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Sharks aren't expecting easy games now or later

By Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Sharks aren't expecting easy games now or later
The San Jose Sharks took solace from the fact they weren't the only No. 1 seed top drop the opening game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
SAN JOSE -- Late Thursday night, the San Jose Sharks were no longer the only No. 1 seed that found itself down a game in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With the Washington Capitals losing in overtime on home ice to the Montreal Canadiens, the No. 1 seeds from each conference are both trailing 1-0 to the No. 8 squads. San Jose can even their series with the Colorado Avalanche when the teams meet in Game 2 at HP Pavilion Friday night (10:30 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS)

If anything, what the playoffs have proved thus far is the tremendous parity in the NHL right now. Sharks coach Todd McLellan believes none of the 16 teams should be prepared to stroll through this postseason.

"Everybody gets a number attached to their teams when the playoffs start, but in my opinion it's 16 quality teams playing," McLellan said after his team's pre-game skate Friday morning. "There is sometimes a disparity between teams, or should be, but for the most part, the teams are very close. They're very tight."

Wednesday's game was extremely tight and was decided on a fluke goal by Chris Stewart with just 49.3 seconds remaining in regulation. Sharks center Joe Pavelski expects much -- if not all -- of this series to be decided late in games. It's exactly why his team will need to put forth a better effort if it plans on heading to Denver with a split.

"In the playoffs, everyone raises their game," Pavelski said. "There's a lot of skill around the League. If you get a chance, you've got to score early. It helps. You don't want to give those guys too much life. There are good teams out there. We knew it was going to be tough and we knew they were going to be one-goal games for the most part. Tonight's a big one."

Sharks captain Rob Blake expects the Capitals to enter Game 2 the same way his team will Friday night -- by forgetting about what transpired in Game 1 and focusing on the task at hand. While nobody in the Sharks' dressing room was willing to put a "must-win" label on Game 2, clearly San Jose needs to show some desperation when the puck drops.

"It just shows there's good teams in the League," Blake said. "There's no way anybody thought that these teams weren't good teams. But again, it's one game. We need to concentrate on that one's done. We need to win this one tonight and go from there."

For those looking for close games, the NHL has provided them thus far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. All seven contests that have been played since the postseason opened for business on Wednesday have been decided by one goal, and two of them have gone to overtime. And, of course, Game 1 in this building was decided in the final minute of regulation.

"You look at the games, nobody's running away with anything," McLellan said. "They're a break here, a call there. It's certain plays in certain situations that gets you over the hump. I don't think that's going to change in the first round, I don't think it's going to change in the second and all the way to Game 7 of the (Stanley Cup) Final."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL


Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic