After getting the huge monkey off their backs in the first round of this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs by eliminating the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks were called into question of just how much more they had left in the emotional tank. Had they given everything they had in the LA series? Would the Sharks match up better against the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks in the second round?
Many believed the Sharks would find another spark to push hard against their other Southern California rivals in the Ducks, but the team from the Music City forced its way through, sealing a postseason date between the Sharks and the Nashville Predators.
Because the Predators did not appear as such a threatening opponent, despite their proven fight against Anaheim, the fear of seeing the red-hot first round Sharks come out lackadaisical against Nashville was real. After two solid home wins in San Jose, only to be followed by two momentum-killing away losses in Nashville — one of them a triple-overtime heartbreaker with a controversial no-goal call — the Sharks appeared to be in their signature vulnerable postseason position going into Game 5 on Saturday night. That was not the case.
Taking Back Home Ice Advantage
The Sharks had the worst home ice record this year of all the playoff teams at 18-20-3. But that has not shined through in the postseason, especially in this series against the Predators, as Game 5 was a decisive 5-1 victory for the Sharks at home, putting them up 3-2 in the series. So far the home team has won every game in this Predators/Sharks series, but San Jose is now one victory away from punching their ticket to their first Western Conference Finals since 2011.
What's up, #SJSharks fans? You guys are one win away from the Western Conference Finals — this team's got something, baby.
— Brian Murphy (@knbrmurph) May 8, 2016
Not Your Average Joes
Probably the best play of the night on Saturday was Joe Pavelski’s first goal, which came off a beautiful backhanded dish from Joe Thornton at 17:21 in the first period. It put the Sharks up 2-1 on Nashville and would end up as the game-winning goal on the night.
It was just another play in which Pavelski and Thornton did what they do best; Pavelski scores goals and Thornton feeds perfectly placed passes. Thornton ended the night with two assists, giving him four total so far in the series. The Sharks’ captain Pavelski had two goals on the night after he had been shut down in the previous two games in Nashville.
Marleau Coming Alive
Patrick Marleau opened the scoring for the game, netting the first goal at the 10:47 mark in the first period, off a behind-the-net backhander from Joonas Donskoi. Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer decided to shuffle the lines for Game 5, centering Marleau between Donskoi and Logan Couture. “I thought it was Patty’s best game of the series, and that line was excellent all night. Some changes work, and tonight that change worked,” said DeBoer in a San Jose Mercury News Report.
Marleau finished the night with a goal and an assist. Expect the Couture, Marleau, Donskoi line to remain intact for Game 6 and for the emotional intensity to remain as well, as the Sharks will be looking to avoid their first Game 7 since their historic collapse against the Kings two years ago.
Game 6 is Monday night at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Ben is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in Broadcast and Digital Journalism. Hailing from the East SF Bay Area and raised on college football and basketball, Ben found his true sports passion in ice hockey, watching the boys in teal from San Jose. He covers the San Jose Sharks for TheHockeyWriters.