The San Jose Sharks have been some way below their brilliant best this season – a few major injuries suffered early in the campaign hindered their chances of Stanley Cup glory.
After reaching ice hockey’s showpiece series in the 2015/16 season, San Jose crashed out of the postseason at the first time of asking last year. The team to defeat them? None other than the Edmonton Oilers.
Despite their struggles at times, the Sharks are sitting second in the Pacific Division and fans will be expecting a return to the playoffs this year.
They sit just two points clear of the well-fancied Calgary Flames in fifth position and San Jose must improve in the second half of the campaign to fend off any competition. At 25/1 to win the Stanley Cup with Betway, Peter DeBoer’s men are worth considering as dark horses for the title.
And then we have the Edmonton Oilers. Languishing in sixth spot, Calgary are clear of their Canadian rivals and it may be wise for Edmonton to focus primarily on building momentum ahead of next season.
With this being a divisional fixture, the Oilers will be desperate to win and San Jose certainly won’t have everything their own way. It could be a fascinating affair at the Shark Tank.
Sharks Need Big Response After Blip
It would be fair to suggest that San Jose have failed to inspire confidence in recent weeks. Three defeats in a row, including a 7-1 thrashing at the hands of the Nashville Predators, has killed momentum at SAP Center and Sharks fans will be hoping that a return to home ice can help to settle a few nerves.
A fourth successive loss would be catastrophic for San Jose’s chances of competing in the playoffs this year. With the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Calgary Flames closing in, the pressure is on DeBoer’s side to step up and hold their advantage in second spot.
KEY MAN: Brent Burns. Widely regarded as the best defenseman in the National Hockey League, Burns has 51 points in 63 appearances this year. He leads the team with 41 assists and Logan Couture may be the main beneficiary if Burns is at his brilliant best here.
Burns is influential at both ends of the ice and that makes him a dangerous option for San Jose. The Sharks will be expecting another big performance from their number 88 in this contest.
Oilers Starting To Build Momentum
Who’d have thought it, Edmonton have started to string a run of form together. Three wins in a row has helped the Oilers to move clear of the Vancouver Canucks and Arizona Coyotes – but the Calgary Flames are still 15 points away. Defensively, Edmonton are relatively weak and that could be their downfall.
You cannot afford to concede 204 goals in the regular season. To put their defensive record into perspective, only three teams across the NHL have conceded more goals this year. The Oilers could be set for a strong finish to the campaign though and that bodes well for the 2018/19 season.
KEY MAN: Connor McDavid. Not a difficult choice, McDavid is Edmonton’s knight in shining armour. The Oilers star leads the team in points (74) by some distance and Canadian fans will be hoping for another incredible individual effort here.
With 27 goals and 47 assists, McDavid is one of the most talented players in the NHL and he is certainly a viable candidate for the Most Valuable Player award. Without him, the Oilers would be in direct competition with the Coyotes at the foot of the Pacific Division.
Let’s go with an Edmonton win. Yes, that’s right – an Edmonton win. The Oilers are playing some fantastic stuff right now and all of the pressure is on San Jose. DeBoer’s side are the more talented without a doubt but an early goal for the visitors could see Sharks fans turn on their side. The Shark Tank may be a very hostile place to be…
SHARKS 2-3 OILERS