San Jose Sharks Riding Brent Burns and Experience to Series Lead

San Jose Sharks Stanley Cup

The San Jose Sharks lead their second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche 2-1. Entering the series, the Sharks had the decided edge in playoff experience. Still, the Avalanche were able to surprise the top-seeded Calgary Flames in the first round in five games. The Sharks rallied from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Vegas Golden Knights in seven games. The series was billed as youth versus experience. So far, the overall Sharks have been led by their all-star defenceman Brent Burns and used their playoff experience to lead Colorado in the series.

Sharks Riding Brent Burns and Experience

In the first round of the playoffs, the Avalanche knew who they were facing. The Calgary Flames won the Western Conference with 107 points and the Avalanche with 90 points started the series as underdogs. They lost Game 1 but went on to win their next four games. After they got the series tied at one apiece against Calgary, they won Game 3 at home in a convincing 6-2 fashion. Despite the Flames strong regular season, they have not won a playoff series since 2015.

Sharks Playoff Experience Showing

In this series, the Sharks have a clear upper-hand in the experience department. The Sharks playoff experience is incomparable to the one either Calgary or Colorado possesses. The only question ahead of this series was whether they will be able to demonstrate it. They have been able to do that in the opening contests of the series.

In Game 1, the Avalanche started with a ton of energy, but the Sharks weathered the storm and eventually the opening contest. In Game 2, the Avalanche refused to go down easily. After overcoming a tough start to the game, they were flying out on the ice to steal game two. In Game 3, the Sharks played a brilliant road game and dominated it throughout the first two periods. They let the Avalanche tie it up at two, but then the Sharks responded immediately to re-take the lead and claim Game 3 on the road.

Troubles of the Special Teams For Both Teams

The Avalanche started Game 1 after more than a week of rest and practices. They seemingly owned the beginning of that game as they took a 1-0 lead. The Sharks tied it up, but Colorado came back with the power-play strike to open the second frame. It was Colin Wilson´s third goal of the post-season. Shortly afterward, Brenden Dillon was sent to the penalty box for double-minor high sticking penalty. That was a golden chance for the Avalanche to put the game out of reach, perhaps. The Sharks killed it and then an Erik Johnson turnover in the offensive zone changed the complexion of the game.

From that counter-attack, Joe Thornton tied it up for the Sharks and the rest was history, the Avalanche looked shaken up. The key missed power-play opportunity was something that they couldn’t handle. In Game 2, the Sharks started on a high note this time. Tyson Barrie took off in that second period for the Avalanche, as his shot was deflected in by Gabriel Landeskog and later Barrie himself scored his first career playoff goal. He provided another assist to lead the Avs to a 4-3 victory to even up the series.

In Game 3, the Sharks seemed impeccable in the first 30 minutes. Great forecheck, speed and hustle as the Avs looked lost on the ice. After a strong penalty kill, Nathan MacKinnon brought his team with one. In the third frame, Matt Nieto, the former Shark, tied it up with his fourth goal of the playoffs. Nevertheless, the Avs could ride their momentum and lost 2-4. They had four power plays in Game 3 with no success. Overall the Avalanche went one-for-nine on the power play, while the Sharks got on one-for-eight on the man-advantage. Near the whole production came on the even-strength action for either side.

Brent Burns Leading the Way

The best player for the Sharks has been defenceman Brent Burns without any doubt. Burns has had three goals and four assists for seven points and logged a total of 83:42 of the ice-time to lead all the skaters in the series. Colorado has not had an answer for Burns who has been dominant. Brent Burns has been the Sharks driving force for several years, but he seems to have found another level so far in this series.

It was clear before this series started, that the Sharks will most probably be without their captain Joe Pavelski for at least part of the series. Pavelski was not having a strong series against the Vegas Golden Knights, but his leadership is definitely missed in the Sharks locker room. In Pavelski’s absence, other players have stepped up to fill the void.  Logan Couture had just one assist in the first two games in San Jose, but he responded with a hattrick in Game 3 at Pepsi Center.

Timo Meier has awakened for the Sharks, as he has recorded two goals and two assists for four points. Head coach Peter DeBoer gave more of the ice-time to struggling Gustav Nyquist, who scored a goal in Game 1 and recorded another two assists.

Colorado Needs More From Stars

In the first round, the Flames couldn’t handle the combination of Nathan MacKinnon, Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. So far in this series, MacKinnon has scored four points, but his CF% at 49,32 indicates that he hasn’t been such an impactful player as the Avalanche need him to be. The Sharks are doing a tremendous job on guarding MacKinnon. Mikko Rantanen has been very quiet, gathering just two assists in the series while Landeskog is on one goal and one assist.

Colorado is comfortable the most when they are pushing the play. They want to use their speed and skill to overwhelm their opposition. The Sharks have shown they know how to slow down the Av’s stars. That means more is needed from the supporting cast. As of right now, Colorado isn’t getting much help. No points so far from Derick Brassard, Carl Soderberg, Alexander Kerfoot or J.T. Compher.

Is There a Hope Still For Colorado Avalanche to Comeback?

The San Jose Sharks playoff experience has been the main factor so far. They killed a double minor at a key time in Game 1 to turn the game around. In Game 3, the Sharks were dominant at times. They raced out to a 2-0 lead in the first. Still, the Avalanche pushed back and were able to fight back and tie the game in the third period. Despite blowing that lead, the team did not panic. They responded by restoring their lead within two minutes of the tying goal.

If Colorado has any hope of getting back in the series, they need more. More from their stars and more from their support players. The Sharks are too experienced to let one of two players on the opposition to beat them. With Brent Burns playing at an all-world level, the Avs are in tough if they want to get back and win this series.

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