Get your Vancouver Canucks vs San Jose Sharks Tickets

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STRENGTHS

Vancouver – The Canucks have been playing well at home, finishing with eight victories in their last nine games while holding their opponents to just 10 goals. Even better, goalie Cory Schneider, whose availability was still in doubt Sunday, has won eight straight at home with three shutouts and seven goals against. The penalty killing vastly improved during the last month of the season, killing 40-of-43 opposition power plays, two of the goals coming in the last two meaningless games. The blue-line corps, with the exception of Chris Tanev, is healthy.

San Jose – The Sharks were almost unbeatable at home as they went 17-2-5 and out-scored their opponents by a whopping 73-49 margin. They thrived under their one goalie system of Antti Niemi, who posted 24 of the team’s 25 victories. They are also superb on faceoffs and led the Western Conference with a 53.4-per-cent success rate.

WEAKNESSES

Vancouver – The Canucks’ third line has been a conundrum all season and remains so heading into the playoffs. If coach Alain Vigneault deploys centres Derek Roy and Ryan Kesler on the same line, then his third-line options are low-scoring Max Lapierre or career minor-leaguer Andrew Ebbett, unless they opt for wild-card Jordan Schroeder. And then what does Vigneault do on the wing? Both Mason Raymond and Zack Kassian enter the post-season ice-cold offensively and neither can be considered proficient defensively to be used in a checking role. Faceoffs have been another season-long problem for the Canucks. Manny Malhotra, their best, was shut down after nine games due to vision issues and Kesler, their next best, missed 31 games due to injury. The Canucks have been eaten alive by the Sharks in the circle in head-to-head meetings, winning just 77 of 181 draws, or 37 per cent. Life is difficult when the other team begins with the puck more than you.

San Jose – The Sharks’ biggest dilemma is finding offence beyond their big four of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture. Coach Todd McLellan has been so desperate for help up front that he’s moved six-foot-five defenceman Brent Burns to right wing. The Sharks are also a lousy road team with just eight victories (8-14-2) and they gave up considerable size at the trade deadline by dealing away Douglas Murray (six-foot-three and 245 pounds), left winger Ryane Clowe (6-2, 225) and centre Michal Handzus (6-5, 215).

BREAKING IT DOWN

* For the Canucks to win: They’ll need their power play, which has been thriving of late (25 per cent the last 12 games) to continue to produce.

* For the Sharks to win: Score first. The Canucks haven’t displayed much come-from-behind ability this season.

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