The San Jose Sharks are an aging superpower that’s heading downhill fast. That being said, the Nashville Predators shouldn’t underestimate the wily vets.
What happens when a snake-bitten team meets a team who owns the puck for the majority of the game? We’ll find out this Wednesday on Rivalry Night on NBCSN as the Nashville Predators take on the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks like to slow games down to a snail’s pace and grind their opposition into dust. It’s been their M.O. since they started slowing down in 2012. This will be an interesting match-up since the Predators like to use their speed to force defenders into exhaustion.
The Sharks are still possession monsters who dominate the puck, this will be a real test for a Predators team who’s still finding consistency. There are a few key factors to remember before Wednesday’s game.
The shark tank is not predator friendly
The Nashville Predators do so well at home mostly because of their ability to match lines. This goes similarly for the San Jose Sharks, who boast the best shutdown defenseman in the NHL. Marc-Edouard Vlasic has shut down the best forwards in the league through the regular season and the playoffs. He and other defensive defensemen, Justin Braun, will be on the JoFA or JoFF line all night long. I’ve been a Sharks fan for most of my life, and let me tell you that Vlasic is one of the best erasers in the league. Much like Mattias Ekholm and Patrice Bergeron, Vlasic can make an opposing star player disappear. Vlasic will be a good test for Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg.
The power play and penalty kill
Two juggernauts clash at the tank as the Nashville Predators’ elite power play will face the Sharks’ dominant penalty kill. So far the Sharks kill 88.37% of penalties taken, while the Predators score on 24.49% of their chances.
This could be a huge issue for the Predators as they rely on their power play for the majority of their scoring. The good news is that the Predators’ speed could be used to catch the Sharks out of position. Which would help the zone entries quite a bit, something the Predators have struggled with. Going into Wednesday’s game, it wouldn’t be smart of the Predators to rely on their power play to score. Five on five scoring is a must.
Possession at five on five
As I said before, the Sharks practically own the puck whenever they play. The Sharks have a five on five Corsi of 53.52% and a Fenwick of 55.24% Not only are they good at creating chances, but they do a great job of keeping other teams’ chances off net. The Sharks actually rank fifth in the NHL in Corsi and second in Fenwick.
The Predators have been an inconsistent possession team, not just game by game but period by period. Some periods see the Predators never relinquishing control of the puck, and in other periods it seems like they’re almost allergic to it. Despite the inconsistencies, the Predators are still a top 10 possession team. They have a 51.79% Corsi and a 52.79% Fenwick. Good for sixth in the NHL in both categories.
How to win the game
Capitalizing on chances is the key. The Sharks are a defensive stalwart and have given up the fourth fewest goals in the NHL with subpar goaltending. The Sharks adapt well to offenses to minimize chances. The Predators can’t miss wide open nets or make sloppy plays and expect to win. The road through California is not an easy one, even if it starts through the subjectively weakest team.