San Jose Sharks vs. Chicago Blackhawks game preview

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Sharks2.jpgSan Jose Sharks vs. Chicago Blackhawks
3:00 p.m. EDT, May 16, 2010
Live on NBC

Join us at 2:45 p.m. for a live
chat during today’s game!

This is a series for redemption.

For
the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s another chance to prove they belong in the
Stanley Cup finals and to have one more shot to prove themselves as
Western Conference champions. After being ousted last season by the
Detroit Red Wings in just five games, the Hawks are back hungrier and
deeper and are coming off yet another rousing series win over the
Vancouver Canucks.

For the San Jose Sharks, just getting to this
point is a victory. After four straight exits in the Conference
semifinals, the Sharks became known as a team that could never put it
together in the postseason and with the core players becoming older each
season, likely never to figure it out soon.

This was a team made
up of underachieving, highly paid players that wilted when the pressure
was the greatest; now they’ve used their younger players to propel them
to just one round from the Stanley Cup finals.

So now the
Blackhawks and the Sharks faceoff, two teams fighting to get to a place
where neither have come close to reaching. Granted, the Hawks were in
the Stanley Cup finals in 1992, but that was a completely different era
in hockey.

Trying to determine an edge in the series is tough,
and it’s easy to think the Blackhawks have the momentum heading in.
After all, this team has been here before and is coming off a dominant
victory over the Vancouver Canucks — a team many felt would give the
Hawks a serious run for their money. The Hawks are also sporting a
deeper team at forward than they did last season, if that’s possible,
and the emergence of Dustin Byfuglien as a legitimate top line threat
has made the Hawks a suddenly dangerous team.

For the Sharks the
great play of Joe Pavelski has been able to finally take the pressure
off of Joe Thornton, the scapegoat for all of the Sharks’ previous
postseason troubles. The Sharks used deep scoring to take out the Red
Wings in the second round, while the solid play of Evgeni Nabokov
alleviated some of the fears that the goaltender had lost his edge after
falling apart in the Olympics.

Logic says that this will be a
hard fought, close series between two teams that are hungry to reach a
finish line they have only sniffed to this point. They are nearly evenly
matched, but the Sharks do have one advantage over the Blackhawks, that
could prevent Chicago from ultimately wining this series:

They don’t have Marian Hossa on their team.