San Jose Sharks: Ranking the Current Playoff Matchups the Sharks Could Encounter

Scott Semmler@@ScottSemmler22Analyst IIApril 4, 2012

San Jose Sharks: Ranking the Current Playoff Matchups the Sharks Could Encounter

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    The San Jose Sharks helped their playoff cause on Tuesday with their win over the Dallas Stars on the road.

    Barring any terrible turn of events, the Sharks should find themselves in cup contention once again. So it is now time to look forward to who they would want to see in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

    As of right now, the Sharks will either own the third, seventh or eighth seeds in the Western Conference playoffs, which would match them up against either the first, second or sixth seeds, all of which pose scary situations for San Jose.

    Here are the rankings of who the Sharks would like to see in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

3. St. Louis Blues

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    St. Louis poses arguably the biggest threat to the San Jose Sharks based on the way the Blues are playing and how they have played San Jose the entire year.

    The Blues have defeated the Sharks each and every time the two teams have played each other this season, with the latest resulting in a 3-1 St. Louis victory at the Shark Tank to make the season series 4-0.

    St. Louis plays tremendous defense and sports an equally impressive offense to go with the best goals against average in the NHL, giving up just 1.9 goals per game this season.

    The only reason the Sharks would want this series is because the Blues are untested in the playoffs having not been there in recent years.  However, this is not a team can be taken lightly heading into the playoffs.

2. Vancouver Canucks

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    If worst comes to worst, this is not a bad matchup for the Sharks.

    San Jose knows the Canucks, as the two teams have developed quite a rivalry over the past few seasons, with the Canucks knocking the Sharks out of the playoffs last season in the Western Conference Finals.

    Vancouver did lose part of their defense and are a little beat up on the offensive front, with Daniel Sedin nursing a late-season injury, which could only bode well for the Sharks if this series were to occur in the first round.

    Although Sedin will be ready to go for the playoffs, any sort of help could pay off for the Sharks in this matchup.

    Based on the two teams' histories with each other, this could be a series that goes the distance of seven games.

1. Chicago Blackhawks

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    This is bay far the most favorable matchup for the Sharks, and it would take San Jose winning the Pacific Division for this to happen, as well.  

    The Blackhawks are in a heated race with the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators to decide the fourth, fifth and sixth seeds in the Western Conference.

    The matchup favors the Sharks for one reason and one reason only—special teams.

    We all know how much special teams comes into play in the NHL playoffs, and the Sharks seem to be making strides in that department at the right time.

    San Jose owns the fourth-ranked power play, while the Blackhawks own the 28th-ranked penalty kill.  Also, Chicago owns the 22nd-ranked power play, something the Sharks have had a hard time killing the entire season.

    What the Blackhawks do have is offense, and lots of it.  For the Sharks to avoid losing to Chicago in this series, San Jose must up the aggressiveness of their defense.

    That all centers around goalie Antti Niemi, but getting key contributions from each and every defenseman will be key in this matchup.