The San Jose Sharks have been to the Conference Finals three times in their existence but have never made it to the Finals. The Vancouver Canucks last made it to the Conference Finals in 1994, the last time they went to the Finals as well. Something has to give as the Sharks and Canucks face off in the first game of their seven game series on Sunday night.
The Canucks and Sharks come into this series as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Western Conference. In the four games that the faced off in during the regular season, the Canucks won three out of four, with the final two games having to be decided by a shootout. To say that these teams are matched tightly is an understatement.
The Sharks are the offensive team in this series based on playoff performances. The Sharks are averaging 2.92 goals/game which is right in line with their regular season output of 2.96 goals/game. The Canucks, on the other hand, are only averaging 2.31 goals/game, 0.80 goals/game less than their offensive output in the regular season and good for 14th of 16 playoff teams in that category. Much of that can be attributed to the power outage that the Sedin twins have shown in the playoffs this year. Daniel Sedin does have 10 points in 13 games but Henrik has only managed 9 points in those 13 games, eight of them coming as assists. The scoring of these guys are mainly attributed to each other, so if either twin starts scoring more, both players will experience a bump in points.
The Sharks offense has been spread out: both Logan Couture and Devin Setoguchi have six goals in the playoffs and 14 players have scored at least one goal in the playoffs. The Sharks are just looking to overcome last season's disappointment in the Conference Finals, when they were swept by the Chicago Blackhawks on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. Sharks forward Ben Eager was a part of the Stanley Cup winning Blackhawks last season and had this to say about the Sharks chances heading into this series:
"We learned so much from them," Eager said. "You learn how much it takes in the playoffs and how the real battle begins in the last two rounds. Losing to us last year probably showed this team how much they have to give, and that's why everyone in this room is very confident. They understand."
The Canucks have been the favorites for winning the Stanley Cup this season and have had some challenges along the way to get to the Conference Finals. Their first round matchup saw them having to win in Game 7 against the Chicago Blackhawks as Chicago came back from a 3-0 deficit. Ryan Kesler has become the offensive powerhouse for the Canucks in this playoff race. Kesler found his scoring in the last few games, scoring all five of his goals in the last four games. Kesler also leads the Canucks with 15 points in these playoffs. Vancouver's Chris Higgins had this to say about the Sharks matching up against Kesler and the Sedin twins:
"I don't think they're taking any focus off those guys," he said. "They could be back to back Hart Trophy winners. Kes[ler] is obviously playing some pretty good hockey and it's tough to match up against the two lines that we have. But they're a good team and they're going to play hard.
Game 1 of Sharks-Canucks begins at 8:00 pm and can be found on Versus in the United States and CBC in Canada.