The Sharks look to break their 6 game winning streak against the defending Cup champion tonight on Rivaly Night. This is as one-sided a rivalry as you'll see. The Hawks steamrolled the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals en route to the first of their recent Stanley Cup wins. Doug Wilson's Stockholm Syndrome player acquisition strategy led him to offer-sheet Niklas Hjalmarsson before signing Antti Niemi on the rebound. And Niemi provided binary great/terrible goaltending for the Sharks for 5 years, which was sure something to watch. Since then, the Sharks have gotten to watch autistic pig-man Jonathan Toews try to fight Joe Thornton while flashing his get-out-of-instigator-penalty-free card and Corey Crawford, aka Joe Flacco, NHL Goaltender routinely beat them.
I am going to say exactly two sentences about Patrick Kane for the rest of this season. Fuck that scumbag and everyone who supports him.
Doug Wilson often reacts to other team's Cup wins by emulating them, from bringing in Todd McLellan from Detroit to signing Niemi to bringing in Peter DeBoer to implement a more active forecheck a la the Kings. Strangely, he hasn't picked up on the one thing every recent Cup winner has: a truly dominant defense. The Hawks have Seabrook and Keith, and were a huge reason Niemi's erratic goaltending didn't slow Chicago down. Drew Doughty may resemble a meth-addled collie, but he's fantastic in both the defensive and offensive zones. Zdeno Chara in 2011 controlled the game completely, probably due to Rasputin blood magic. Niklas Lidstrom was the best defenseman in the league for centuries. The Ducks could roll Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermeyer out and shut games down.
It's especially weird since he's a former Norris winning defenseman himself. I mean, I love Vlasic, but as amazing he is defensively, he's very, very mediocre in the offensive zone. Braun is like generic-label Vlasic. Brent Burns has been even better this year than last year, but he's not strong enough defensively to be in the same conversation as Doughty or Keith. Paul Martin has been a good signing, as he's a strong complement to Burns, but he's not going to control games. This may be the best defense the Sharks have had for a few years, but it's not really good enough to get through 4 rounds in the playoffs, I don't think.
Anyway, this should be a good yardstick game for the Sharks. If their history is any guide, that means a frustratingly bad home loss.
Blackhawks vs. Sharks
7:00 PM Pacific
Prediction: Toews acts like a humorless dick, much to the delight of Pierre McGuire. The Sharks can't get out of their own end ever.