Skip to content

Five Q’s: Canucks-Sharks series preview

May 1, 2013, 11:24 AM EDT

Daniel Sedin Getty Images

Will Cory Schneider sink or swim?

Schneider finished the regular season with great numbers (17-9-4, .927 SV%), and he was especially good in March and April as Roberto Luongo was relegated mostly to the bench. But Schneider only has four career playoff starts — a pittance of big-game experience compared to the man he supplanted. The 27-year-old’s ability to handle stress and maintain an even keel will be paramount if the Canucks are going to have success. This, of course, assumes Schneider actually plays. He’s been nursing a “body” injury that’s kept his status for Game 1 up in the air.

Can Antti Niemi steal the show?

For all the talk about the Canucks’ goaltending — and lord knows there’s been enough of it — let’s not forget about the guy in the Sharks’ crease. Niemi, who backstopped the ‘Hawks to a Stanley Cup in 2010 (beating Vancouver along the way), put together a Vezina-caliber season in San Jose, starting 43 games and posting a .924 save percentage.  “I think the lockout, in the long run, it’s been a good thing for me,” said Niemi recently. “I just got stronger. My legs got stronger.”

Can San Jose keep killing penalties?

The last time these two teams met, in the 2011 Western Conference finals, the Canucks rode their league-best power play to a five-game win. Vancouver scored nine times with the man advantage in that series. In 2013, however, the Canucks had just the 22nd-best PP (15.8%), while the Sharks dramatically improved their penalty killing, finishing the season ranked No. 6 (85.0%). To be fair to the Canucks, they did show some improvement late in the season, scoring on seven of their last 25 PP opportunities (28.0%). New addition Derek Roy has given them another play-maker up front.

What kind of hockey will we see?

Two years ago, the Canucks and Sharks were among the highest-scoring and most entertaining clubs in the NHL. But things, for better or worse, have changed since then. “We are not a run-and-gun team anymore,” Vancouver captain Henrik Sedin told CBC.ca recently. “You’ve got to be good in your own end. When healthy, I think this is as good a team as we have ever had.” Meanwhile, Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle put it this way: “Today’s game, there’s not so much pretty plays passing up and down the ice as much as there used to be. Playing quick is getting it out as quick as you can and playing in their zone.”

What’s at stake?

Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault acknowledged Tuesday that his team’s window to win won’t stay open forever. If Vancouver bows out in the first round for the second straight season, the Vigneault coaching era may well be over. Likewise, there will be calls for Todd McLellan’s job if the Sharks don’t get to the second round. This is San Jose’s ninth straight postseason appearance, and the club has yet to advance past the third round. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Dan Boyle can all become unrestricted free agents after the 2013-14 season.

For all the first-round playoff previews, click here.

Latest Posts
  1. Bylsma praises ‘formidable’ Bennett-Sutter-Stempniak line

    Apr 17, 2014, 12:03 AM EDT

    Bylsma Getty Images

    The trio was big in Wednesday’s Game 1 victory over the Jackets.

  2. Lightning provide few details about Palat’s injury

    Apr 16, 2014, 11:23 PM EDT

    Tampa Bay Lightning v Pittsburgh Penguins Getty Images

    It’s bad enough to inspire Jon Cooper’s pity, though.

  3. Blue Jackets coach wants more than just moral victories

    Apr 16, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT

    Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes Getty Images

    “We aren’t here just to go to school. We’re here to win.”

  4. Weise gives Canadiens 1-0 series lead with overtime win

    Apr 16, 2014, 10:41 PM EDT

    Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game One Getty Images

    After all that star power in regulation …

  5. Penguins outlast Blue Jackets, take Game 1

    Apr 16, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT

    Columbus Blue Jackets v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game One Getty Images

    Pittsburgh scores three unanswered goals to win.

  6. WATCH LIVE: Dallas Stars at Anaheim Ducks (Game 1)

    Apr 16, 2014, 10:14 PM EDT

    StarsDucks AP

    The West’s No. 1 seed takes on the final wild card qualifier.

  7. Video: Tyutin avoids penalty during Sutter’s breakaway

    Apr 16, 2014, 9:22 PM EDT

    penaltyornot

    Did the Penguins deserve a power play or penalty shot?

  8. Video: Dubinsky, Johnson combine to give Columbus an early lead

    Apr 16, 2014, 8:11 PM EDT

    Jack Johnson, Brandon Dubinsky, Fedor Tyutin AP

    Updated with bonus goals for your enjoyment.

  9. Malkin will indeed return for Game 1

    Apr 16, 2014, 7:24 PM EDT

    Evgeni Malkin AP

    In case there was any doubt.

  10. WATCH LIVE: Montreal Canadiens vs. Tampa Bay Lightning (Game 1)

    Apr 16, 2014, 6:46 PM EDT

    Montreal Canadiens v Tampa Bay Lightning Getty Images

    Unproven goalie vs. a gold-medal goalie in Game 1.

  11. WATCH LIVE: Columbus Blue Jackets vs. Pittsburgh Penguins (Game 1)

    Apr 16, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

    Pittsburgh Penguins v Columbus Blue Jackets Getty Images

    A battle between a scrappy underdog and a perplexing favorite.

  12. Stars’ Dillon (foot) out for Game 1

    Apr 16, 2014, 6:18 PM EDT

    Dallas Stars v Pittsburgh Penguins Getty Images

    A little less grit against the Anaheim Ducks.

  13. Ducks feel ‘very comfortable’ with rookie Andersen in net, says Boudreau

    Apr 16, 2014, 4:14 PM EDT

    Anze Kopitar, Frederik Andersen AP

    “He gives us the best chance to win, so he’ll be the one starting.”

  14. Staal, Ward say they want to stay in Carolina

    Apr 16, 2014, 4:00 PM EDT

    WardStaal Getty Images

    But both acknowledge they’ve heard the rumblings.

  15. Sabre rattling: Buffalo overhauls Nolan’s coaching staff

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:17 PM EDT

    tednolan2ap AP

    Sacco, Forton, Numminen and Corsi are out.

  16. Pressing question: Could this be the year of the upset?

    Apr 16, 2014, 2:05 PM EDT

    Gustav Nyquist, Tuukka Rask AP

    Top seeds don’t have it easy in the first round.

Featured video

Are Penguins vulnerable vs. Columbus?
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. E. Malkin (4445)
  2. T. Oshie (3414)
  3. M. Duchene (3266)
  4. M. Brodeur (2840)
  5. B. Bishop (2818)