SAN JOSE – Finally, the Sharks get to play another hockey game.
Exactly one week after knocking off the Kings, San Jose will host Nashville on Friday night to kick off the second round. The Predators will have had just a one day break after finishing off the Ducks in a seventh game on Wednesday at Honda Center. They flew to San Jose from Southern California on Thursday morning.
Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has already talked about how he believes that battle-ready mentality should give Nashville an early edge. Preds forward Ryan Johansen and coach Peter Laviolette were much more ambivalent.
“I think both have advantages,” Johansen said. “I’m sure if they had some guys banged up, they really enjoyed that time off to heal up their bodies. For our group in here – [other than] a couple guys banged up right now – we like that we’re just getting right back out on the ice and playing.”
Laviolette said: “I would say teams that have had time off, sometimes they come out slow, and sometimes the rest has done them well and they’ve come out firing because they’re reenergized. … Teams that have to start right away with not much rest, sometimes they seem weary, and sometimes they’re in battle-mode and ready to go.”
DeBoer and Laviolette have some relevant history here to draw upon. In 2012, DeBoer’s New Jersey Devils took the momentum they gained from a seven-game first round win against Florida into the second round against Laviolette’s Flyers, and downed them in five games.
Laviolette admitted that he spoke to his club about that experience on Thursday. He’d obviously like to be on the other side of it this time.
“Oddly enough, we talked about the flip side of it from the Philadelphia point of view and what happened. I think any time you’re in a playoff series you can draw on experiences,” Laviolette said. “That doesn’t necessary mean that I was right with what I told my team yesterday, or maybe he’s right with what he told you. We’ve got to go play Game 1 and see what happens out here.”
* * *
Shot blocking played a huge role in both the Sharks and Predators advancing to the second round. San Jose blocked 115 shots in the Kings series, an average of 23.0 per game (up from 15.75 in the regular season).
In Game 7, the Predators collapsed well around Pekka Rinne and blocked 24 Anaheim shots in a 2-1 win.
“If you’re been watching all the series, guys are blocking shots all over,” Nick Spaling said. “I think we’ve done a great job blocking shots. … This time a year it’s about making those sacrifices and blocking shots. We did a great job in the first round and it’s got to continue.”
“We had some big blocks in the L.A. series, stepping in front of big Drew Doughty’s one-timers, or other guys,” DeBoer said.
The Predators, of course, employ one Shea Weber, generally known as having the hardest shot in the league. Is that a concern?
Spaling said: “There’s lots of guys that shoot it hard, but it’s just about making that sacrifice. I think trying to take his time and space away before he shoots it is big, too.”
“I don’t think the guys are looking at who it is, I think we’ve got an overall team commitment to sacrifice in that area, and everybody has been doing it,” DeBoer said.
* * *
One area the Predators would have liked a little more time to work on is their power play, which went just 1-for-26 in the seven-game Ducks series.
Laviolette pointed out that the Ducks were the stingiest defensive team in the league in the regular season, including the NHL’s top-ranked penalty kill.
“Our power play unit was a top 10 unit in the league,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of confidence in our players that we can go out there and generate chances and we can score goals. We’ve done it all year. Certainly, your special teams matters in a series.”
Johansen said: “We looked at a lot of stuff yesterday, things that we believe will make us successful. Every successful team in playoffs has great special teams. It’s nice to get by in a series with our power play having that record.”
* * *
Missing from the morning skate was Nashville’s Craig Smith, who missed games three and four of the first round with a lower body injury. Pontus Aberg and Austin Watson took rotations in Smith’s place on the wing of the Mike Ribeiro line on Friday morning.
The Sharks will ice their same lineup they used in all five games of the Kings series.