Two California teams will meet in the NHL playoffs for only the second time in 40 years.
The San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks have created quite a Northern California-Southern California rivalry. Perhaps, it has even eclipsed the traditional NorCal/SoCal tilt between the Giants and Dodgers.
There are two important ingredients in fierce rivalries: Competition and a level of dislike between the two teams. The Giant-Dodger rivalry has become stale because of the domination by the Dodgers in recent years.
There is no doubt the Sharks and Ducks have an intense dislike for one another. The last game between the two teams at the Honda Center proves that.
Seventy minutes of penalties were accrued, including five misconducts for extra-curricular activities at the end of the game, sparked mostly by Corey Perry diving on top of Sharks net minder Brian Boucher.
Perry in the crease is not an unfamiliar sight to the Sharks. Just ask Evgeni Nabokov about Perry's slash on his legs in the previous game between the two teams.
Perhaps, the most crucial element of any form of rivalry is a competition between the two teams.
The Sharks want what the Ducks had (the Cup), and the Ducks want to show their aging team (cough
The Sharks finished the second half of the season having to deal with an incredible number of injuries to key players, including captain Patrick Marleau, Rob Blake, Dan Boyle, Brad Luckowich, Mike Grier, Jeremy Roenick, Ryan Clowe, Jonathon Cheechoo, and Nabokov all missing time.
At one point at the end of the season, San Jose had nine call-ups from their minor league affiliate Worcester on the roster.
Due to these injuries and the large cushion built up on most of the competition in the Western Conference, the Sharks were able to cruise into the finish. They were, however, still able to pick up the Presidents Trophy for the best record in the NHL.
Anaheim finished their season on a high note but still barely squeaked into the playoffs. Perhaps, the only hotter team toward the end of the season in the Western Conference was the St. Louis Blues, who finished sixth in the conference.
The Ducks will unquestionably be ready for a matchup with their rivals when the puck drops Thursday night.
I believe this will be the most compelling and exciting series in the first round.
Unlike last year, the Sharks will not be going into their matchup with the same nonchalance, which cost them game one against the Flames at HP Pavilion.
In many ways this was the best way for San Jose to start the playoffs because they realize that if they don't come out with energy or desperation, the Ducks will punish them.
As for the Ducks, I don't believe they are happy to face the Sharks. Overall, a matchup with the Red Wings would have probably suited them better because of the question marks with the goaltending of Chris Osgood and Detroit's shaky defense.
There is also the fact that Anaheim is a physicalbordering on dirtyteam that on occasion, can cross the line. This type of game might have intimidated the Wings. I don't think the same type of style will bother the Sharks as much as it has in past seasons.
The Sharks power play finished third in the NHL and had a franchise record streak of 11 straight games with a power play marker. The Ducks cannot take penalties like they did in last year's playoffs, which also cost them.
I don't believe the Ducks have the capability of cutting down their penalties, and if the refereeing stays consistent the Sharks will burn them for it.
Like the President said, "You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig."
Sharks chomp Ducks in six games
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