Regular Season: The San Jose Sharks won the season series between the two teams by a 3-1 margin.
How they Match Up: This is another second-seed versus third-seed match-up that will likely be very even. Only one win and one point separated these teams during the regular season. It took San Jose six games to defeat their California rivals from Los Angeles while Detroit dispatched Phoenix in a four game sweep.
The Sharks and the Red Wings have had quite a few famous postseason battles. Last year San Jose defeated Detroit in five games in the second round of the playoffs. That series gave us the infamous “shark with the octopus in its mouth” on the ice.
The two teams also met in 2007, where the Red Wings defeated the Sharks in six games. 1995 saw another Detroit victory, as the Red Wings swept the Sharks away in four games.
Perhaps the most famous series in Detroit/San Jose history came in 1994 when the Sharks upset the favoured Red Wings in seven games.
The Red Wings were the number one seed in the West that year, but they were dispatched by the eighth-place Sharks.
Joe Thornton has actually been called a playoff hero this postseason. That’s definitely a change from the usual “chokemaster extraordinaire” title that has followed him around for quite some time. The Sharks’ captain had two goals and three assists in the first round of the playoffs, including the game-winning goal that sent the Kings packing.
For Detroit, Pavel Datsyuk put on several strong performances against the Phoenix Coyotes, earning himself a spot in our sort-of-coveted Conn Smythe Tracker. The Selke Trophy nominee is seemingly healthy once again and that could mean trouble for the Sharks.
Speaking of injuries, the Red Wings had plenty of them during the season, but players like Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen have gotten the chance to rest up after the Wings’ sweep of Phoenix. Whether or not they remain healthy will determine Detroit’s success.
Antti Niemi won the Stanley Cup with Chicago last season, but the playoffs are not being quite as kind to him this year. Niemi was pulled in both game three and game five of the Sharks series with the Kings and he will need to be better if San Jose is going to make a serious run at the Cup.
In Detroit, health will be a factor. As mentioned above, the Red Wings have dealt with injuries to some of their top players this season. While they managed to succeed despite the injuries, they will need their top stars playing their best in order to defeat the Sharks. That means they’ll have to have health on their side.
The Sharks do not have any significant injuries that they are willing to report. Detroit seems to be healthy as well, though Zetterberg and Franzen may still have some lingering issues. The time off between series has probably helped Detroit a great deal.
The Sharks offense is very deep. In addition to Clowe, Couture, Thornton and Marleau, San Jose also has Dany Heatley, Joe Pavelski and others at their disposal. In particular, Pavelski is a noted playoff performer and he can take his game to another level in the postseason. During last year’s playoffs Pavelski had three straight multi-goal games and was a big reason why the Sharks made a run to the Western Conference Final.
Their aren’t really too many players in Detroit who aren’t already known as big playoff performers. Among the best of them is Tomas Holmstrom. Holmstrom will make life miserable for Niemi whenever he gets the chance and that could turn the series in Detroit’s favour. Of course, it would be wrong to go through this entire preview without mentioning Nicklas Lidstrom. The veteran captain knows what it takes to win.
This is going to be a batlle.
If the Red Wings can stay healthy – and that’s a somewhat big if – they should be able to defeat the Sharks. While San Jose has the offensive fire power to battle almost any team, they don’t quite have the goaltending. The experience of Detroit can also not be overlooked. Red Wings in seven.