I’ve seen many Ducks-Sharks playoff matchups through the years, but this one might prove to be different. This year the Sharks are without Patrick Marleau, now in Toronto. Joe Thornton is out with an injury. Their big trade deadline acquisition was a guy portrayed (rightly or wrongly) as a locker room cancer.
The Ducks came into the playoffs a hot team after struggling with injuries early in the season. Ryan Getzlaf put up over a point a game on the season, albeit after missing substantial time to injury. Both John Gibson and Ryan Miller put up solid numbers on the season with save percentages over .920. Despite trading Sami Vatanen, the Ducks still boast a solid defense.
Despite all of that, the Ducks managed to give up home ice and look pretty lackluster doing it. In the first period, the Ducks seemed to have problems with the Sharks speed. Neither team’s power play could come up big despite opportunities. The Ducks only managed 4 shots prior to the first intermission.
Things would get decidedly worse for Anaheim in the second frame. With nearly 7 minutes gone in the period and the Sharks already outshooting the Ducks 15 to 7, the Ducks took two ill-advised penalties to give San Jose a 5-on-3. Before the PA announcer could finish telling the crowd about the second penalty, Evander Kane had put the Sharks up 1-0 on a beautiful feed by Pavelski.
Pavelski would make another solid pass to Kane that led to the second goal for the Sharks. Less than a minute later, Brent Burns would put the game away with a snap shot through traffic to put the Sharks up 3-0. The score would hold through the third period, despite the Ducks out-shooting the Sharks 12-9.
Evander Kane looks like a guy trying to prove something. This is a point made by several of us on the DTFR playoff podcast. Randy Carlyle did nothing to contradict my hypothesis that the game has passed him by and the Ducks now find themselves down 1-0 and needing to win at least one game in the Shark Tank to win this series. One bright spot for the Ducks was Gibson, who had a solid performance despite the loss.
If the Ducks are going to even up the series, they really need to stay out of the penalty box. What is a bigger concern is how much the Ducks seemed to struggle with the Sharks’ speed. Relying on Francois Beauchemin to play 20 plus minutes is probably not helping in this respect, something necessitated as a result of injuries and the trade of Vatanen earlier this season. It is possible the Ducks get Kevin Bieksa back, but it is also hard to see how a lumbering 38-year old is going to do any better against the Sharks’ quick forwards. Somehow the Ducks are going to have to find an answer before Saturday or they’ll find themselves headed to San Jose down 2-0.