The San Jose Sharks must go into the second round against the Detroit Red Wings more ready then they’ve ever been. As I complied a list of five things the Sharks needed to improve on to defeat Los Angeles in round one, here is my list of things San Jose will need to do to defeat Detroit in the post-season as they did last year.
This article can also be a rebuttal to a colleague’s article on Five Keys to a Red Wings Victory, by Franklin Steele. Definitely worth a read!
1. Physicality – The much bigger San Jose Sharks team must play the physical game they are known for while at the same time staying out of the box. As seen in the final game against the Kings, Jamie McGinn took an unnecessary 5 minute major penalty for a charging, which the Sharks killed off, but it won’t be as easy against Detroit. The Wings have a smaller team that likes to play with more finesse and could therefore get rattled should the Sharks out-muscle them effectively and with discipline.
2. Net Front Presence – We all know what the Tomas Holmstroms and Johan Franzens on the Wings can do in front of an opposition’s net and the Sharks will have to find a way to clear them out of the slot and set an early tone. My suggestion is to not have Dan Boyle paired against them, which may be hard seeing as he logs some of the top minutes on the defensive squad, but he is just not tough enough out in front. A body like Douglas Murray or Nick Wallin may do a better job.
Although Jimmy Howard had a great series against Phoenix, I’m still not convinced he is a sure bet and with some heavy traffic in front of him and a successful Sharks cycle down low, he could face some wear and tear and show some weaknesses in round two.
3. Spread out offense – The Sharks will need to continue receiving offensive contributions from all four lines against the spread out Red Wings squad. When the Wings win games, it’s not only because of the stellar play and fancy moves coming from Pavel Datsyuk and company, it’s also the hard working secondary guys like Darren Helm, Danny Cleary and Valtteri Filppula that complete the package. The Sharks will need to match that if they have a fighting chance to repeat last year’s playoff success against the Wings.
4. Defense from the offense and vice versa – When competing against a three-time Selke award winner, Pavel Datsyuk, it’s crucial to have whichever line matched up against him play a solid back checking game as well, while also using their power down low to deter Datsyuk’s keen defensive skill. The Sharks will need to match someone against Datsyuk who is not afraid to return deep into the defensive zone. That said, the first round saw some key goals coming from pointmen Jason Demers and Dan Boyle, and the San Jose defense will need to continue producing offense to match up against the dangerous back-end combination of Lidstrom and Rafalski.
5. Joe Thornton – After finally proving he can come up with a clutch effort to win games in the playoffs, Thornton can’t sit back and ride the joy of finally scoring an all-important game-winning goal. As a captain and arguably the best all around player on the squad, he will have to continue making plays, chipping in with goals and playing a sound defensive game against the swift Detroit squad. Defensive laziness has been evident in past playoff performances, and if Thornton wants to fully shake the playoff monkey off his back, he’ll have to continue to perform both on the attack and in his own end – with urgency.