No team is under more pressure to get the job done this season than the Sharks. It’s almost mathematically impossible for one team to finish so high up in the standings so many times and not get something done in the playoffs sooner rather than later.
Of course, San Jose couldn’t have asked for a worse first-round opponent, as the division-rival Ducks have had the Sharks’ number and play a style that could be prohibitive to the San Jose high-speed, high-skill attack. The new-and-improved Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will have to find yet another level of play to make sure the Sharks don’t flame out.
The Sharks will win if … Marleau and Thornton don’t go into hibernation, the Sharks keep their tempers when things get physical, and Dan Boyle gets the necessary support from his castmates on the blue line.
The Ducks will win if … they can use some intimidation to gain an edge on the Sharks, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer help neutralize the Sharks’ top two lines, and whichever goaltender they decide on plays like a No. 1 instead of a 1/2.
My pick: Sharks in 6. Maybe it’s positive that so many are expecting the Sharks to fail again. If the Ducks were so strong, they’ve be more than an eight seed.