Watching the Chicago Blackhawks agitate the Vancouver Canucks all the
way to a series win the San Jose Sharks are certain to have taken
detailed notes on just what exactly went wrong for Vancouver. The
Sharks, fresh off of getting that elusive playoff monkey off their
backs, now have the pressure on them to continue their run. The
Blackhawks will be a much different test for the Sharks than the
Avalanche or Red Wings, especially with the confidence they’re riding
after some big wins in Vancouver.
At the top of the list of the concerns for the Sharks will be the top
line of Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who wreaked
havoc for the Blackhawks by getting under the skin of Roberto Luongo and
the Canucks defense. The Sharks are far from the emotional team that
the Canucks became, but it’s not just the agitation they’ll have to
worry about. Toews and Kane were dominant offensively in the second
round, and that is what has to worry the Sharks the most.
“He just works hard every shift,” Thornton said of Toews,
the leading scorer in the postseason with 20 points. “He’s very skilled
and is really turning into a complete player. Whoever’s line goes
against him is going to have a real challenge.”
“He’s a big man
who really started to make an impact in the series later on,” McLellan
said of Byfuglien. “We’ll have a plan for him and figure out how to deal
Toews became a force to be reckoned with, but you have to wonder if
the emotional aspect of the series against Vancouver is what drove the
Blackhawks more than anything else. The Sharks and Hawks don’t have much
of a history against each other and the Sharks have yet to face Antti
Niemi this season.
Just like with any Conference finals, there’s
going to be emotions flying but I doubt we’ll see anything close to what
we witnessed in the second round.