The Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks will be meeting for the fourth time in the postseason.
The Wings have won the last two meetings in the playoffs, both of which have come in the conference semifinals.
Here’s a look at three reasons why the Wings advance to the Western Conference finals and three reasons why the Sharks end Detroit’s bid for a third straight trip to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Three Reasons Why Wings Advance
1. Pavel factor
It looks as if Pavel Datsyuk is on the verge of becoming a top producer in the postseason.
After scoring just one goal in 16 playoff games a year ago, Datsyuk already has five this season in just seven games. He was the catalyst that got things going for Detroit in Game 7 in Phoenix, netting the Wings’ first two goals of the game.
2. Shark bait
Unlike the Wings’ stars rising to the occasion, San Jose’s top two guys, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, are complete busts come playoff time. And the pair even become statistically worse when they face the Wings in the postseason.
Each of them have played six games in the playoffs against Detroit. Thornton has a goal and four assists over those six games, while Marleau has yet to register a point.
3. Home-ice advantage?
We all know you forget about what happened during the regular season once the playoffs roll around. But it’s still hard to hide the fact that the Wings won both regular season meetings in San Jose this year, both in pretty convincing fashion and both times with the No. 1 goalies between the pipes.
The Wings outscored the Sharks on their home sheet of ice this year, 8-3.
Three Reasons Why Sharks Advance
1. I know you
If there’s one advantage the Sharks have this postseason, it may be in coach Todd McLellan.
McLellan spent three seasons under Mike Babcock in Detroit where he won a Stanley Cup and helped lead the Wings’ the Presidents’ Trophy twice.
McLellan knows the Wings players better than any coach they’ve faced over their last two runs to the Stanley Cup finals. He could exploit some weaknesses in a long series.
2. They’re due
This is the ninth time the Sharks have advanced a conference semifinal. Only once have they moved past that round and into the conference final. That happened prior to the NHL lockout, but they fell to Calgary in six games.
And I’m sure the sting of last year’s ouster in the first round by rival Anaheim after winning the Presidents’ Trophy is fresh on San Jose’s mind.
3. Time travel
If there’s one team that can say they’re fatigued from all the postseason plane trips, it’s the Detroit Red Wings.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Wings made five long-distance flights – a pair of round-trips to Phoenix and then a one-way flight – equaling 8,425 miles. And if their semifinal series with the Sharks goes seven games their logged flight mileage could reach 10,350.
That’s a lot of traveling for a lot of hockey players that have played a lot of hockey over these last three seasons.
Tonight will also be Detroit’s 71st playoff game since 2007.
Pick: Detroit in 6.