If anyone needed further proof that San Jose captain Joe Pavelski is a bonafide star, they could simply re-watch Game 5 of the second-round series between the Sharks and Nashville Predators. The Sharks had a chance to push the Predators to the brink of elimination, and it was Pavelski who scored twice to help lift San Jose to a 5-1 victory in Game 5.
When Pavelski was named San Jose’s captain in October, he said was excited about the opportunity to wear the ‘C’ for the franchise that took a shot on him with the 205th-overall pick in 2005. However, he added that he couldn’t let it alter what he did on the ice. “It means a lot,” Pavelski said at the time. “But it really can’t change a lot about the player I am or what my game is going to be like. I have to keep putting the work in and keep getting better every day.”
Through 10 games this post-season, not a soul would dare accuse Pavelski of changing anything about his game, unless to say those changes have been for the better. The 31-year-old, who hasn’t missed a single game for the Sharks in the past three campaigns, had the second best offensive season of his career in 2015-16 and he’s in the midst of what could be a star-making performance this post-season. Sunday night, Pavelski scored twice, both on blistering shots that flew past Predators netminder Pekka Rinne in the blink of an eye.
With how productive Joe Thornton had been coming into the post-season, most would have thought that San Jose’s playoffs would have been a case of how Thornton goes, so go the Sharks, but that hasn’t been so. Rather, it’s been how Pavelski goes, so go the Sharks, and that’s fitting for the first-year captain who is showing these Sharks are indeed his team. Pavelski has only been held off the score sheet three times in the post-season: Game 3 versus the Los Angeles Kings, and Games 3 and 4 against the Predators. San Jose’s record in those three games? 0-3. And it shouldn’t be surprising that in a game when he scored twice, the Sharks were again victorious.
Pavelski’s two goals give him eight in the playoffs — tied for the post-season lead — and 12 points in 10 games. He’s already tied his second-best playoff production in five fewer games, and he’s only five points off of matching his career-best 17-point playoff output which came during the 2009-10 campaign. If the Sharks’ play in Game 5 is any indication, Pavelski’s going to get a chance to match or surpass that point total.
All around, it was an outstanding game from a Sharks team that looks like it’s going to be very, very difficult to slow down. San Jose looked like the better team from almost the outset of the contest. In the first period alone, the Sharks out-attempted the Predators 32-19, and as far as legitimate scoring chances went, it was the Sharks who owned the play for the better part of the game. It didn’t help much that the Predators took costly penalties, nor did it help that in the late stages of the game Nashville discombobulated to the point both Ryan Johansen and Mike Ribeiro were booted from the game.
All told, it was a forgettable effort from Nashville, and even though they managed 25 shots on Sharks netminder Martin Jones and put one past the 26-year-old keeper, it never truly felt that the Predators threatened to make the contest close. Game 5 is in the books, though, and it’s now a matter of forgetting this contest and preparing for what could be a season-deciding game for both clubs.
The challenge for the Sharks now will be putting away a Predators team that has faced this scenario as recently as the first round against the Pacific Division-champion Anaheim Ducks. Nashville knows what it must do, but San Jose needs to close out this series before leaving their fate in the hands of a seventh game where one strange bounce could cost them their season. Game 5 showed the Sharks aren’t about to let it come to that, though, so the Predators best come prepared Monday night.