The Sharks are the first team so far in the playoffs to get to three wins and will now have three chances to knock the Canucks out of the playoffs. Tonight is their first chance.
After a dominating victory on Sunday over the Canucks, the Sharks are hoping they can earn one more to secure a spot in the second round. San Jose’s young stars have shown up in a major with way with both Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski at six points this so far in the series.
One of the keys so far has been the ineffectiveness of both Henrik and Daniel Sedin so far during this series. They have a combined for just four assists in four games and have a plus-minus rating of -3. Henrik also looked quite a bit out of sorts last game when he took a few uncharacteristic penalties, one of which was an elbow that cost his team a goal.
For the Sharks it has been all business. Their approach has looked very methodical at times and have been taking the wind out of Vancouver’s sails little by little. You could see the effect late in that third period of game three when the Canucks were taking bad penalty after bad penalty and were doing their best sore loser impression.
If they want to come back in this series, they will need to get a bit of an attitude adjustment although we might not see one given these comments after game three. Well that and figure out how to score on Antti Niemi.
In fact, Niemi has only allowed five goals in three games, posting a 1.67 goals against average. He has been stellar once again and on Sunday was a big reason the Sharks were winning 2-1 before their third period offensive explosion.
Having an incredible goaltender can help you go far in the Stanley Cup playoffs, as the L.A. Kings proved last year, and the Sharks have that this year in Niemi. What’s even better is that he’s been here before with the Chicago Blackhawks, so he knows what it takes.
On the other side of the ice, the Canucks have found themselves in a bit of a goalie controversy after a poor game three performance from starter Cory Schneider. He was chased from the game following his fifth allowed goal and was replaced by the man who started and played well in games one and two, Roberto Luongo.
I would not have been surprised to see Luongo back in net tonight, but it looks like the decision has already been made to keep Schneider in net for game four. I can’t say I agree with the decision, especially after he let a couple soft ones get by him. Alain Vigneault still seems to have full confidence in him, however, plus he does not like Luongo, so I’m betting those are two good reasons.
Tonight, the Sharks go for their first NHL playoffs sweep in franchise history. I expect Vancouver to put up a fight tonight and most likely win, thought at the same time do not expect this series to go to seven games like it did against Detroit, which was the last time the Sharks were up 3-0 in a series.