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Balancing Momentum With Poise

by Alison High / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle (22) is chased by Detroit Red Wings left wing Justin Abdelkader during the third period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series in San Jose, Calif., Sunday, May 8, 2011. Detroit won 4-3. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
There were two serious momentum shifts in Game 7 on Thursday. After the Sharks came out and scored two goals in the opening period, Detroit responded by outshooting San Jose 17-6 and adding a backhanded goal by Henrik Zetterburg in the second.

The second momentum shift came after the second intermission. The Sharks came out of their locker room and displayed poise, composure and confidence in the third period. Exercising their postseason demons, San Jose got the game winning goal from Patrick Marleau and held off a strong push by the Red Wings in the final minutes of the game.

So what was said during the second intermission that gave the Sharks the poise they needed to finish off the Red Wings?

“I think the message was to just go out there and don’t be afraid of mistakes,” said defenseman Dan Boyle. “If you’re afraid, that’s when you’re going to make the mistakes. They always make the baseball analogy: take a swing at it. So I thought we did a good job of that.”

It’s only fitting that the most intense game of the Sharks postseason would be won through poise.

San Jose Sharks right wing Ryane Clowe, right, and Detroit Red Wings defenseman Ruslan Salei, left, battle for the puck behind the net during the first period of Game 7 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Western Conference semifinal playoff series Thursday, May 12, 2011, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
“In the third, we grabbed the puck in our own end under pressure, settled down and made some plays,” said right wing Ryane Clowe. “We had some two-on-ones, had a three-on-two. Obviously Detroit is going to try and make a push so they had their D pinching and we capitalized on an odd-man rush.”

There was one other element that allowed the Sharks to gain momentum in the first period: they scored the first goal of the game. When Devin Setoguchi notched his power play goal at 12:20 of the first period, it gave the Sharks momentum. Not only had they scored their first power play goal in three games, they did it on their first opportunity. Doing that built confidence within their team and within their home crowd.

“You never want to say it as a coach because if it doesn’t happen, you can’t always recover from it,” said head coach Todd McLellan when he was asked about the importance of getting on the board first. “But I thought the first goal was going to be really important. It kept the fans in it.”
So will the Sharks be able to build on this momentum going into the next series with Vancouver?

“If we can bring the same intensity – definitely,” said center Joe Pavelski. “But they had a tough series as well. And they’re ready. They’ve had a few days – it’s not like they’ve been off for two weeks. They just played a few weeks ago. So it’s hard to say.”

“Yes, I hope so,” said goaltender Antti Niemi about overlapping the momentum into the Western Conference Finals. “We have to take the battle level from this game.”
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