LA Great Danes
WEEKLY PREVIEW: LA draws Gilbert in a Pacific Division playoff matchup. Gilbert entered the season as the favorite in my eyes, and they proved to be a tough matchup for LA, winning 6 of the 10 games between them this year. They under-achieved this season, but they are a scary team, with elite talent and depth to go with it. LA probably over-achieved this season, so can they keep up with the Sharks in this series?
GAME #1: 



No scoring in period one, two posts by LA but an even period. Another post by LA, and again a scoreless period in the second period. Playoff hockey is here, deadlocked at 0-0 after 40 minutes.

Marchand a big chance in the 3rd’s first minute – save Shesterkin. Morgan Rielly counters in minute 2, the puck is by Jarry but post #4 for LA. Then, Gilbert opens the scoring in the game and series with a goal at 4:47. Gilbert holds the lead as time continues to tick down, but a Nico Hischier redirection goes in the net to tie the game with 4:21 left. Duchene for Gilbert and Barkov and Hintz for LA have scoring chances in the final 2 minutes, but the goalies stand tall and we have playoff overtime with a 1-1 game.

Seven minutes in, shots are 5-5 as the two teams trade shots. 12 Minutes into OT, we have our first odd-man rush and it’s LA’s 4th line. Jesper Fast takes a feed from Trevor Moore – GOAL!! The Great Danes find a way and win game #1 in overtime.

WEEKLY SUMMARY: A great battle in game #1. The stars for both teams are quiet in game 1, but lots of hockey yet to be played in this series.
GAME #2:



A Tage Thompson goal on a delayed penalty is disallowed at the 7-minute mark, instead Hintz is happy to go to the box for an elbow. Until Gilbert takes a penalty at the 13 minute mark, it’s all Gilbert, outshooting LA 7-3 with the game’s only 3 chances. LA does not score on the PP but is able to generate chances and gain momentum. A late Gilbert penalty gives LA another PP opportunity, and Roope Hintz cashes in to give the Danes a 1-0 lead after one.

LA’s coach makes a poor decision on a power play pass to the point, and Brad Marchand goes in alone and scores a short-handed goal to tie the game 10 minutes into period 2. But another late-period goal by LA puts the Danes up 2-1 after two, on a Claude Giroux goal off of a 2 on 1 rush.

But in the 3rd, a defensive breakdown by LA gives the Sharks an odd-man rush and Marchand scores his second of the game to tie it up 5 minutes in. And at the 10-minute mark, another LA coach decision backfires as they try to drive the net instead of taking a shot, and Mats Zuccarello gives the Sharks their first lead of the game.

So as in game 1, LA finds itself down late, and once again they find a way to tie the game, on a goal by Mark Scheifele with 2:33 to go. LA then presses for the win – a Hintz chance is saved by Jarry with 37 seconds left. A faceoff win and a Barkov SC with 29 seconds left, save. Another faceoff win and a Hintz SC is again saved. 23 seconds to go and LA with another offensive zone face-off. This time Stamkos wins the draw for Gilbert, the Sharks enter the offensive zone, Duchene shoots – GOAL!. Game over, Sharks win 4-3. The goal is registered at 19:59, but game over, no final face-off, so basically Gilbert wins on a buzzer beater.

WEEKLY SUMMARY: Two outstanding games to open the series, every minute of the series has been played either tied or with a one-goal differential.

Gilbert now has the advantage, and LA will have to now see if their regular season road success can carryover to the playoffs.

A tough way to lose at the end, and the Danes top line feels like they let this one slip away – 16 SOG and 15 scoring chances in game 2, with only the 1st period PPG to show for it.

Gilbert Sharks
WEEKLY PREVIEW: Gilbert surprisingly took Game 2 to gain home ice advantage over mighty LA. Can the Sharks hold off LA in Games 3 and 4 at home to keep the advantage?
GAME #3:



LA comes out ready taking a 2-0 lead in the 1st period on goals by Pelech and Reilly. Neiderreiter cuts the lead in half 5 minutes into the 2nd period. Later in the 2nd period, Nylander extends the lead for LA again with a powerplay goal but Stamkos gets his first goal of the series to cut the lead to 1 again before the end of the period. Early in the 3rd period Duchene slips one by Shesterkin to tie the score but a few minutes later Kopitar gets one by Jarry to give the Great Danes the lead once again. 4-3 LA as we wind down to the end of the game, Jarry heads to the bench with 2 minutes left and Duchene comes on as an extra skater for Gilbert….and Duchene Scores!! But wait…it is under review……No goal it never crossed the line! 1:30 left, Gilbert continues with the goalie pulled….. now under a minute…. Gilbert is putting the pressure on….. and with 34 seconds left Marchand scores to tie the game! This one counts! We are headed to Overtime! The OT period is all Gilbert as LA never gets a shot on goal and Mackinnon scores the Game- Winner just over 4 minutes in, his first goal of the series. Gilbert leads the series 2-1.
WEEKLY SUMMARY: Gilbert able to comeback from 2 goals down not once but twice. After a last second game winner in game 2 and tying the game in the last minute in Game 3, Sharks fans have been kept on the edge of their seats. Can they hold serve in game 4??
GAME #4:



Nino Neiderreiter scores his 3rd goal in 4 games midway through the first to give Gilbert the early lead but Barkov scores before the end of the period to tie it back up. The 2nd period is quiet until Mackinnon gives Gilbert a 2-1 lead with less than a minute left in the period. Erik Haula scored early in the 3rd to give the Sharks a 2 goal cushion. LA peppered Jarry with shots throughout the 3rd period and Nylander finally broke through with 3 minutes to go pulling LA within 1. LA looking to pull the goalie late in the game but before they have the chance Brent Burns rips a slapshot past Shesterkin to make the lead 2 once again. Mackinnon added an empty netter and Gilbert takes a commanding series lead going back to LA with a 5-2 win.
WEEKLY SUMMARY: The Sharks are on the brink of a huge upset of the Great Danes needing just one more win to advance. Will they pull it off or will there be an epic collapse????
LA Great Danes
WEEKLY PREVIEW: Sorry in advance for the wordy preview, but this is likely to be LA’s last game report of the season. Three straight losses have put the Great Danes on the brink of elimination as they have experienced adversity not seen all season. In the regular season, LA had a winning record in 18 of 21 weeks, 2 weeks with a .500 record, and one single losing week at 1-2-1. So it’s either stay the course and trust that things can turn around, or make changes to quickly get back on track.

Over the 4 games versus the Sharks, LA does have a 74-52 advantage in scoring chances, SOG and hits are very even, and LA is 2-10 on the PP and 10-10 on the PK. But Gilbert’s offensive power has been the difference, eliminating what was hoped to be LA’s advantage in goal. Shesterkin has struggled mightily since his strong game 1. His downward spiral seems to be triggered by that back-breaking buzzer beater in game 2, and his save % is sub .900 in each of games 2-3-4.

On one hand, it makes sense to see if Shesterkin can get his game back. But with Anton Forsberg’s outstanding season, LA will go to Anton Forsberg in game #5. Forsberg’s 22-5-3 record and MWHL 3rd-best 2.56 GAA has given him the right to get the nod in the elimination game. But goaltending alone has not been LA’s sole problem, so other lineup changes have been made for game 5. It will be the same 12 F’s, but changes in lines 1-2-3 have been made, and a small change on D with McNabb in and Dumba out.

Panic time? Perhaps yes, but depth has been a strength for LA this season, so time to show confidence in the team’s versatility and make some changes throughout the lineup and see if a different look will yield different results.

GAME #5:



Game 5 was similar to games 2-3-4 in many respects. Kopitar and Duchene exchange goals in period 1, scored tied 1-1. Early in the second, Gilbert takes the lead with Tage Thompson’s first goal of the series. Then, would you believe, LA scores 4 goals in 3:13 to take a 5-2 lead 8 minutes into the 2nd.

LA once again has a difficulty playing with a multi-goal lead. Frederic in period 2 and Reilly on the PP in the 3rd score for Gilbert to make it a one-goal game at 5-4 with still 8 1/2 minutes to play. Then it seems like deja-vu from game 2 – LA can’t convert 3 quick SC’s late, and Gilbert presses for the tieing goal with Jarry pulled. In the last 20 seconds, a Makar chance is blocked and Smith’s wraparound is stopped by Forsberg, and LA barely hangs on for the 5-4 to stay alive.

WEEKLY SUMMARY: It took a Gilbert lapse in period 2, giving up the 4 goals in 3:13, for LA to sneak away with the game 5 win. The Danes will need to play their best game of the series if they have any chance for a road win in game 6, and if they do that there would still be a game 7, so a daunting task is ahead for LA. But we stay alive for the moment.
Gilbert Sharks
WEEKLY PREVIEW: Gilbert with their 2nd chance to knock out LA who was so dominant throughout the regular season. This one feels like a must win for the Sharks at home as they don’t want to travel back to LA for a Game 7.
GAME #6:



The tension was high and both teams started tentative in the 1st period but Mark Scheifele breaks though 7 minutes in to put one past Jarry and give LA a 1-0 lead. Late in the period Brady Tkachuk puts Gilbert on the board and we are tied 1-1 at the end of 1. Midway through the 2nd period Adrian Kempe scores to put LA ahead again but again Gilbert is able to match, this time a score by Trent Frederic and then later in the period Steven Stamkos scores to give Gilbert their 1st lead of the game 3-2. Unfortunately Gilbert has a similar lapse as Game 5 giving up 3 goals in the first 5 minutes of the 3rd period, 2 by Roope Hintz sandwiched around Anze Kopitar’s 3rd goal of the series. Suddenly the Sharks are down 2 goals and its not looking good with 15 minutes to go, but the resilient Sharks wont give up and Cale Makar rips a slapshot that gets past Shesterkin with 10 minutes left and cuts the LA lead to 5-4. Then just a couple minutes later Yanni Gourde redirects a Frederic shot into the back of the net and we are tied once again at 5 goals each, under 8 minutes left to play. The action is up and down as both teams have multiple odd man rushes and clean scoring chances. Shesterkin and Jarry both have had rough games but they are full of spectacular saves the last 3 minutes as the clock winds down to triple zero. Overtime! The goalies have found their stride now and the game extends deeper and deeper into Overtime until finally one goalie blinks, unfortunately for the Sharks it is Jarry as Aleksander Barkov scores the game winner with just 3 minutes left in the 1st OT period. Final Score LA 6 Gilbert 5
WEEKLY SUMMARY: Gilbert’s coach made a colossal mistake bringing up the thought of an epic collapse and barring a miracle win in LA it has come to pass.
LA Great Danes
WEEKLY PREVIEW: LA has found a way to get to a game 7 after trailing in the series 3-1. This has been a tense series with 3 OT games plus a 19:59 game winner, not to mention the lead changes and no lead being safe pretty much all series
GAME #7:



Gilbert has the first 5 SOG, LA with the first scoring chance, and Gilbert takes the first penalty. Roope Hintz opens the scoring with a PPG at 8:47. The teams then trade penalties, LA kills off one then gets their 2nd PP opportunity and 2nd PPG, this one by Jonas Brodin. But a quick LA penalty and Stamkos converts for the Sharks at 18:23. But before the period is over, the first even-strength goal of the game is scored by Aleksander Barkov at 19:15, and the Danes lead 3-1 after one.

5 minutes into the 2nd, Marchand takes a double-minor for high sticking. Barkov hits the crossbar, is stopped on another chance in front, and Mark Scheifele scores LA’s 3rd PPG of the game and it’s right before Marchand’s first 2 minutes are about to expire. So LA is up 4-1 at the game’s halfway point and feeling good.

The teams trade power play opportunities, first LA and then Gilbert. No goals, but as LA’s PP ends, Yanni Gourde breaks free and beats Shesterkin on a breakaway and it’s 4-2 with 5 minutes left in period 2. LA takes another penalty, and Matt Duchene scores on the power play at 18:16 and now it’s a one-goal game at 4-3. Then Barkov takes a holding penalty, and Gilbert with a chance to tie the game on the power play.

The penalty carries over to the 3rd, the Sharks get one scoring chance on the PP and 2 more in the first 2 minutes of the 3rd, but Shesterkin is able to stop them. Then, Barkov is able to beat Jarry 6 minutes in and the Great Danes are back to a 2-goal lead at 5-3. I am not making this up – as we approach the 10-minute mark, I am thinking no penalties and no odd-man rushes to finish this off. So the next thing to happen is that it’s Tage Thompson with a breakaway goal at 10:32 and it’s 5-4.

It stays 5-4 as we hit the 5-minute mark. Mackinnon’s chance at 4 minutes is saved by Shesterkin. 3 more saves by Shesterkin, one by Jarry, and we’re under one minute. LA is able to win a draw and keep puck possession until Nylander is stopped on a scoring chance with 30 seconds to go, Gilbert is finally able to pull Jarry and Duchene’s shot is stopped and held by Shesterkin with 16.5 seconds left. Gilbert wins the draw, Brodin for LA blocks the first shot, Burns with a SOG saved by Shesterkin, and Brodin clears the rebound and game 7 is over, with LA holding on for the 5-4 win.

WEEKLY SUMMARY: What a great series this was. The Great Danes are extremely fortunate to eke out the series win. Coming into the series, we knew Gilbert was a tough matchup, and they were that and more. Andy built a great roster and team and they came oh so close to knocking out top seed LA.