How they got here:
The Sharks took out the Flames in 7 hard fought games. They prevailed because their secondary scoring was able to capitalize on Flames mistakes. Patrick Marleau is playing great hockey and Joe Thornton did just enough to win.
The Stars laid a dirty whoopin' on the defending champion Ducks, who looked either woefully unprepared or disinterested. They certainly lacked discipline, and the Stars made them pay for it. Apparently had no answer for Stephane Robidas, but then, who does?
The two teams split the season series with 4 wins apiece, though
Just like last time, I will break down the teams in a number of different categories to see who will prevail.
Patrick Marleau, Ryan Clowe and the ghost of Jeremy Roenick circa NHL '94 led the Sharks in the first round. Joe Thornton's game improved as the series went on and is showing flashes of his regular season self. Jonathan Cheechoo had three goals in the first round, and Joe Pavelski had a strong series. The Sharks are still a deep, talent laden team with many scoring options. If Thornton, Marleau and Cheechoo can get established in front of Turco, they may be able to put up big numbers.
The Stars do not boast the same depth as
Edge: Sharks. I really like their depth and I think their forwards will thrive in this series, which shouldn't be as physical as the first round match-up with the Flames.
Brian Campbell did not bring as much to the table as he did in the regular season. The Sharks still have a formidable defensive core, but will be tested much more in this series, as
The Dallas Stars were without Sergei Zubov in the first round and Phillippe Boucher dressed for only 3 games. The defensive core didn't seem to skip a beat as youngsters Matt Niskanen, Trevor Daley and Mark Fistric all filled in admirably. Stephane Robidas out Niedermayered Scott Niedermayer on his way to a 6 point series. They are a confident bunch right now, and Zubov and Boucher will likely both play in the 2nd round. If Zubov is healthy and can contribute, the Stars will see a major boost.
Edge: Stars because they are playing with a lot of confidence and are about to get their best two defenders back into the fold.
Norris Candidate Evgeni Nabokov kept the Flames at bay long enough for the Sharks to come out with the series victory. He gave up a little over 2 goals a game, which should be more than enough for
Marty Turco appears to have shaken the playoff monkey off his back. He was solid in the first round and effectively stymied the Ducks. He will have to deal with the Sharks shooters and will likely see a lot more traffic in his crease. If his defensemen can't clear the crease, he may have some trouble.
Edge: Tie. Both goalies are playing well right now and are each capable of stealing a game for their team. I can't pick a clear cut winner.
Ron Wilson out dueled Mike Keenan in the first round but will be up against another guy coaching for his job. With both bench bosses staring at the Sword of Damacles,
Dave Tippett has also shed some demons with his first round victory. He beat an excellent coach in Randy Carlyle, and will now have to deal with a different type of team. He should get some help when Zubov comes back, as he should make a good powerplay better. How he deals with the Sharks' size at forward may decide this series.
Edge: Stars. I am still not sold on Ron Wilson, and I have heard good things about Tippett from an inside source. He apparently has his team very focused and motivated.
The Stars powerplay was the straw that stirred the drink in the first round. They likely won't get as many chances as
Edge: Stars because they are due to get their best two defensemen back. Zubov skated in full equipment yesterday and I would bet he plays sooner rather than later. He will make the difference in this series.
The Stars will take this one in 7 games because they won the coin flip at my office. Expect a lot of overtime games. In the end the Stars will out work the Sharks AND be able to provide the timely goaltending that
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