SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Sharks lead the Los Angeles Kings 2-0 in their first-round playoff series, with Game 3 set for Monday, 10:30 p.m. ET, at what should be a hopping SAP Center. Five observations about what we've seen so far and why this series is worth watching:
1. Jumbo's a beast: There's a reason 36-year-old Joe Thornton should be on a few Selke Trophy ballots this season. Just watch the first two games of this series and you see again the two-way beast the veteran center has become over the past few seasons after making his name in his younger years as an offensive star. Thornton's defensive awareness has been on full display through two games, thwarting many a Kings' offensive attempt. It reminds me so much of the way Steve Yzerman changed his game under Scotty Bowman in his later years.
2. Get to know Joonas: As in Joonas Donskoi. The 24-year-old Finnish winger has been such a revelation in his rookie season, and his first playoffs haven't been any different. Playing on Logan Couture's second line, Donskoi has looked confident and poised, putting the puck in safe areas and finding open teammates with deft passes. The Sharks signed him as a free agent last May after he won playoff MVP in the Finnish league. This is how you get ahead in a salary-cap league. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was saying the other day they had figured before camp in September that Donskoi would start the season in the AHL, but he kept performing so well in camp and preseason that they kept him around. And he's been steady ever since.
3. Gaborik's back: Veteran Kings winger Marian Gaborik didn't look too bad for a guy who hadn't played since Feb. 12, returning Saturday night from a knee injury. He had a few plays, backing up the defense and producing a dangerous chance or two. As he gets up to speed, he should have an impact, although the Kings need that to happen as soon as Monday night for Game 3.
4. The Jones factor: Former Kings backup and current Sharks No. 1 goalie Martin Jones has looked smooth in his first two career playoff starts. It's funny when you look back on how he ended up in this situation, facing his former team. The Kings were really high on Jones but couldn't keep him last summer for cap reasons. So general manager Dean Lombardi tried to send him as far away as possible, to the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference. Lombardi knew, however, that there was a chance the Bruins might flip him, so he wasn't totally shocked when Sharks GM Doug Wilson landed Jones just a few days later after the Bruins-Kings trade. Wilson had had his eye on Jones for the better part of a year, and I suspect had the Kings not traded the restricted free-agent goalie that Wilson would have slapped an offer sheet on him, forcing the Kings' hand. In the end, Wilson got his goalie and now Jones is haunting his former team two games into this series.
5. Kings' net presence: For the Kings to get back into this series, they need to spend more time around the Sharks net and make life more difficult for Jones. The Kings are one and done too often on zone entries. It starts with actually hitting the net on shots, a point both Kings coach Darryl Sutter and star center Anze Kopitar made after Game 2. "Well, the first shots that we're getting, we're missing the net and we're pretty much breaking them out on our own," said Kopitar, meaning missing the net has helped the Sharks turn the puck back out. "It's hard when you don't get that around the net to create the second opportunities off that. We have to make sure we execute first, we have to the pass the puck a lot better than we did. Bottom line, just play better."