosphere and put up a couple of extra points. Meanwhile, a healthy Ryan Kesler could make all the difference. Essentially what the Canucks need to make a long playoff run is, one, good goaltending but secondly and most importantly a catalyst. They need a forward, or a couple of them who can elevate their point production at just the right time. It will be interesting to see who, if any, can step up to the plate.
For the Sharks it has been the usual cast who have produced once again this season, although not at the clip they did to start the year. The team came flying out of the gates and everyone wondered whether they could truly be one of the Western Conference favourites. They have slowed down exponentially since that time but still had enough to grab the 6th seed in the Western Conference. As usual for the Sharks it will come down to whether they have figured out how to play playoff hockey yet, something that has seemingly escaped many of there stars in the past.
Joe Pavelski will be a player who San Jose will once again count on to produce big numbers in the playoffs. If Joe Thorton, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture can add sizable stats to that tally then the Sharks definitely have a chance not only to beat the Canucks but to make themselves a legitimate threat as well. Dan Boyle and Brent Burns lead an underrated defensive corps, although one that still pales in comparison to the Canucks. Goaltender Antti Niemi has been here before and knows exactly what is needed of him during the playoffs, but he cannot be counted upon to steal the series.
In a battle of teams looking to go all-in the Canucks have been dealt the better hand. Canucks in 6.
Here’s what our other writers think:
Ben Kerr: Two teams that need to shed the playoff choker label. The Canucks take a step towards doing that by taking out the Sharks. Canucks in 7.
Russel Mackenzie: San Jose’s window might be closing fast, and the Sharks know it. Vancouver knows it too. Look for the Sharks to take their destiny into their own hands. Sharks in 7.
Max Vasilyev: The twins are not as scary as they used to be and the Sharks have always matched up well against ‘Cuver. This is hardly an upset, but Sharks in 6.
Here’s the schedule:
Game One: WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 2013 10:30 P.M SAN JOSE AT VANCOUVER NBCSN, TSN
Game Two: FRIDAY, MAY 3, 2013 10 P.M.SAN JOSE AT VANCOUVER CNBC, TSN
Game Three: SUNDAY, MAY 5, 2013 10 P.M.VANCOUVER AT SAN JOSE NBCSN, TSN
Game Four: TUESDAY, MAY 7, 2013 10 P.M.VANCOUVER AT SAN JOSE CNBC, TSN
*Game Five: THURSDAY, MAY 9, 2013 10 P.M. SAN JOSE AT VANCOUVER TSN
*Game Six: SATURDAY, MAY 11, 2013 TBD VANCOUVER AT SAN JOSE TSN
*Game Seven: MONDAY, MAY 13, 2013 TBD SAN JOSE AT VANCOUVER TSN
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