If there's one series I don't feel good about picking, it's this one. There isn't a lot separating these teams and it could come down to random luck.


What is a Canucks preview without some goaltending discussion?  The situation here is simple. Schneider is as good as they come in goal and if he's healthy, Vancouver is not a team I'd want to face. He can cover up for whatever flaws there might be in front of him and give his forwards enough time to find the back of the net.  If for some reason he doesn't live up to expectations as the go-to guy, Luongo can come in as the sentimental underdog and do just fine. No one expected him to even be here, so if he's thrust into action to save the day it could be a nice final chapter to his days in Vancouver.

On the flip side, the Sharks will be relying solely on Niemi. That's not a bad thing because he's been great this season. I don't expect a dropoff in play unless something bizarre happens.  With that said, I still give this duel to Schneider.

Defensive depth?

This area was a major problem for the Canucks when they faced off vs Boston in 2011. Injuries piled up and they simply didn't have enough quality on the blueline to handle a team with firepower. Has anything changed? They let go of Salo and brought in Garrison, but other than that it's status quo for Vancouver.  I really like their top four, but after that things get dicey.

The same can be said for the Sharks. Vlasic, Boyle, Stuart, and Irwin are good pieces, but things drop off very quickly.  I don't see either team having any advantage in this area.

2011 Repeat?

I'd be surprised if the Canucks took care of the Sharks in five games or less like they did in 2011.  Kesler is back, but he's yet to prove he can match his level of play from two-three years ago. Roy was a nice addition, but small centers can have problems in the playoffs. Thornton isn't what he once was either, but Couture has fully supplanted him as the key guy on this club.  Adding Torres was a very underrated deadline move and Burns is having a good impact playing on the wing. You can go up and down the lineup all day long, but it's hard to find advantages for either side. There are loads of quality two-way players withe lots of playoff experience.  The 2011 series was closer than the final tally suggested, and I expect that to play out in a longer series this time.

Bottom Line

This is essentially a coin flip. Advanced stats don't shed any light on things either. The Sharks have slightly better puck possession numbers, but the Canucks have a slightly better PDO rating. Both teams are great at home and it could come down to a game seven winner takes all. In that case, I would side with the Sharks who would have much less pressure on them. If Vancouver don't advance to the second round, management will take a lot of heat for the Luongo fiasco and it could get ugly across the board.  I'll go with San Jose here, but due to Schneider I don't feel great about it.

Prediction: San Jose ML for the series (+100).