Vancouver Canucks: Playoff History with the San Jose Sharks Predicts the Future?
The Sharks and Canucks have only met in the playoffs once previously, in the 2011 Western Conference finals, when the Canucks won handily in five games.
While I normally would be hesitant to draw inferences from a playoff series that is two years in the past, the teams are fairly unchanged.
Alain Vigneault and Todd McLellan still coach the Canucks and Sharks, respectively.
Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler will try to outscore Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.
Raffi Torres will still be throwing big hits, although he has switched sides from the Canucks to the Sharks.
Here are the highlights and key points from the previous playoff series.
Game 1: Vancouver 3, San Jose 2
Joe Thornton scored an empty-net goal when Roberto Luongo misplayed the puck behind the net to give the Sharks an early lead, but the Canucks battled back in the third period to win the opening game of the series.
The Canucks outhit and outshot the Sharks and generally were the better team at even strength.
Game 2: Vancouver 7, Sharks 3
The Canucks simply demolished the Sharks in Game 2. Just like in Game 1, they outshot and outhit the Sharks and generally outplayed them.
While quite a few players hit the scoresheet when seven goals are scored, Kevin Bieksa was the clear star of this game.
Scoring his second goal of the series, Bieksa also took up the challenge from a frustrated Patrick Marleau and schooled him in a rare playoff fight between stars.
Bieksa would go on to pick up an assist on a Chris Higgins goal to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick.
Game 3: Vancouver 3, San Jose 4
The series moved to San Jose, and the Sharks showed some life after being pummelled in Vancouver.
Taking advantage of an undisciplined Canucks team that gave up 10 power plays, the Sharks scored three power-play goals to steal the win.
Game 4: Vancouver 4, Sharks 2
Prior to those goals, the Canucks adapted to the Sharks' power-play strategy and had killed five straight penalties in the opening period.
By this point in the series, it was clear that in the special teams battle, you could toss a coin to determine the winner. However, when the game was played at even strength, the Sharks didn't stand a chance.
Game 5: Vancouver 3, Sharks 2 (Double Overtime)
The Canucks would win the pivotal Game 5 to close out the series but seemed on the brink of losing this game by a score of 2-1.
Ryan Kesler scored a dramatic goal with mere second left in the third period to force overtime.
Kevin Bieksa would score an odd goal in double overtime to win the game and the series, but the stars were Kesler and Roberto Luongo.
Kesler's last-minute goal was especially heroic, as he had earlier hurt his leg in a mid-ice collision and missed much of the second period.
It would be revealed later that he had suffered a serious injury to his hip, and while Kesler would go on to finish this game and play in the Stanley Cup Final, he did so essentially on one leg and was a shadow of himself. Kesler would go on to have major surgery on his hip in the offseason.
This was the last time we have seen a healthy Kesler in the playoffs, at least until this spring.
Roberto Luongo was a wall in net, stopping an amazing 54 of 56 shots.
Over the five games, an astounding 16 power-play goals were scored.
The Canucks scored nine goals on 24 power-play attempts (37.5 percent).
The Sharks scored seven goals on 22 power plays (31.8 percent).
Each team scored at least one power-play goal in four of the five games.
There were two games, one for each side, that were decided almost solely on the power play.
The Canucks scored 20 goals in the series, nine on the power play.
The Sharks scored 13 in the series, with seven coming with the man advantage.
At even strength, the Canucks absolutely dominated the Sharks, outscoring them 11-6.
When you look at the actual goals scored, it is even worse.
In situations where the score was close and the game was still in reach, the Sharks were only able to manufacture a meagre three even-strength goals.
Two of the Sharks' goals were essentially gifts due to unforced errors by Luongo and his defencemen behind the net, which led to open-net goals.
Another even-strength goal was scored by Ben Eager late in Game 2, but by that point it was already 7-2 and the game was over.
When you get outscored by almost a two-to-one margin, and that is including gift goals, then you don't have much of a chance to win the series.
Luongo was simply the better goaltender in the series.
He stopped 176 of 189 shots in the series for a 0.931 save percentage.
Niemi, although he didn't get a lot of help from his skaters, came out far worse in comparison. He stopped 133 of 153 shots, which led to an abysmal 0.869 save percentage.
This was a nasty series. The Canucks took it to the bigger Sharks, outhitting them 160 to 140 over the course of the five-game series.
Special teams were crucial, as noted earlier, because the teams were shorthanded so often. The Sharks and Canucks combined for 195 minutes in penalties, including several misconducts.
Kevin Bieksa took on the larger Patrick Marleau and pummelled him in a rare playoff fight as tempers boiled over.
Several players were also injured during the series.
Joe Thornton was questionable for Game 5 after suffering what was reported as a separated shoulder when he was crushed with a clean hit by the hulking Raffi Torres in Game 4.
Daniel Sedin escaped injury and Ben Eager escaped a suspension after a nasty boarding incident in Game 2.
Jamie McGinn took out both Aaron Rome and Christian Ehrhoff with injuries due to heavy hits on the forecheck.
Ryan Kesler would finish the series, but his hip injury would make him a shadow of himself in the Stanley Cup Final.
Canucks Stars Outplayed the Sharks Stars
It is a cliche, but it is true. Your best players have to be your best players every night if you want to win in the playoffs.
Patrick Marleau had seven points (four goals and three assists) and Joe Thornton had six points (one goal and five assists).
The big two players for the Sharks were both better than a point per game, but they were crushed by the Sedins.
Daniel Sedin had seven points, with two goals and five assists.
Henrik Sedin put on a superstar performance, picking up 12 points in the five-game series (one goal and 11 assists).
Kevin Bieksa also stepped up in a big way, recording goals in four of the five games, including the double-overtime game-winner in Game 5.
Dany Heatley, on the other hand, was already golfing mentally, picking up a mere assist over the entire series. He was eventually dropped to the third line.
Heatley was absolutely invisible, unless he was taking bad penalties, and his performance was a joke when you consider his $7,500,000 cap hit was the highest of any player in the series.