Despite a 3-1 series deficit, the Sharks locker room was a very confident place following today’s morning skate before Game 5 of the 2011 Western Conference Final. They know their talent level, know their desire and know they haven’t been at their best in the previous four games.
That true confidence will be critical as they look to force a Game 6 in San Jose on Thursday night.
|San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) works for the puck against Vancouver Canucks left wing Alex Burrows (14) during the first period of Game 4 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals in San Jose, Calif., Sunday, May 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez) |
According to Joe Thornton
, the task is simple. “Just compete,” he said. “Do the things we’ve done all season. If we do that we have a really good chance of taking this back to San Jose.”
The Sharks players have a strong feeling about the talent they collectively possess and their will to keep on playing.
“We’re down 3-1, but we look at their lineup, we look at ours,” Dan Boyle
said. “We think if we play the right way, we feel we’re the better team.”
“We have a lot of confidence we can beat anybody when we play our game and that hasn’t changed,” Douglas Murray
said. “We just have to go out and play up to our level.”
The Sharks approach isn’t to take all three games, but just to win one at a time, starting with tonight’s Game 5.
“It’s not where we want to be, but we’re a confident team,” Logan Couture
said. “We have one goal going into tonight’s game and that’s to win. It doesn’t matter how we do it. We’ll see where it goes from there. Right now we’re focused on getting the win and confident we can do it.”
Even with the confidence, the Sharks know they must make the right decisions on the ice to gain the desired result.
“I still think the most important thing is to execute, try to play in our system and not try to do too much,” Murray said. “There’s nothing wrong with our system. It’s a lack of execution.”
“It’s pretty simple. We can’t think that a B game is going to get it done,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “We’ve got to get it done. We’ve got to leave it on the ice. There are tons of clichés that I could use. I could go on forever. Individually, collectively, show up ready to go. At the end of the night, look up at the scoreboard and see if it’s enough.
“We know there are only two options, play on or move on,” McLellan added. “When we were the 3-1 team, you could tell Detroit’s goal was to bring it back to Detroit (semifinals). They were hanging their hat on it and they did it. All of a sudden the pressure turns.”
McLellan agrees with his players that the club will bring their best effort of the series in Game 5.
“I think it is,” McLellan said about his club’s best hockey still waiting to make an appearance. “In Game 3, we showed signs of the team we can be and the team we are.”VANCOUVER’S OPPORTUNITY
Vancouver has been in this position twice in the quarterfinals vs. Chicago and in the semifinals against Nashville. Both times they lost Game 5. The Sharks are very aware that this will be pointed out to their opponent.
“They have an opportunity close this out and move on and they’re going to be hungry and have their best effort of the series,” Couture said. “We’re going to need our best if we want to win tonight.”LINEUP CHANGES
McLellan noted lineup changes were a possibility for the game, but stopped short of making a guarantee and who it could affect.
One definite for the game is Thornton will be part of the team in white for Game 5. Thornton was unable to play in part of Game 4’s third period.
“None,” Thornton said on if there were any doubt on his availability. Thornton also dismissed any possibility that he would be limited physically. “100 percent,” he said.
Thornton is the unquestioned leader of the Sharks franchise and the players continue to respect his leadership skills.
“Joe’s a tough guy. He’s played through a lot in his career,” Couture said. “We’ve seen him play through injuries all the time. Joe doesn’t complain. He doesn’t make excuses. He’s not that type of person. He’s going to go out there and give it all he has.”
“He looked really good out there and he will be on the ice,” McLellan said. “He’s played extremely well in the playoffs, he’s our leader.”
As for defenseman Jason Demers
, who hasn’t played since Game 7 of the Detroit series, he said he was available if McLellan called upon him.
“I’m ready to go,” Demers said. “The last few days have been good and I’m ready to go. It’s his (McLellan’s) choice and whatever decision they make, I’ll support it. If I can support the team on the ice I will and (if not) I’ll support them from the stands. We have a great D corps with me in the lineup or without me in the lineup.”GAME ON!
Game 5 of the 2011 Western Conference Final between San Jose and Vancouver will be at 6 p.m. and can be seen on Versus and heard on 98.5/102.1 FM K-FOX and www.sjsharks.com.