So I guess there was a basketball game at Staples Center last night (just kidding: Kobe went out with 60, firing up every possession and you didn’t have to like Kobe or even basketball to think it was AWESOME), but the real show is tonight.
The San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings drop the puck in what is objectively, either the most or second most (what’s up, St. Lou-Chi town?) intriguing series of the first round. That is an unbiased fact, but it is also the last unbiased fact that you should necessarily expect from this column. I can do ‘objective’ and predictions, even about my own teams, but this isn’t the place. I’m not going to wast time with a ‘well I think that the Sharks will pull it out in….’ No. Such a prediction has no legitimacy. There is ZERO way that I’m picking against the Sharks. Not here. Can’t do it. Won’t do it. So why bother with the charade?
Instead, I’m gonna break it down for ya. Take a look at what it is that the Sharks need to do in order to beat the Kings. It’s not a prediction of what will happen, but what needs to.
So here are some keys, it isn’t black and white, but if more of these things come to fruition than don’t, we should be dancing for another 4-7 games against the Quacks. If not…never mind that. Here’s what we need from DeBoer’s squad:
1. Goaltending. Plain and simple. Now, having written about the situation last week, I got a lot of feedback. A lot of people would like to see James Reimer between the pipes, but it is going to be Martin Jones facing his former team this year. Does he need to match Quick? Not necessarily. Contrary to popular belief, the best goaltender is far from guaranteed to win a series, BUT a heavy mismatch will, in fact, all but decide it. The Sharks have two guys who are capable of doing that, and if Jones falters, Reimer will get the chance. Neither of them will need to steal the series, but they need to make the save that Nemo couldn’t in 2014. Give us a chance. Just give us a chance.
2. Don’t engage. The Kings are a scumbag team with scumbag colors from a scumbag town with scumbag players (exceptions include Gaborik and Kopitar). They have a lot of guys who are going to try to get under your skin: Lucic, Brown, Nolan….Doughty is an underrated chippy little prick. There’s no way that you are going to avoid some chippiness, but if the Sharks get dragged down in it, it could favor the Kings. Take the popwerplays, stay above it and stick it to the POSs in silver and black on the scoreboard.
3. Clear Eyes Full Hearts Short Memories. Ill be honest, I don’t really know what clear eyes and full hearts actually means (shut up you don’t either) but Friday Night Lights was awesome, so I’m appropriating the phrase to mean that the Sharks can’t worry about anything that has happened in the past. Playoff failures in Northern California? Cups in SoCal? A certain first round momentum swing? None of it matters. These are two evenly matched teams on the ice in 2016, and the Sharks can’t let any ghosts get in the way of that fact.
4. Young Guns. The Sharks are a good team if they get their scoring from Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton, with Patrick Marleau providing a secondary punch. They are a great team if they get that, along with production from Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, and Joonas Donskoi. If the Sharks get scoring from all three of their top lines (and all three are capable of providing it) they are a VERY serious cup contender. If the can’t…they probably aren’t.
5. Pray for Pickles. The Sharks aren’t going deep, and they probably aren’t beating the Kings, if they don’t have #44. He is back in tonight and we better hope to god that he sticks/is effective. I would GLADLY take a partial MCL tear (My best guess) if it means that Marc Eduard Vlasic’s right knee is 100%.
6. GET HYPED. That’s the most important thing. Like I said at the jump. This isn’t where you come for objective analysis. This is rally the troops. This is get amped. This is BEAT F—ING LA. 16 Wins. Our Year. Let’s go. LET’S GO!
Okay that probably won’t be determination of the series, but it wouldn’t be a playoff preview post if we didn’t include a few of these. Hit it:
(HT random people who post stuff on YouTube)