The San Jose Sharks were by no means bad in Game 1. In fact, they controlled a lot of the possession on Tuesday night, and outshot the Los Angeles Kings, 35-20. They ran into a familiar brick wall by the name of Jonathan Quick, however, who shut them out by a count of 2-0. It was the way the Kings were able to win games last year: timely scoring from different heroes every night, great goaltending, and solid physical play (39 hits from LA on Tuesday). It all looked awfully familiar.
The two teams meet again on Thursday night for Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal series. The Sharks will likely have one lineup change, as Raffi Torres is expected to be suspended for his hit to the head of Jarret Stoll, who is also likely to miss Game 2. Torres played a lot of key minutes in Game 1 on a line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, so while he may not be missed significantly, there are minutes that will need to be filled with two key Sharks now that he's gone.
The Kings are probably fine with the way things are going. They've won five of their first seven playoff games, including five straight. Mike Richards has a point per game, yet no other player has more than four. Quick continues to be amazing in net during the postseason. They'll take that formula for as long as it works. For the Sharks, however, it's time for their often streaky offense to hit its stride again.
Will Antti Niemi rebound from a merely average Game 1?
For the first time in this postseason, Niemi didn't outplay the goalie (or goalies, sorry Vancouver) at the other end of the ice. The Kings only put 20 shots at him, and he stopped 18. He got flat-out beaten by Slava Voynov's slapper in the first period, but got hurt by a Mike Richards deflection of another Voynov shot in the second. Look, he's not the one who's supposed to get the offense going, but Niemi needs to outplay Jonathan Quick if the Sharks are going to be competitive in this series.
Who will replace the key minutes Jarret Stoll provides?
The headlines have been centered around how long Raffi Torres will be suspended, but I think the more important factor is the valuable 16-17 even strength and penalty kill minutes Jarret Stoll plays. He's a solid, two-way center who can win faceoffs. Brad Richardson will likely step in to replace Stoll in Game 2. It will be interesting to see how head coach Darryl Sutter mixes and matches to replace Stoll, though.
Is Slava Voynov turning into the postseason's most potent defenseman?
Voynov is quickly becoming one of the more prolific postseason goal scorers this year. Three in the first seven games, plus an assist in Game 1 as well. If you're going to repeat, someone who didn't play a prime role in last year's run has to step up in this one. Is Voynov the man for the job?
Game Time: 10 p.m. ET
National TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN