PUCK DROP: 10:30PM ET (3:30AM GMT)

HOW WILL IT GO DOWN? The Canucks aren’t what they used to be a couple of years back, but they’re still a good, deep team that benefits slightly from playing in an awful division.  As opposed to years past when the bulk of the scoring was done by the Sedins, Burrows and Kesler, the team was scoring more by committee this year, a fact which may help them come tonight when the Sharks will be trying to shut down the Sedin twins in particular.  Despite an early season goalie controversy, Corey Schneider has delivered a great year as the starter, and Luongo has been professional and reliable in mostly a backup role.  The team’s defence is particularly deep, with all of Dan Hamhuis, Jason Garrison, Alex Edler and Kevin Bieksa being top quality two-way players.  Not the team of years past, but still a damn good team.

The Sharks actually had a somewhat similar season overall to the Canucks, finishing only 2 points apart in the standings.  After a hot start, the Sharks cooled off but picked it up again as the season progressed.  Up front the team possesses many useful players.  Thornton and Marleau aren’t actually as bad in the playoffs as they are perceived, and Thornton in particular had a good postseason last year; Logan Couture will be the one leading this team in the goal scoring hunt however.  They possess a decent amount of reliable depth forwards, so that’s not going to hold them back.  However, their defence, whilst not bad, does not stack up to the quality of the Canucks.  Boyle, Stuart and Vlasic are all good at what they do, but aren’t versatile enough, and beyond that – whilst there is still talent – it’s not at the level needed to make much of a dent in the playoffs.  The team relies heavily on Antti Niemi in goal, too, and he’s had a quality year.  The problem is what do they do if he falters or gets injured?  Thomas Greiss hasn’t looked like the sort of goalie who can take on that task.

PREDICTION: The Sharks are never a pushover, and this year won’t be much different, but the depth of the Canucks will allow them to win the day.  I’ll take the Canucks in 6.


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