The ever changing standings in the Western Conference will be as jumbled as ever when the Sharks head to the Honda Center to face a familiar foe in the Ducks.
Holding on to the slimmest of leads in the Pacific Division, the Sharks need their “A” game tonight if they hope to extend their one point lead over Dallas.
They’d be best served by remembering just where they were a mere week ago, sitting in the ninth spot in the West and looking lost after struggling against the Kings and Ducks.
Behind Martin Havlat’s return to the lineup, some chemistry is brewing on the Winnik-Desjardins-Wingels line, and improved scoring from the bottom six skaters has led to winning 3 in a row and 5 of their last 7 to surge ahead of Dallas in the Pacific.
But it’s been tough sledding for the Tiburones against the Ducks, going just 1-4-0, with the lone victory back on Jan 4th behind a Benn Ferriero wrister.
The Ducks have always been a thorn in the Sharks’ side, and this year is certainly no different. On paper this is a Ducks team that isn’t very deep, lacks secondary scoring and is extremely top heavy in talent… Sound familiar?
San Jose needs to continue to play smart hockey and stay focused, something they didn’t do much of late in their big win over Colorado.
So without further ado, here are my 3 keys to Game 77.
3. Keep to the task at hand – The Ducks will undoubtedly come out with some fire and try to impose their will against the Sharks. San Jose must keep their heads in the game and not play outside of themselves, which is a concern given the chippy and often dirty nature of the Ducks.
Paying the price to make the right smart play will be the mantra tonight, as the Ducks are no stranger to throwing their bodies around with 1,741 hits to their credit this year.
2. Get out to a fast start – Pretty simple right? The Sharks need to get on the board first to continue to build their confidence and extend their sparkling .743 winning percentage when scoring first.
Getting the Ducks to overextend and push the play will be key, because beating Jonas Hiller is hard enough without the Ducks clamming up in their end. Getting on the board will also help keep the Anaheim faithful in their seats, all twelve of them.
1. Back up the talk – We’ve all seen the famous cookie cutter quotes and snippets from the locker room. Joe talking about accountability, Marleau talking about how every game is a 7th game, Pavelski saying they need to play smart.
Well this game will be another chance for the Sharks to put up or shut up, because the Ducks have spolier written all over them. If San Jose does not come out and take care of business quickly, they could once again be on the outside looking in with several crucial Western games on the docket tonight.
Does the deck look stacked against the Sharks tonight? Anytime Jonas Hiller (sans vertigo ) is facing the Sharks, you can’t like San Jose’s chances. With a disgusting .944 career save percentage against the Sharkies, it’s fair to say that Shark fans think Hiller is the second coming of Lucifer.
But the Ducks are still in shambles, with Getzlaf trade rumors continuing to persist, and head coach Bruce Boudreau cursing at epic speed, the Ducks look like a lottery pick is in their near future.
Having said all that though, Game 77 still feels, smells and tastes like a trap game to me. Here’s to hoping I’m wrong.