Western Conference Semifinal Preview: Sharks vs. Red Wings

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It was only a year ago that these two teams met in the exact same round of the playoffs. The San Jose Sharks had won the Western Conference during the regular season, but the Red Wings had finished an uncharacteristic 5th place in the conference. San Jose had defeated the Avalanche in six games, while the Wings had gone the distance with the Coyotes and were spent. The end result? The Sharks would defeat the Wings in that year, 4 games to 1. But despite this, it took them four one goal games to get it done, and the one game the Wings won, well, it was a 7-1 blowout. As we all know, the Sharks would go on to the Western finals to get swept by the soon-to-be Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

This year, the teams are in similar situations. The Sharks won their division, and were only second in the conference to the dominant Vancouver Canucks. They once again had to battle adversity in the first round, struggling against the Los Angeles Kings and having to come back from an 0-4 goal deficit in game 3, only the fifth team in history to do so. Big Joe Thornton finally broke out, scoring two game winning goals, including the series winning goal in game 6’s overtime. The Red Wings faced a lot of injury troubles, and had an uncharacteristic slow start which even found their playoff hopes in jeopardy at one point, but they too ended up winning the Central Division, and once again beating the Coyotes in the first round, this time in a sweep.

Will history repeat itself? If so, what history will show up? The tendency for the Sharks to choke? Last year’s result between these two teams? Or something completely different?

Blogger Showdown: Kyle Busch for the Red Wings.

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Prax’s Take :
I believe that this series might be the most unpredictable of the series. Twenty-five staff voters couldn’t come to a consensus, and most had the series going to seven games. I’m inclined to agree with them, for the most part. These are two strong teams that are hungry to win. The Red Wings are, of course, the perennial winners and the model team for anyone around the league, even another team in the Semifinals, the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Sharks, on the other hand, are hungry to win because they’ve never done so, and have faced harsh criticism from many for their tendency to choke when many people believe in them. That hasn’t predicted more than a dozen TCL contributors from picking them this year, however. Could it finally be their year, or are we just sounding like a broken record at this point?

Again, I’m inclined to agree with both sides, but in the end, you gotta like Detroit. The Wings have a strong, young goalie, an experienced defense that defies the laws of nature but is also strong top-to-bottom – as evidenced by how evenly spread their minutes were in round one against the Coyotes – and their offense is as strong as it ever was. And it’s about to get stronger with the return of Henrik Zetterberg, not to mention that Pavel Datsyuk is playing the best hockey of his career.

The Sharks, on the other hand, haven’t convinced me yet. Antero Nittymaki had to come in relief of Antti Niemi in two games, and their tending is by no means solid. Their defense is young, but again, questionable outside of Dan Boyle, who has been known to make a mistake or two in his time. And while the emergence of Ryan Clowe up front, along with of course Big Joe, Patrick Marleau and Calder finalist Logan Couture has carried them up front, but if the Sharks want any chance of winning, Danny Heatley and Devon Setoguchi, among others, are going to have to be better to escape the Wings defense.

In the end, it’s going to be a close one, a tough one, a long one, but I gotta go with the team that everyone always favors, the Wings.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7.

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AROUND THE CHECKING LINE:

Owen Durkin: My head says Detroit emerges, but my gut tells me otherwise. Both teams have very good young netminders, but despite the inconsistency, Niemi has gone the distance, and neither squad has any glaring holes. Jumbo Joe and Co. do it in 6, but they do it the hard way after going down early in the series. Series MVP is Nicklas Lidstrom, honourable mention to Jumbo, who answers his critics once again.
Prediction : Sharks in 6.

Micheal Aldred: It may be a tight one, but the San Jose Sharks showed a lot of heart in their impressive comeback win over the Kings in Game 3 that very much turned the series in favor of the Sharks. Detroit ran through the Coyotes with little difficulty, but when facing one of the toughest teams in the West, it will be a significant challenge and though the Wins are a talented team, I feel they are just not up to it this time around.
Prediction: Sharks in 6.

Adam Pardes: The Sharks got by in the first round more by the failures of the Los Angeles Kings than their own play. The Red Wings, on the other hand, routed the Coyotes in four games by pure domination in every facet of the game. Detroit's four lines provide the perfect balance of grit and offensive prowess to overcome San Jose's star-studded team. Pavel Datsyuk stands out again in round two.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7.

Jonathan Szekeres: The Red Wings are ageless wonders. They also have incredible depth, as they were able to sweep a good Phoenix Coyotes squad without Henrik Zetterberg. However, their goaltending still is questionable, as Jimmy Howard wasn't really ever tested in the series. On the flip side, The Sharks are coming off a tough series versus the Kings, where an undermanned Kings team was able to give the Sharks a run for their money. Annti Niemi was average in the series, getting pulled a couple of times. If the Sharks had a tough time against the Kings, god knows how they'll manage a Red Wings team that has more experience, more depth, and who scored 20 more goals than they did in the Regular season. I don't like Niemi without Keith and Seabrook in front of him, so the Red Wings should have a fairly easy series.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6.

Alicia Sprenkle: This is going to be a very tight series. Both teams are so talented and have such high expectations. It's a shame that this is not a Western Conference Final matchup. It could go either way, but I think Detroit's offensive depth will make the deference.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7.

Adam Reid: The Sharks battled hard against the Kings in the first round, and they will step it up in the second round against the Red Wings. The Wings will come out soggy after having such a long time off the ice. The Sharks will jump out to a early lead, but the Red Wings won’t give up. The two teams will battle extremely hard, with hockey going back to back, in series leads. San Jose will prevail in the end.
Prediction: Sharks in 7.

Lowell Williamson: This is the year that San Jose makes a real run to the cup, they have the depth. Joe Thornton is playing a complete game and Niemi is a cup winning goalie which counts for something. Detroit is getting old and with a hurt Zetterberg, SJ will win this.
Prediction: Sharks in 6.

Evan Pivnick: The Red Wings are the Red Wings, a great playoff team. If their goaltending is solid, they will take it. The Sharks are a great team, don't get me wrong, but they aren't going to win this battle.
Prediction: Red Wings in 5

Jordan Kuhns: Detroit is on fire. San Jose capped off some really good comebacks, including coming back from a deficit that seemed insurmountable in game three. The Red Wings didn't even give the Coyotes a chance to assert themselves. And they didn't even have Henrik Zetterberg. The Sharks are deep too, but on defense, the Red Wings have them beat. In goal, the Wings have the advantage with Jimmy Howard over Antti Niemi. Niemi has an ugly stat line (.863, 3.99). Atrocious. The Sharks will need to play inspired and very, very good defense to stop the waves of Detroit's offense. Pressure's on the Sharks.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6.

Shahab Khan: The Sharks will put up a good fight but don't have the guts to get over on the Red Wings. No one can shut down Datysuk and when Zetterberg comes back it will be all guns blazing.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7.

Steve Palumbo: The Sharks were all over the place against the Kings. They were down by a ton of goals and game back, they jumped ahead by a ton and let LA creep back in to games. "Inconsistent" is not an adjective typically used to describe a championship calibre team, and they Sharks are too inconsistent for a long run. I was hoping for an epic 7 game slugfest but if you watched any of the Wings dismantling of the Phoenix Coyotes it's hard to imagine them losing. Goaltending is questionable for both teams but I'm going with intangibles and Detroit looks ready for the long haul.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6.

Jason Pietroniro: After a close series against the Kings, perhaps closer than anyone thought it would of been, San Jose gained some momentum. With No Show Joe Thornton finally waking up in the post season and helping on some important goals, look for this series to have a few surprises. Won't matter though. San Jose cannot contain the Detroit Red Wings in the post season.
Prediction : Red Wings in 5.

Kyle Busch: Have you seen the way Detroit has been playing? Exactly, which is why it will be no different against San Jose. The players came out and said they were out for revenge from last year, something you don't hear a lot of from the Red Wings. San Jose has a great top line, but so does Detroit, and the Wings are better defensively. Factor in the goalies and I think Detroit takes this one.
Prediction: Red Wings in 7.

Larry D’Angelo: The Detroit Red Wings had an easy time with the Phoenix Coyotes , finishing them in four games giving this old team a long rest between series. The Sharks took down the LA Kings in six, coming back multiple times to win games in that series. The rest may hurt the Red Wings or help them, we will find out shortly. That being said the Sharks resiliency should take this series. The goaltending in this one should be interesting.
Prediction: Sharks in 7.

Mark Trible: Here's the stereotypical "team you don't pick against" and "team that you always pick against" in the playoffs. Give me the team I shouldn't pick against.
Prediction : Red Wings in 6.

Rob McGowan: Here we go again...it almost seems as if these two teams meet every year in the playoffs with the same results; the Sharks losing. This team has yet to make a solid run to the Cup finals after having outstanding regular season results year after year. The Red Wings swept the Yotes in a hard fought four games, but the Sharks will definitely be a much more skilled and competitive rival. I think that this year will be the year the Sharks make a serious run and will beat the Red Wings in 7 games.
Prediction: Sharks in 7.

Eric Huffman: As a Detroiter, this series was one I wanted to forget all about last year. Now that I have the opportunity to sound semi-professional with my predictions, I'm excited. Round 2 of Round 2. The Red Wings were nothing short of great in their sweep of the Coyotes. Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and Valterri Filpula became the leaders on the scoring end while Jimmy Howard improvement from last year. With that said, this next opponent is not going to be a walk in the park. San Jose won their series against the Wings in the regular season, and even have the advantage in scoring. The Sharks will even have home ice advantage. This series isn't completely one sided though. Antti Niemi started to fall apart in the net during the last round, and with Howard's newfound confidence, as well as the team's confidence in him, the Sharks scoring advantage may not matter with such inconsistencies on their side. Let's also not forget a healthy line up from the Wings in this series. Zetterberg will be returning for game 1 as well as Franzen. Along with a healthy Datsyuk and Cleary, the Wings really only need for their depth to really shine. Miller, Eaves and Helm all proved they were capable of making this happen against Phoenix. It won't be easy for either team, but it will be exciting for the fans.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6.

Glen Miller: Datsyuk proved to me he is currently the best, healthy player in the game today. He was unbelievable in the series with Phoenix. San Jose showed some toughness by winning three games in OT against the Kings, including the game they rebounded from a 4-0 deficit. Both clubs have talent and skill up front. I believe the difference will be in net and Howard, to me, is playing better than Niemi.
Prediction: Red Wings in 6.

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Tune back in in the coming hours for our Eastern Conference series previews!

Canucks vs. Predators Preview

Caps vs. Bolts Preview

Flyers vs. Bruins Preview