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Sharks, Canucks need to make adjustments

by Dan Rosen / Vancouver Canucks

The Sharks know there are areas where they need to be better in Game 2 Wednesday.

Despite winning Game 1, the Canucks also feel there are changes that need to be made in their game because perfect has certainly not been in their vocabulary over the last two days.

What are the necessary adjustments that need to be made going forward in these Western Conference Finals? We've got three for each team right here, so read on:

VANCOUVER

1. Let Luongo play that puck

Even in victory, Roberto Luongo can't shake that “Public Enemy No. 1” label from Canucks' fans across this province. Luongo gave his critics more reason to get on his case when his errant pass wound up right on Joe Thornton's tape and seconds later in the back of the net late in the first period of Game 1.

Luongo still went on to win the game with 27 saves, but he admitted afterwards that he tensed up when it came time for him to play the puck and that is not what he is supposed to do.

"I didn't want to make another turnover, but I should just keep playing the puck," Luongo said. "I've done a great job all year. I don't think it's a weakness in my game."

It isn't, which is why he can't think about what went wrong when he did play the puck in Game 1. He can't let that affect the way he plays going forward because the Canucks rely on him to go back and play the puck so his defensemen aren't solely responsible and, dare we say, more vulnerable to turnovers and big hits.

"The minute you start second-guessing, that's when you're going to get into trouble," Luongo said. "Obviously the mistakes are going to happen. It's human nature. Everybody's going to make mistakes. The important thing is how you respond to it. You just got to put it behind you and keep playing. Nobody's perfect. We're all going to make mistakes."

2. Make the power play a threat every time

Nobody is saying or expecting the Canucks to score a goal every single time they get a power play, but it isn't absurd to suggest that every time they do get a power play that they should be a threat to score a goal.

Vancouver did wind up with a power-play goal and it did prove to be the game-winner in Game 1, but the Canucks didn't register a shot or even a scoring chance on two of its first three power plays. The Canucks had three power plays within the first 24 minutes of the game and didn't really threaten at all.

They had the League's No. 1 power play in the regular season, so it should be good enough to at least give them momentum even if it doesn't score.

"I think we have enough options that whatever the other team is doing, we have an answer for that," defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said when asked about the power play.

3. Carry momentum going forward

OK, so this really isn't an adjustment, but instead more of a statement of what Vancouver has to do early in Game 2.

Momentum doesn't necessarily carry over from one game to the next in the playoffs because, as players say, each game is an entity unto itself. However, the Canucks can cash in big time in Game 2 if they come out with a physical presence early and once again win the puck battles, stand the Sharks up at the blue line and make San Jose's world-class forwards play defense.

That was the Canucks' recipe for success late in the second period and throughout the third period in Game 1. It will be interesting to see if they can replicate that type of hockey, that type of success early in Game 2 or will the Sharks be the ones setting the tone?

"I thought last 25 minutes of (Game 1) we played well, we played fast," Vigneault said. "I want us to do that from the get-go."

SAN JOSE

1. Stop giving the puck away

The Sharks feel their lack of sustained offense cost them dearly in Game 1, but they also feel it was their fault that they didn't get much going in the Canucks' defensive end in the third period.

Turnovers were a big problem. They were only credited with three giveaways, but the stat sheet isn't telling the story, at least not according to the Sharks.

"Yeah, they weren't necessarily turnovers deep in their end or so much in our end -- I think the neutral zone," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We had full control of the puck and we'd find a way to do nothing with it, just kind of give up possession, and they were back in our zone."

Vancouver deserves some credit for creating the turnovers by standing up at the blue line and not letting the Sharks enter freely, then winning puck battles along the boards. Boyle insists the Sharks will be better with their entries in Game 2.
 
"We obviously live and die by the way the forwards can cycle in the offensive zone," he said. "Turnovers were a big factor in Game 1."

2. Be stronger

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said his team used Monday as a day to get mentally stronger and Tuesday's full practice session as a way to get physically stronger going into Game 2. San Jose has to hope it works because it was both mentally and physically weaker than the Canucks in Game 1, and that led to the Sharks losing their legs in the third period.

The Canucks set the physical tone early with some big hits, such as Chris Higgins' blasting Joe Pavelski off his skates, and they kept forechecking hard and pressuring the puck carriers. They wound up winning puck battles late in the game to preserve the 3-2 victory.

"I think they executed better than us and they were sharper mentally than anything else," Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray said. "I guess you could say they were the stronger team because they won more battles. I don't know if that always has to do with who is stronger, but in that game they were."

3. Don't give the refs a reason

Of all the areas in which McLellan feels his team needs to be better in Game 2 -- and there are many -- discipline is not one of them.

"I didn't think we were really undisciplined," McLellan said. "We weren't running around and playing outside that realistic zone that we have set for ourselves. We didn't wander, get frustrated, start whacking, hacking and slashing."

That being said, the Sharks did give the Canucks three power plays in the first 24 minutes of the game, and then Dany Heatley's elbowing minor in the third period resulted in Henrik Sedin's game-winning power-play goal.

The Sharks have argued that the Canucks are embellishing to get the calls, and Heatley was livid when he got whistled for getting his elbow up in Raffi Torres' face. He definitely thought Torres was acting to draw the call, but the fact is Heatley's elbow did get up into Torres' face and that is a penalty.

San Jose has to get rid of those mistakes because more times than not they will prove costly.

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