Tale of the Tape round three: Canucks vs. Sharks

How do the Canucks and Sharks measure up?

Friday, 13.05.2011 / 5:19 PM / Features
By Daniel Fung

Team record: 54-19-9
Conf. seeding:
1st
Season series:
3-0-1
Last meeting:
5-4 SO/W (MAR.10.11)
Team record: 48-25-9
Conf. seeding:
2nd
Season series:
1-2-1
Last meeting:
4-5 SO/L (MAR.10.11)

ROBERTO LUONGO

After being the most talked about man in the city of Vancouver during the first round versus Chicago, Roberto Luongo almost became a forgotten man in the second round against Nashville and that's actually a testament to how well he played in the series. Perhaps the best way to describe the 32-year-old's body of work against the Preds is quietly consistent, if not spectacular, as there was not a whole lot to nitpick about Luongo's game aside from a few odd goals that came from behind the goal-line. Luongo out-dueled fellow Vezina Trophy nominee Pekka Rinne by posting Vezina-worthy numbers in Round Two finishing with a 4-2 record with a 1.63 GAA and a .933 save percentage on his way to winning a second round series for the first time in four career tries.

Luongo will try to carry his incredible regular season numbers against the Sharks into this playoff series. He saw action in just two games versus San Jose finishing with a 1-0-1 record while allowing just two goals on 79 shots against. He finished the regular season series with a 0.96 GAA and a .975 save percentage versus San Jose. After the first two rounds of the 2011 playoffs, Luongo now has an all-time record of 25-22 in post-season play with a 2.40 GAA and a .918 save percentage to go with three shutouts.

ANTTI NIEMI

Antti Niemi might not be the best or the most intimidating goaltender in the entire NHL but there's no question his playoff record speaks for itself. The 27-year-old, who last season led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship in just his first full season in the league, has a perfect 6-0 record in his career in playoff series and has a chance to make it 7-for-7 against the same team he beat to net his then-second career playoff series victory against last year. It will be tough to bet against him if he can turn in the same performance in this series as he did the previous round against Detroit. The Sharks may not have been at the top of their game last round but their netminder clearly was. Niemi posted a 2.36 GAA and a .931 save percentage against the Red Wings after allowing just 17 goals on 246 combined shots. It's a far-cry from the first round against the Kings that saw him post a dreadful 3.99 GAA and .863 save percentage while being pulled two separate occasions.

If there's one team that should feel confident in their ability to get some pucks past Niemi, it should be the Canucks. Niemi allowed 15 Vancouver goals over the four-game season series finishing with a 1-2-1 record with a 3.64 GAA and a .896 save percentage. Following the second round of these playoffs, Niemi has an all-time playoff record of 23-11 with a 2.76 GAA and a .909 save percentage.

OFFENCE

Many hockey pundits predicted that goals would be tough to come by in the series between the Canucks and Predators so maybe Vancouver can feel somewhat better about their offensive game in Round Two than in Round One. The Canucks out-scored the Preds 14-11 in their second round series (they were out-scored 22-16 by the Blackhawks in Round One) and they pretty much needed every single one of the tallies they got with three of their four wins coming by a single goal (the exception was two-goal win in Game Four with an empty-netter).

What the Canucks will most certainly need in this series that they didn't really get at all against the Preds is consistent secondary scoring. Vancouver was led offensively - and in other areas as well - by a one-man wrecking crew named Ryan Kesler who had a hand in 11 of the 14 goals his team scored in the series. Of the other three goals, two came from Vancouver's third line (Higgins in Game One and Torres in Game Five) and just one (Christian Ehrhoff's Game Four goal) came on a Sedin line shift that did not feature Kesler.

Goals were almost equally hard to come by for the Sharks in the second round as they tallied only 18 goals over their seven-game series and managed to exceed the four-goal mark just once. Like the Canucks, the Sharks also have certain players that they will want to be much better offensively in this round - most notably Patrick Marleau who was heavily-criticized for his lack of production as he managed just a single point in that entire series albeit it was a crucial one as it turned out to be the series-clinching goal.

The Sharks, at least on paper, appear to have greater goal-scoring depth with three legitimate scoring lines (Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi, Clowe-Couture-Heatley and Mitchell-Pavelski-Wellwood) compared to just two for the Canucks (Sedins-Burrows and Higgins-Kesler-Raymond) with all due respect to the Lapierre-led third line. That could change if the likes of Mikael Samuelsson and Cody Hodgson, who spent the majority of Round Two on the fourth line, can find a way to step up their game. Both teams also have their share of offensively-gifted blue-liners with Vancouver being led by the likes of Ehrhoff, Edler and Bieksa and the Sharks countering with Boyle and White.

Vancouver out-scored San Jose 15-9 in the regular season and were most dominant in first periods holding a 5-1 overall edge in opening frame goals. Daniel Sedin led all players in the season series with six points (2-4-6) while Dany Heatley led all Sharks with four points (1-3-4). Alex Burrows and Ryan Clowe shared the regular season series lead in goals with three each.

DEFENCE

You wouldn't think the Canucks would have much to complain about defensively considering they surrendered just 11 goals over the course of their six-game series with Nashville, keeping in mind that the series featured nearly an extra game's worth of time because of overtime sessions (45 minutes and 36 seconds more to be exact). It was the timing and the frequency of certain players who were caught on the ice for goals-against that was probably their biggest concern.

Five of the 11 goals the Canucks surrendered came in third periods with four of those markers being game-tying goals and the other being a game-winner. Christian Ehrhoff, Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin were spotlighted the most with each one of them being on the ice for seven of the 11 goals against for their club while Alex Edler was on for four goals against. Ehrhoff and Edler, who began the series as a tandem, found themselves on separate defensive pairings by the time the series was over.

The Sharks had their own difficulties containing the Red Wings' offence in Round Two giving up 18 goals to Detroit, 16 of them coming over the final five games of that series. They didn't make life very easy for their netminder, Antti Niemi, at all either in those final five outings. The Sharks surrendered 40-plus shots in all-but-one of their final five games of the series, the lone exception being Game Five where they allowed a series-low 22 shots.

Timing of goals against was also a concern for the Sharks particularly towards the latter part of the series. They were out-scored 8-4 in third periods over the final four games of the series (9-6 overall) with five of those eight goals-against being either game-tying markers or game-winning markers.

As far as match-ups go, expect whoever the Sharks consider as Vancouver's top line (be it the Sedin line or the Kesler line) to see plenty of the pairing of Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray while Vancouver's top shutdown duo of Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis - the Canucks' only defence pairing that has managed to stay intact through the entire playoffs - will likely go head-to-head with the Thornton unit.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Outside of giving up a pair of shorthanded markers, the Canucks had to be pretty pleased with their special teams play in Round Two. The Canucks, just like in the opening round, did not have a huge amount of power play opportunities to work with against the Predators but took advantage of it when they did finishing with four goals on 18 opportunities (22.2 percent efficiency). Vancouver also won every game in the round in which they scored at least one power play goal.

Vancouver's penalty kill was nearly pristine in the second round surrendering just one goal on 21 shorthanded situations (95.2 percent effectiveness). Dating back to the first round against the Blackhawks, the Canucks have given up just one power play goal on 26 times shorthanded over the last eight games.

The Sharks had a rollercoaster ride with their special teams in Round Two. Their power play started off on fire scoring in each of the first three games (four goals on 15 opportunities) but then tallied just once over the final four outings (one-for-13). The PK went in the opposite direction giving up four goals on 16 times shorthanded over the first four games before going a perfect 12-for-12 in the last three outings. Give the advantage here to Vancouver solely on the basis of consistency.

Special teams were pretty much a saw-off in the regular season series with the Canucks holding just a slight edge going 3-for-15 on the man-advantage (20 percent) and killing off 10-of-12 Sharks power plays (83.3 percent).

THE SET-UP

For the first time since 1994, the Vancouver Canucks (54-19-9) are back in the Western Conference Final and standing between them and their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 17 years are the San Jose Sharks (48-25-9), who are making their a Conference Final appearance for the second consecutive year.

This series features two teams that, in many respects, are almost mirror images of one another. In recent years, both have had reputations for being tremendous regular season teams and perennial Cup contenders that just can't seem to have success when it really counts in the playoffs. One of these teams, however, will finally break through the glass ceiling this year be it the Canucks, who are looking for their third trip to the Cup Final in their 40-year history, or the Sharks, who have never been to the Cup Final in their 20-year history. This is the third Conference Final trip for both respective clubs.

I think our team fits this style of play with the way our defence moves the puck. You don't have to be the fastest skaters to play fast. You have to be able to move the puck and know where to move the puck when you get it. - Henrik Sedin on expecting a more aesthetically-pleasing style of hockey in this series against the Sharks.

The Canucks and Sharks finished as the top two teams in Western Conference regular season standings but there was still a sizeable gap between them with Vancouver finishing with 12 more points. The Canucks were also dominant in the regular season series winning three of the four head-to-head meetings. Their only blemish was a 2-1 shootout loss on home ice back on January 20.

HISTORY LESSON

This series will mark the first time that the Canucks and Sharks have met in the post-season. For the Canucks, the Sharks are the 19th different opponent that they have had in the playoffs. For the Sharks, the Canucks are the 13th different playoff opponent they will have met in team history.

This is the sixth time the Canucks have met a California-based team in the post-season. Vancouver has an all-time series record of two wins and three losses against California-based clubs in the playoffs with five of those series coming against the Los Angeles Kings whom they are 2-2 against all-time. Their other series against a California-based team was a loss to the Anaheim Ducks back in the 2007 Western Conference Semifinal.

Coincidentally, this series also happens to be the sixth time the Sharks have faced a Canadian team in the post-season. San Jose has an all-time series record of two wins and three losses against Canadian teams in the post-season with both of their series wins coming against the Flames. Their three losses have come against Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.

Including play this season, the Canucks have an all-time regular season record of 44-34-12 against the Sharks.

FATIGUE FACTOR

Both teams have played 13 games to date in the 2011 playoffs but Vancouver have the advantage of being the fresher team.

Although the Canucks have endured two travel-heavy series already making two separate trips to Chicago in Round One and two separate trips to Nashville in Round Two compared to the Sharks who had a relatively easy travel schedule in Round One staying in their own state, Vancouver will have had five full days off without game action by the time this series gets underway. The Sharks, in that time, have had to fly to Detroit from San Jose for Game Six and then fly back home for a Game Seven tilt that was played on Thursday. They'll also have to make the trek up to Vancouver to begin the series with the Canucks holding home-ice advantage.

The Sharks will be running on an emotional-high thanks to their Game Seven win over the Red Wings just three days prior puck drop in Game One and, coupled with the fact they've had a more routine playing schedule over the past week, that might give them an edge in the early going of this series. If the series becomes drawn out, however, the advantage could start shifting in the Canucks' favor.

Neither team has any significant injuries to this point (with the exception of Vancouver's Manny Malhotra who is not expected to play again this season despite recently joining the team for practice) but both have their fair share of bumps and bruises. Mikael Samuelsson is day-to-day to start this series with a leg injury while, over the course of this past week, the Canucks have given extra days off to the likes of Henrik Sedin, Kevin Bieksa, Sami Salo and Chris Higgins. For the Sharks, Dany Heatley and Ryane Clowe are among the players believed to be playing through injury.

It'll be interesting. We'll enter a series as the underdog. That hasn't happened before. Maybe there will be a little pressure taken off us there and we can go play free. - Sharks coach Todd McLellan playing up the underdog role for his team in this series versus the Canucks.

EXPERIENCE FACTOR

The Canucks have just three active players in Maxim Lapierre, Mikael Samuelsson and Raffi Torres (four if you include Malhotra) who have ever appeared in a Conference Final game. Out of the three, Lapierre has the most recent experience after being a part of Montreal's run to the Eastern Conference Final last season that ended with the Flyers knocking off the Habs in five games.

The Sharks have 16 returning players from the team that advanced to the Western Conference Final last year before bowing out in four straight games to the eventual Cup champions Chicago Blackhawks. They also added several players with previous Conference Final experience, most notably netminder Antti Niemi and forward Ben Eager who were a part of the Blackhawks' Cup run last year as well as Jamal Mayers, who was part of a run to the Conference Final with the Blues back in 2001.

WATCH IT

All games in the Conference Final series between the Canucks and the Sharks can be seen by Canadian viewers coast-to-coast on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and in French on RDS. For viewers in the United States, Games 1-3 and 5-7, if necessary, can be seen on VERSUS. Game 4 will be shown on NBC. Listen to every Vancouver Canucks playoff game live on the TEAM 1040 Sports Radio or online at teamradio.ca.

Game Notes on Canucks.com are written by Daniel Fung. He is a regular contributor to Canucks.com and his writing has appeared in Canucks Magazine, BC Lions Magazine and TourismVancouver.com. Follow him on Twitter @daniel_fung or e-mail him at dfung_sports@hotmail.com.

CANUCKS LEADING SCORERS

2010.11 Regular Season vs. Sharks

Player GP G A P +/-
Daniel Sedin
4 2 4 6 3
Henrik Sedin
4 1 4 5 2
Alex Burrows
4 3 1 4 1
Mikael Samuelsson
4 2 1 3 2
Christian Ehrhoff
4 0 3 3 2
SHARKS LEADING SCORERS

2010.11 Regular Season vs. Canucks

Player GP G A P +/-
Dany Heatley
4 1 3 4 -1
Ryane Clowe
3 3 0 3 -3
Joe Thornton
4 0 3 3 -3
Logan Couture
4 1 1 2 0
Patrick Marleau
4 1 1 2 -3
IN THE INFIRMARY

For the Canucks...

F Mikael Samuelsson (leg) is day-to-day to begin the series. F Manny Malhotra (left eye surgery) is out for the season.

For the Sharks...

None reported. D Kent Huskins (upper body) is healthy but has yet to play in these playoffs.

BY THE NUMBERS

1st – Playoff series meeting between the Canucks and Sharks.

1 – Ex-Canuck on the Sharks roster: Kyle Wellwood.

3 – Ex-Sharks on the Canucks roster: Christian Ehrhoff, Mikael Samuelsson and Manny Malhotra.

3rd – Conference final appearance for the Canucks in franchise history (1982 and 1994 - won both to advance to Stanley Cup Final).

3rd – Conference final appearance for the Sharks in franchise history (2004 and 2010 - lost both).

27th – All-time playoff series the Sharks have been involved in. San Jose has a 13-13 all-time record in playoff series.

39th – All-time playoff series the Canucks have been involved in. Vancouver has a 15-23 all-time record in playoff series.

53 – Career playoff points for Henrik Sedin (18-35-53) entering this series, the franchise leader among all active Canucks.

81 – Career playoff points for Patrick Marleau (48-33-81) entering this series, the most in Sharks franchise history among all players (active or otherwise).

DID YOU KNOW?

This series not only marks the first time the Canucks and Sharks have faced one another but the first time that two Pacific Time Zone teams have ever gone head-to-head in the Western Conference Final.

The winner of this series will become just the sixth Pacific Time Zone team to make it to the Stanley Cup Final. Should the Canucks be the ones to advance, they would become the first Pacific Time Zone team in the modern era to appear in three Stanley Cup Finals followed by the Anaheim Ducks with two appearances and the Los Angeles Kings with one.

The 2007 Anaheim Ducks are the only modern era Pacific Time Zone team to win a Stanley Cup and one of just four Pacific Time Zone teams all-time to capture hockey's ultimate prize.

The 1915 Vancouver Millionaires were the first ever Pacific Time Zone team to win the Stanley Cup. The 1917 Seattle Metropolitans and the 1925 Victoria Cougars also won the Stanley Cup.