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Built For The Playoffs

by San Jose Sharks Staff / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski, lower left, celebrates with teammate Devin Setoguchi, right, after scoring a goal against Dallas Stars goalie Marty Turco on March 27, 2008. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
One of the most commonly used hockey phrases is about a team “being built for the playoffs.”


That same phrase can be used on players as well.

For example, take center Joe Pavelski. If any player is right for the postseason, it’s this 23-year-old.

Pavelski’s playoff experience dates back to his youth hockey days. First, his Stevens Point Area Senior High School team won the 2002 Wisconsin State Championship. That same year, his Midget 16 AAA team, Team Wisconsin, won the national championship. In 2004, Pavelski won a Clark Cup with the Waterloo Blackhawks of the Junior A United States Hockey League. And before he joined the Sharks, Pavelski led the University of Wisconsin to their sixth NCAA Championship in 2005-06.

Yeah, Pavelski has been a part of many center ice trophy presentations. And to think he’s just 23!

“They were all at different stages of my life,” Pavelski said. “They all have different meanings.”

Pavelski grew up watching the Wisconsin state high school championships. His 16 AAA experience was his first on a national stage with more exposure as he played against teams from various parts of the United States.

But when Pavelski won the Clark Cup in Junior A, the word “playoffs” took on a different meaning.

San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) scores past Calgary Flames goalie Miikka Kiprusoff (34), of Finland, as left wing Eric Nystrom (23) watches in the second period in Game 7 of an NHL hockey Western Conference playoff series, Tuesday, April 22, 2008, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
“It was my first real taste of a playoff hockey atmosphere,” Pavelski said of his postseason which involved a series of best-of-five game blocks, similar to the Stanley Cup.

As for winning the NCAA Championship, Pavelski needed just one word to describe the experience: “unbelievable.”

These days, Pavelski is back on the national stage as his San Jose Sharks will open the Western Conference Semifinals tomorrow night against Dallas at HP Pavilion. Regardless of the level, Pavelski said there are some common threads for the success he’s experienced.

“Great coaches, a team that gets along and wants to compete and battle,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re playing ping pong or hockey, you want to win. And having a great goaltender has been big on all of the teams I’ve been on.”

Through the years, Pavelski has learned one must have a certain kind of attitude to persevere through a long series, like the just completed Western Conference Quarterfinals that saw San Jose eliminate Calgary in seven games.

“Never give up,” he said. “There’s always a chance unless you’re completely out of it. It’s up and down out there. Emotions are riding high. You have to stay focused. Just when you think you’re not going to be able to get back in the game, you get a goal.

“You never know,” Pavelski added, “when a puck is going to go off someone’s shin pad or off the glass and it’s laying there for you (to shoot and score).”

San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski, right, celebrates in front of Calgary Flames' Robyn Regehr, of Brazil, after scoring a goal in the second period in Game 5 of an NHL hockey Western Conference playoff series, Thursday, April 17, 2008, in San Jose, Calif. The Sharks won 4-3. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Entering the beginning of the semifinal round tonight, Pavelski is tied for 10th among the National Hockey League’s postseason scoring leaders with seven points, one behind left wing Ryane Clowe, San Jose’s leading scorer. Pavelski’s three goals have him tied for second. His two game-winning goals are tied for the lead along with Dallas’ Stu Barnes and two players whose seasons are over: Washington’s Alex Ovechkin and ex-Shark Owen Nolan of Calgary.

Pavelski is putting up some good numbers. Last year, he played in six of the 11 games and had just one goal.

But ask Pavelski if his stats mean anything to him and he’ll have a simple answer: “No.”

“We want to win,” Pavelski said. “Certain guys are going to step up bigger in certain series. You saw a prime example in ‘J.R.’ (Jeremy Roenick) who had a huge Game Seven (against Calgary with two goals and four points) and that’s what we needed to win. He hadn’t been on the point sheet much before that.

“We need a core group of guys always giving us a good effort,” Pavelski added. “But we need timely scoring from somebody new, probably every night. Whoever scores. It’s more or less a team effort.”

THE POST-PRACTICE PRESSER

The Western Conference Semifinal series between Dallas and San Jose may be a clinic on being controlled.

“Dallas plays a much more disciplined type of game,” he said. “They’re more organized in their forecheck and neutral zone game. They have very good special teams play, both power play and penalty killing.”

In the regular season, Dallas was right behind the Sharks for the NHL’s best penalty kill unit. But in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, San Jose’s penalty kill ranks last. As for the power play, none of the playoff teams have scored more goals than Dallas (10).

San Jose Sharks center Torrey Mitchell, center, is chased by Dallas Stars center Mike Modano, left, in the first period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Wilson said while San Jose didn’t score as many (six) as the Stars, the tallies were timely. In Game Two vs. Calgary, who could forget Torrey Mitchell’s goal after that long power play? And Pavelski’s second period tally that came after Jarome Iginla scored the first goal of Game Five, which was won by San Jose?

“Our power play was effective,” Wilson said. “It scored a lot of huge goals. They (Calgary) scored some goals really quick and we have to shore that up.”

However, Wilson was pleased with San Jose’s discipline in the quarterfinals. Their 52 penalty minutes are the fewest by any playoff team. Wilson said San Jose needs to continue that trend against the Stars. Anaheim accumulated 118 penalty minutes in their series against the Stars.

“We’re the least penalized team in the playoffs so far,” Wilson said. “For us to be successful against Dallas, we have to stay out of the box. One of the reasons Dallas beat Anaheim was Anaheim’s lack of discipline. They took a lot of penalties and Dallas took advantage of it. We can’t allow that to happen.”

NUMBERS DON’T TELL THE STORY
A reporter mentioned that Vezina Trophy candidate Evgeni Nabokov’s playoff numbers (.895 save percentage and 2.45 goals-against average) aren’t as good as his respective regular season statistics (.910 and 2.14). That’s insignificant to Wilson.

“There’s only one stat that means anything,” he said, “and that’s how many wins you have vs. losses at this point.”

NEXT GAME
San Jose and Dallas will play Game 1 of the Western Conference Semifinals at 7 p.m. (Pacific) on Friday, April 25 at HP Pavilion. The game will be available on Versus, 98.5 KFOX FM and SJSHARKS.com.
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