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San Jose Sharks back home to face Florida Panthers

The San Jose Sharks must first-and-foremost show up and play hard. They cannot look ahead to Thursday vs. the Anaheim Ducks or play soft like they have against some of the weaker Eastern Conference foes.
The San Jose Sharks must first-and-foremost show up and play hard. They cannot look ahead to Thursday vs. the Anaheim Ducks or play soft like they have against some of the weaker Eastern Conference foes.
Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The San Jose Sharks returned from a three-game sweep over four days through the Eastern Conference Sunday night, March 16. By Tuesday, they must already host the Florida Panthers in the first of their three consecutive home games.

The five pictured keys simply state how the Sharks win this game. An examination of the numbers so far in the 2013-14 NHL season tells why they should.

The Panthers are the second-worst team in the Eastern Conference at 25-35-8, 10 points away from being eliminated from the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs. The are the second-worst road team in the NHL (12-20-3) and 7-11-4 against the Western Conference.

San Jose is the most dominant team in the league at home over the last two seasons. Tying for most points with 39 in the lockout-shortened season and going unbeaten at home during the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs has been followed with a league-leading home point percentage this year (25-4-4 is .818).

The Sharks also won the only other meeting during the 2013-14 NHL season, 3-0. They are 20-6-3 against the Eastern Conference and have only more game outside of the Western Conference remaining (Saturday vs. the Washington Capitals). They have achieved more success with a substantially better power play (15.9 to 10.7 percent) and penalty kill (84.7 to 75.1) helping them score more goals (2.96 vs. 2.38 per game) and give up fewer (2.32 vs. 3.16).

They dominate the Panthers in virtually every statistical category: 372 more possessions via faceoff margin—301 of which are lost to additional giveaways—and 89 more takeaways lead to five more shots and 2.8 fewer allowed each game thus far in the 2013-14 NHL season.

Considering the possession edge, Florida's 3.3 more hits per game would be expected even if that statistic were objective. Considering the shot edge, it is amazing San Jose still blocks 3.7 more shots each game. The teams are on the opposite side of the spectrum in their ratios of shots allowed per block: 1.777 was third-best in the NHL while 2.539 was second-worst before St. Patrick's Day play began.

The Panthers are 2-2-1 with Roberto Luongo in net, and he has a .916 save percentage and 2.58 goals against average in those games. The Sharks have won six straight and 10 of 12 overall, climbing to within half a game of the Anaheim Ducks for home-ice advantage until the Western Conference finals.