Sharks look to oust Red Wings as Round 2 opens in San Jose

After disposing of the Colorado Avalanche in 6 games in the opening round of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the San Jose Sharks know they have a tough test ahead of themselves when they meet the Detroit Red Wings in the opening game of their second-round series tonight.

“They have tremendous puck possession and they don’t seem to get too rattled ever,” said Sharks defenseman Rob Blake.

San Jose has a history of being “choke artists” in the playoffs. Last year the Sharks came into the playoffs as the top seeded team in the West, much like they did this year, only to lose in the first round to a very tough Anaheim Ducks opponent. While the Sharks were able to breath a sigh of relief after getting out of the first round, they may have a much bigger hurdle to jump in the Red Wings if they intend to make their way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Detroit has an arsenal of tools at their disposal, but their experience in the postseason may be their best asset against San Jose, and the Sharks know they can’t take Detroit too lightly.

“(Detroit is) a veteran squad that has been there before,” said Manny Maholtra. “They have experience and that always counts for something.”

Does San Jose Have What it Takes?

As one of the best line combinations during the regular season, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley were notably absent in most games of the opening series against Colorado. The trio of superstars only managed ten points combined in the first round – and only one of those points was a goal. This is the story of the Sharks in recent years. One of the best teams in the regular season fails to elevate their game to the next level needed for a long playoff run. Pavelski, Setoguchi and Clowe were able to take the reigns and lead San Jose to victory in the first round, but how long will that trend last? Especially against Detroit’s deep defense? San Jose is offensively deep and talented in their own right with similar players on defense who are more than capable of chipping in offensively, but Detroit could have their way with San Jose if the Sharks’ top players fail to appear again.

Does Detroit Have What it Takes?

Phoenix took Detroit to seven games in a hard-hitting, physical series. Not to mention the travel that Detroit had to endure as part of the series. At times the Red Wings looked old and rusted, while at other times the team looked incredibly hungry for another shot at the Cup. Game seven was one of the best performances by the Red Wings in recent memory. They were quick to get on Phoenix players on the boards, they got in shooting lanes and Jimmy Howard stood on his head as a bonafide NHL superstar. So which Detroit Red Wings team made the trip to San Jose? Game seven Red Wings who looked poised for a long playoff run or Game 6 Red Wings who needed wheelchairs to get them around on the ice? Jimmy Howard needs to be the better netminder in this series, which is a daunting task when his opponent is none other than Evgeni Nabokov – a player that only had 44 wins and a 2.43 goals against average in the regular season. Detroit needs to be strong on their special teams as well. Their penalty kill was up and down during the Phoenix series and their power play proved to be a difference maker in the end. Detroit’s best players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg need to be their best at both ends of the ice of Detroit wants to advance to the Conference Finals.

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