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Pavelski's play has Sharks looking to Round 2

by Adam Kimelman
One Joe came up big for the San Jose Sharks in their six-game first-round playoff series win against the Colorado Avalanche.

Joe Pavelski, a one-time seventh-round draft pick, is the biggest reason the top-seeded Sharks survived a scare from the eighth-seeded Avalanche and did what last year's team couldn't -- win a playoff series.

While his teammates -- including one that shares his first name -- might get most of the attention, Pavelski is no ordinary Joe.

He leads the Sharks in the playoffs with 5 goals, and his 8 points and plus-6 rating are tied for the lead. He tied Game 2 with 31.3 seconds left in regulation, he scored the overtime winner in Game 4, and he scored the game-winning goal in the series clincher.

It was Pavelski's play centering the second line, mostly flanked by Ryane Clowe and Devin Setoguchi, that propelled the Sharks into a second-round match-up with the Detroit Red Wings. Pavelski, Clowe and Setoguchi combined for 9 goals and 22 points in the first round. The Sharks' top trio of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley totaled just 1 goal and 10 points.

Pavelski insisted the team isn't depending on one player or line to lead them.

"Everyone's got to lead in their own way and establish their game," he said. "You saw in the first series, Scottie Nichol and Manny Malhotra, they all scored big goals for us, got us going at certain times in the games. It's important."

But even Pavelski expects the team's big line to get rolling sooner rather than later.

"You know great players are going to work it out," he said. "We earned another series, which gives them time. You know, we expect great things from them. They've led us all year. That's what we expect now.

"They had some good looks at the net (in Game 6), as well. A few pucks didn't go in. They're working just as hard as anybody right now. They want it just as bad as anybody. So hopefully it goes in for them and hopefully it keeps going in for everyone else, too."

They'll need a full complement of contributions against the Red Wings in the next round. They beat the Red Wings just once in four regular-season games, and that came in a shootout.

Regardless of the regular-season outcome, the Sharks at least beat back one postseason demon and showed they could move past the first round.

"I think we were happy, we were excited," Pavelski said. "A lot of work went into that series. You look at the first couple games, see the games we lost, putting 50 shots (on net). We invested quite a bit physically. It paid off at the end.

"I think it was more satisfying because it felt like we put the work in and we didn't really take any nights off. We didn't have a good game, then take a step back, kind of let them walk all over us. So that was encouraging there. That was one of the obstacles we wanted to overcome -- keep going, keep pressing, putting the hard work in, see where it gets us. You do it right, you're more than likely going to win most series."

To win another series would really be an accomplishment. San Jose hasn't been beyond the second round since the return from the work stoppage.

"We haven't made it past the second round in four or five years, I think -- not since I've been here," Pavelski said. "It's new territory. We've got to understand it only gets harder and more important games. The mental side of the game I think is really important for us."

Cleaning their mental side means ignoring their reputation for playoff failure. Rather than avoid it, however, Pavelski said it can't be ignored -- it's reality.

"Well, that is our reputation right now," he said. "You've got to work extremely hard to change your reputation once something happens."

That could start by winning the first game of a series; including this year's playoffs, the Sharks have lost Game 1 in four-straight series.

"The first game is important," Pavelski said. "We haven't won one of those in a while. I think the guys will be ready for that one."

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