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Sharks face same daunting scenario as 2004

by Dave Lozo /
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- If Sharks fans feel like they've been transported to 2004, it's hard to blame them.

That was the last time their team was in the Western Conference Finals. They were the second seed to the Calgary Flames' sixth seed and enjoyed home-ice advantage. But the underdogs left HP Pavilion with a 2-0 series before dispatching the Sharks in six games.

Fast forward to 2010, and the nightmare is happening once again in San Jose.

Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist as the Chicago Blackhawks left HP Pavilion with a convincing 4-2 victory Tuesday night and will return home to the United Center with a commanding 2-0 series lead after back-to-back road victories.

The only Sharks who remain from that 2004 team are Patrick Marleau and Evgeni Nabokov -- and they admitted that yes, it does feel like déjà vu all over again.

"A little bit. I think we'd definitely like the next two games if it's going to be the same," said Marleau, referring to how the Sharks evened that series with the Flames at 2-2 before eventually losing.

"Yeah, I guess you can compare that in terms of going down 2-0," Nabokov said. "But it's a different team."

A different team facing the same monumental task. So what's the No. 1 thing that needs to improve for the Sharks to win four of their next five games against the Blackhawks?

According to Joe Pavelski, it's all about commitment.

"Didn't have nearly enough guys out there," a stone-faced Pavelski said of his team's Game 2 effort. "We didn't get the job done. When we have won so far this season, it's been a commitment by everybody. Everybody's showed up, and that's what we need."

One thing the Sharks need to be more committed to is clearing the front of Nabokov's net. Three of the four Blackhawks goals in Game 2 were the result of redirections from just outside of Nabokov's crease. No one could move Dustin Byfuglien -- not a surprise -- on his goal, but it doesn't mean there aren't other ways to handle the 6-foot-4, 257-pound forward.

"I thought we could have done a much better job controlling his stick," coach Todd McLellan said. "We were up around his arms. You're not going to move that man. He's that big, that strong, he establishes himself. Better be able to control his stick. We failed to do that."

Something else that needs to improve is the offense. The Sharks scored 264 goals in the regular season -- fourth-most in the NHL -- but they have just three goals in two games this series and six in their last four playoff games overall.

"At the end of the day, we're not scoring, we're not putting the puck in the net," said defenseman Dan Boyle, who won a Cup with Tampa Bay in 2004. "If we'd be sitting in here having won 2-1 or 1-0, you guys wouldn't be asking that question. What do we got? Three goals in two games? It's not going to cut it against a team that can put 3, 4, 5 in your net in one night."

Trouble scoring. Problems keeping the puck out of the net. The daunting task of playing the next two games in a building where the Blackhawks had the third-best home record in the League.

Write off the Sharks, says Boyle, because he doesn't believe the series is over.

"The good news is everybody thinks that we're done," a defiant Boyle said. "Nothing would make me happier than to come back and disappoint everybody because everybody thinks we're done.

"I'm certainly not going to quit and I know the guys around here aren't going to quit."

"The good news is everybody thinks that we're done.  Nothing would make me happier than to come back and disappoint everybody because everybody thinks we're done." -- Dan Boyle
McLellan stopped short of saying Game 3 is a must-win, but he's going to treat it that way.

"It's an important game," McLellan said. "It's one of seven that you play in a series. It's very important. It's not a must-win. But we're going to approach it like it is."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DLozoNHL

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