In the battle of two in-state rivals, the San Jose Sharks have put themselves in a good position before they even played a home game.
Starting off on the road, the Sharks not only took home-ice advantage away from the Anaheim Ducks, they put an early stranglehold on the series before even playing a game at the SAP Center.
With home-ice already gone, the Ducks were going to have to come out quickly to avoid allowing one of the most hostile home-ice advantages from getting going.
Anaheim put up a fight in the beginning, but the Sharks' quick counter-attack was too much before the game completely got out of hand.
After an 8-1 rout of the Ducks, the Sharks stand just one game away from moving on to the conference semifinals.
The Ducks actually controlled most of the action in the early part of the game, owning the shot-attempts and scoring chances through the first two periods of play. The first period even ended with the two teams tied, with a Rickard Rakell power play one-timer pulling the Ducks even after the Sharks jumped out in front with a Logan Couture marker.
From second period on, it was all Sharks
One of the fastest players in the league, Mikkel Boedker put it on full display in the first, blowing by one of the Ducks’ best skaters, Hampus Lindholm, before throwing the puck on net, with Couture waiting at the far post to get the rebound and bury it.
The Ducks actually started controlling the play in the second period, but the Sharks showed an ability to be quick and efficient in counter-attacking Anaheim’s advances.
Joonas Donskoi and Evander Kane executed a perfect give-and-go, giving the Sharks the lead again. After Donskoi passed it to Kane, the Sharks’ newcomer held on to the puck for as long as possible, until Ducks’ goaltender John Gibson made the first move, freeing up the trailer back door for a wide-open goal.
Anaheim, knowing what position they would be in with a loss, attempted to answer back immediately, with a great shift from their top line, but another counter opportunity presented itself on a 3-on-1 that included Donskoi again. This time he fed Marcus Sorensen the puck, who went backhand on Gibson to give the Sharks a 3-1 lead.
Eric Fehr and Tomas Hertl later scored to give San Jose a four-goal lead going into the final period.
With nothing left to prove in the game, and realizing how ugly the game could turn in the third, Anaheim sat Gibson in favor of veteran backup Ryan Miller.
Just attempting to ‘set the tone’ for Game 4, the Ducks didn’t focus as much on mounting any sort of comeback, but instead to find a way to get as many breaks as possible in the penalty box.
Ryan Getzlaf alone received 14 penalty minutes in the third, including a misconduct. Altogether the Ducks recorded 20 PIM in the final frame. Instead of answering back with rough play of their own, the Sharks responded by recording three third period power play markers, including one in the final minute, with Donskoi recording his third point of the night on Joe Pavelski’s tally.
Timo Meier scored in the final minute to close out the 8-1 blowout on the night, giving the Sharks four power-play goals in the game.
- Gibson wasn’t great, over-committing on a couple of the goals. The Ducks needed him to be better and he hasn’t been BUT, through three games his offense has only managed three goals overall.
That’s not a recipe for success no matter how good your goaltending is. The Ducks controlled the shot attempts (57.43 CF%) but that didn’t translate into more prime opportunities.
Despite the shot disparity, the high-danger opportunities were a dead tie (eight apiece), meaning for everything they threw at Martin Jones, who was fantastic through his 45-save performance, not many were in great scoring areas.
-Not going to be a good night when your best defenseman - Lindholm - has a -3 rating, even though four of the eight goals scored on the Ducks were on the power play. It means Lindholm was on the ice for 75% of the Ducks even strength goals. He was only spared on the Donskoi goal.
-Anytime you can score eight goals and Brent Burns does not factor into any of them, you know the role players were extremely locked in. Known for his offense, Burns was too busy shutting down the Ducks to score, finishing the game with a 14.29 OFF ZS% and somehow still managing to out-chance the opposition while he was on the ice.
San Jose is just one of three teams that have yet to lose in the playoffs. They will go for the potential series sweep on Wednesday, with a game-time start of 10:30 PM ET, and will be televised on the Golf Channel.
Did the Ducks send the right kind of message at the end of the game? Which is more troubling, and which is the easiest to fix - the slumping offense or Gibson’s play in net? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.