There's nothing more thrilling in hockey than winning a Game 7 on home ice, which is what the San Jose Sharks accomplished Thursday here at HP Pavilion against the Detroit Red Wings. The 3-2 victory placed the Sharks in the Western Conference Finals for the second straight season. They'll play Game 1 against the Presidents' Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks on Sunday at Rogers Arena (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).
While Sharks coach Todd McLellan was holding his press conference following the series-clinching win against the Red Wings, he was asked if he'd turn his attention to the Canucks the second he stepped off the podium.
"Yeah, pretty much," McLellan said. "It's draining for everybody -- players, trainers, coaching staff. We'll start working on Vancouver tonight. We don't have many days."
While a spot in the conference finals isn't out of place for the Sharks, opening a playoff series on the road is something different. They haven't opened a playoff series away from home since 2007, a span of eight series.
"It'll be interesting. We'll enter a series as the underdog," McLellan said. "That hasn't happened before. Maybe there will be a little pressure taken off us there and we can go play free."
The Canucks and Sharks were separated by 12 points in the standings. The Sharks didn't have much success in the regular season against the Canucks, either, picking up just one shootout victory in four matchups.
They do share a lot in common, however. They arguably are the two deepest teams in the League when it comes to the forwards. The Canucks losing checking center Manny Malhotra is a blow for sure, but each team can get scoring from just about any of their top nine forwards.
"I'm going to go home and I'm going to get some sleep," he said. "We'll look at the schedule on our board for tomorrow and for the following day. We'll come to the rink tomorrow and I don't know if we're going to skate yet. We'll learn about Vancouver and the way they've played and their tendencies and stuff like that."
The Sharks will look to take a lesson from last season's five-game series victory against the Red Wings that was followed by a four-game loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. It's possible there could be a letdown after such an emotional series that saw the Sharks turn a 3-0 series lead into a seven-game gut-wrencher.
"Last year after we beat these guys, I think we got a little too happy and didn't focus on our next goal and that was the Blackhawks," Couture said. "They took it to us and swept us. We haven't won anything yet. We've made it past the second round. Now we have to get ready for the Canucks."
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