The schedule is as follows for the best-of-seven series:
Game 1: San Jose @ Vancouver, Wed. May 1, 7:30 PST
Game 2: San Jose @ Vancouver, Fri. May 3, 7:00 PST
Game 3: Vancouver @ San Jose, Sun. May 5, 7:00 PST
Game 4: Vancouver @ San Jose, Tues. May 7, 7:00 PST
Game 5: San Jose @ Vancouver, Thurs. May 9, 7:00 PST
Game 6: Vancouver @ San Jose, Sat. May 11, TBA
Game 7: San Jose @ Vancouver, Mon. May 13, TBA
In my series preview article, I picked the Canucks to win the series in six games. Here is how I see the series unfolding, game by game.
Of course, this is just a prediction, feel free to post how you think the series will play out in the comments.
Henrik Sedin (#33) celebrates a goal with Daniel Sedin and Alex Burrows
The Canucks have typically opened strong at home, winning four of their last five series openers at Rogers Arena, including Game 1 of the 2011 Western Conference Final against the Sharks. Three of those games were won by shutouts.
The Sharks are uncharacteristically bad on the road for a playoff team, with an 8-14-2 record this year as the visiting team.
Expect the Canucks to draw some energy from the playoff crowd as they attempt to add to the Sharks' road woes. The Canucks will try and roll four lines and get physical with the Sharks to set a tone for the series.
Prediction: Canucks win by two goals.
Series: Canucks 1, Sharks 0
Player to watch: Henrik Sedin. Henrik was the best player on the ice for either team when they last met in the playoffs, posting 12 points in five games. If he can come anywhere near to that level again, this will be a short series.
The Canucks win Game 2 to take a commanding lead in the series. Continuation of the strong physical play from the previous game, as the Canucks continue to roll four lines to try and wear down the Sharks.
Head coach Alain Vigneault takes advantage of home ice to win the matchup battle, getting one of his scoring lines out against the Sharks' immobile third defence pairing to score a crucial goal.
Prediction: Canucks win by one goal.
Series: Canucks 2, Sharks 0
Player to watch: Jannik Hansen. An underrated player outside of Vancouver (except in Chicago, where Blackhawks fans hate him), Hansen is a strong skater with a surprisingly good shot. Just the sort of player that might be able to burn a slow defenceman.
While the Sharks are extremely bad for a playoff team on the road, they are awesome at home, posting a 17-2-5 record in San Jose.
Buoyed by the crowd and with their backs to the wall after going down 2-0 in the series, the Sharks fight back both physically and on the scoreboard. No longer with last change, the Canucks can’t get the favorable matchups as often, and it shows.
Brent Burns does his best Dustin Byfuglien impression as he crashes the net and scores some big goals with help from Joe Thornton, who is still one of the best pure passers in the NHL.
Prediction: Sharks win by two goals.
Series: Canucks 2, Sharks 1
Player to watch: Brent Burns. The 6'5", 220-pound defenceman has been converted into a power forward, and could be a wild card in this series.
Regrouping and adjusting after Game 3, the Canucks throw some new wrinkles into their tactics.
Perhaps Vigneault finally moves Jason Garrison's huge slapshot to the point on the power play. Or maybe he overloads a line by playing Ryan Kesler on the wing with Derek Roy at center.
In any event, the adjustments are enough to allow the Canucks to throw off the Sharks enough to squeak out a win on the road.
Expect Zack Kassian and Brent Burns to drop the gloves if Burns continues to crash the net.
Prediction: Canucks win by one goal, in overtime.
Series: Canucks 3, Sharks 1
Player to watch: Ryan Kesler. Any playoff success for the Canucks is going to come with Ryan Kesler playing a key role, and he should get some points on the power play.
Patrick Marleau scores against the Canucks in the 2011 playoffs
Back in Vancouver, the Canucks can take advantage of last change again, but the Sharks have their backs to the wall and desperately don’t want to go out in five again as they did the last time these two teams met in 2011.
And unlike in Game 5 of the 2011 Western Conference Final, this time the Canucks don’t get a fortunate bounce off a stanchion, and the Sharks squeak out a win in overtime.
The Canucks inconsistent play this year, and resting players down the stretch, comes back to haunt them as they are unable to summon up a killer instinct and finish off the wounded Sharks.
Prediction: Sharks win by one goal, in overtime.
Series: Canucks 3, Sharks 2
Player to watch: Patrick Marleau. Marleau has been a very streaky player this year, but he gets hot at the right time and pots a few goals in an elimination game.
Kevin Bieksa puts the puck past Antti Niemi.
After missing their opportunity in Game 5, the Canucks are determined to finish this one on the road.
Also, the Canucks veterans don't want to repeat what happened in 2011, when they had the Hawks down 3-1 in the series and then let them off the mat and went all the way to Game 7 OT.
Unlike in Game 5, both teams are desperate and playing gritty playoff hockey. But the Canucks' depth and superior star players shine through, and they take the win, and the series.
Prediction: Canucks win by two goals.
Series: Canucks 4, Sharks 2
Player to watch: Kevin Bieksa. Could it be anyone else to score a big goal to eliminate the Sharks? No stanchions or double overtime required this time though.