The San Jose Sharks will take on the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night for Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. Vancouver is coming off of a six game series with Nashville, while San Jose is coming off of a seven game series with Detroit.
San Jose has been a Stanley Cup favorite for several years now. This looks to be the best shot they've had at living up to those expectations. Last year, the Sharks made it to the Western Conference Final, but they were swept by Chicago. This year, they're taking on a very talented Vancouver Canucks team.
As Predator fans know, there is one player on Vancouver who is capable of changing a game every time he gets the puck. Ryan Kesler has been the best player in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. His offensive and defensive game is making him the favorite for the Conn Smythe Trophy. The Sedin twins have to be more effective against San Jose for the Canucks to win this series.
Goaltending: The goaltending edge goes to the Sharks. Yes, Roberto Luongo is a Vezina Trophy finalist this year. However, he hasn't proven anything yet. Antii Nieimi has won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks and is playing very good hockey in these playoffs.
Defense: The defensive advantage goes to the Vancouver Canucks. They have three very solid defensive pairings that are able to play shutdown D. They won the Jennings Trophy this year for least goals allowed.
Offense: Both teams are extremely talented offensively, but I've got to go with the Sharks. If I was a coach, San Jose's offense would scare me more simply because of their pressure. San Jose has surpassed Detroit with being the best puck possession team in the league. They're extremely good on the offensive attack.
Prediction: I think the San Jose Sharks will win this series in six games.