The San Jose Sharks (7-0-1) take on the Anaheim Ducks (5-1-1) in their second divisional matchup of the season.
The Sharks defeated the Ducks last game in a shootout in San Jose, but this time the game is in Anaheim. The Ducks severely outplayed the Sharks in the first meeting but with a late 3rd period goal and a Michal Handzus scoring the only goal on the shootout San Jose was able to take the win.
Since then the Ducks have won their last two games including a 7-4 high scoring affair against the L.A. Kings. The Sharks suffered the first loss of their season at the hands of the Nashville Predators and a red-hot Pekka Rinne who almost got the shutout until San Jose finally broke through later in the 3rd period.
We all knew the loss would come sooner or later, but I honestly did not think it would happen against the Predators. Give them credit though for bringing their best game of the season defensively.
While the Sharks have been on a tear so far to start the season the Ducks have quietly been just as strong with Anaheim racking up 11 points compared to the Sharks’ 15. With the L.A. Kings struggling so far to start this season it’s been the Sharks and the Ducks standing atop the Pacific Division.
Leading the charge for Anaheim is ageless wonder Teemu Selanne with 9 points (3 goals, 6 assists) while his fellow Finnish teammate Saku Koivu is right behind him with 8 total points (1 goal, 7 assists). Daniel Winnick is still leading in goals with 5 on the season, but he has not scored any since the game between these two teams on the 29th of January which was 3 games ago. He seems to be cooling off and as most would imagine will likely be overtaken by the plethora of talented Ducks forwards.
The Sharks’ top goal scorer Patrick Marleau also seems to be cooling off. After his historically hot start Marleau has not scored a goal in his last 3 games, altough he did get an assist in that span. He still leads the league in goals with 9, but Buffalo Sabre Thomas Vanek is now right behind him with 8. Joe Thornton leads the team with 11 assists and is tied for the league lead in that department with Tampa Bay’s Martin St. Louis. Both Marleau and Thornton lead the team with 14 total points.
Things to Watch For
With the Sharks being so badly outplayed last time the key to their win was the NHL’s wins leader Antti Niemi (with 6 wins) who stood on his head until the Sharks somewhat got their act together. I expect he’ll have to have another great game with San Jose’s offense starting to slow down. In my opinion he has been the Sharks’ MVP so far this season and it does not look like that will change as along as the defense stays strong in front of him.
San Jose’s power play, which was pretty much unstoppable for the first 5 games, has now come to a screeching halt. In order to win this game they’re gonna need to get more than a couple goals against this Ducks team, and I expect at least one of those will have to come on the power play considering the Sharks continued struggles on even strength. Look for them to ‘right the ship’ with the man advantage and try to pick up a goal or two tonight.