Two playoff regulars, the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks, are back again and trying to make one more run at that elusive Stanley Cup. With two aging cores, the window is closing on both teams and this could be one of their final chances to bring home the ultimate prize.
The last time these two teams met in the playoffs was back in 2011, when they squared off in the Western Conference Finals. It was the first time these two teams had met in the postseason, but the series didn't last long. The Canucks took the opening two games of the series and after the Sharks got Game 3, Vancouver won the next two to book their place in the Stanley Cup Finals.
San Jose won all three regular season meetings between the two teams and Vancouver lost five of their last eight games, but the Sharks were just 8-14-2 away from HP Pavilion this season.
1. Which veterans will step up?
Both the Canucks and Sharks have been contenders for years, but their runs are going to come to an end soon. The Sedin twins are 32 years old, Alexandre Burrows is also 32 and Dan Hamhuis is 30, while Joe Thornton is 33, as is Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle is 36. Eventually, age is going to catch up to these players so who is going to step up and make an impact before it does? Whoever does could be the one to lead his team to victory.
2. Is Cory Schneider up to the task?
Cory Schneider looked every bit the part of a No. 1 goaltender in his first season as the Canucks' go-to man, but this will be his first playoffs in that role. Can he continue to provide Vancouver the steady play between the pipes that he gave them all season? Of course, this is assuming he plays. The Canucks are just hoping he'll be healthy enough to after an injury sidelined him for the final week of the regular season. So not only is Schneider dealing with the new pressure of being a playoff goalie No. 1, but he's dealing with an injury too.
3. Which Ryan Kesler are the Canucks going to get?
Ryan Kesler was the key to the Canucks' run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2011 and if he's that same dominant player, the Sharks are going to be in trouble. Kesler's checking can cause San Jose a lot of problems and not only will it allow his line to shine, but it will force the Sharks to change up match-ups some, which should free up the Sedin twins and their line. Vancouver doesn't know if they are going to get that Kesler, though. They might just get the good, but not game-changing Kesler.