NHL playoffs 2018: Predictions, odds for Ducks vs. Sharks first-round series

Everything to know about the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks before their first-round series in the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Sharks and Ducks have shared a division the entirety of their two-decade existences, but this is just the second time the Pacific foes will meet in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The first was 2009, when Scott Niedermayer, Teemu Selanne and Chris Pronger knocked the Sharks out of the first round.

In fact, either the Ducks or the Sharks have been among the playoff field every year since Anaheim won the Stanley Cup in 2007.

San Jose has made the postseason 13 times in the last 14 years, still without the franchise's first championship. It's 11 of 14 for Anaheim.

This year, the Sharks and Ducks each spent the regular season looking up at the expansion Golden Knights while dealing with their own sets of internal adversity. A few key players remain from that 2009 meeting — Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry in Anaheim; Joe Thornton in San Jose — but this series could determine which franchise will get a last shot while their respective Stanley Cup windows close.

Sporting News' NHL experts Brandon Schlager, Evan Sporer and Jim Cerny make their series predictions below.

SN STAFF PREDICTIONS
Eastern Conference | Western Conference | Stanley Cup

Anaheim Ducks (-140) vs. San Jose Sharks (+110): Schedule, picks, predictions

Game 1: April 12 at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m.
Game 2: April 14 at Anaheim, 10:30 p.m.
Game 3: April 16 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.
Game 4: April 18 at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.
*Game 5: April 20 at Anaheim, TBD
*Game 6: April 22 at San Jose, TBD
*Game 7: April 24 at Anaheim, TBD





(All times Eastern; * If necessary)

Regular season meetings: SJ, 2-1 OT (11/4); ANA, 3-2 OT (11/20); SJ, 6-2 (1/21); SJ, 3-2 OT (2/11)

MORE: Complete bracket, schedule for 2018 NHL playoffs

Brandon Schlager: Both of these teams were written off at various points this season, the Sharks as too old and the Ducks as too injured. Now look at them. Anaheim is still dealing with injury effects, with John Gibson banged up and Cam Fowler out at least the first round, probably longer. For San Jose, Joe Thornton's return looms large, though there's still little clarity about when or if he might be able to suit up in the playoffs. The low-risk, high-reward acquisition of Evander Kane at the trade deadline has paid dividends, and it's hard to ignore the Sharks' firepower. The Pacific Division portion of the West bracket is far from intimidating, at least compared to what's shaping up in the Central. It doesn't take a ton of imagination to see either team in the conference finals.

Sharks in 6 games

Evan Sporer: Just two teams that faced different hurdles and yet made it to the finish line in perhaps unexpected fashion. The Ducks faced a litany of injuries this year to key players, missing the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Hampus Lindholm, Cam Fowler, and the list goes on. Crazy that they managed all that and clawed their way back to second in the Pacific. The Sharks, in what is going to be perhaps their last horah with this group, were getting immense contributions from 38-year-old Joe Thornton until he went down with a knee injury. But no team did better than San Jose at the trade deadline in terms of value added, acquiring Evander Kane, who has been magnificent with 14 points and nine goals in 17 games.

The two really big things to watch in what I think will be the tightly contested first-round series: 1. Does Thornton make a comeback, and, if so, how effective can he be? 2. Does Gibson continue this absurd run? In his past 25 games Gibson has a .931 save percentage, with three shutouts in his past 15. I think he ends up being the difference.

Ducks in 7 games

Jim Cerny: These two teams are incredibly even-matched, with Anaheim's five-game win streak to close out the season nudging the Ducks ahead of the Sharks by one point in the standings (101-100). Both teams are battle-tested in the playoffs — the Sharks reached the Stanley Cup Final two years ago, while the Ducks made it to the Western Conference Finals two of the last three years — and hungry to win the elusive Cup. The Ducks allowed the third-fewest goals of any of the 16 playoff teams, but the health of No. 1 goalie John Gibson is a major concern. Both teams have quality scoring depth, though the Sharks are a touch deeper and certainly received a major boost in this area with the deadline acquisition of Evander Kane. For what it's worth, the Sharks won three of the four head to head meetings in the regular season. This series will not be for the faint of heart, expect it to be physical and extremely close.

Sharks in 7 games