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Defense Is The Name Of The Game

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
San Jose knows that defense wins championships and they have the type of blueline that can more than accomplish the goal. Detroit is loaded up front with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg serving as point-per-game men and Niklas Lidstrom is as adept a puck mover as there is in the NHL. So the Sharks road to the Cup will face a strong test in Round 2.
“They are a really playoff experienced team with great forwards,” said Scott Hannan. “It will be tough right from the start.”
“All their forwards are skilled,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic. “They’ll miss (Thomas) Holmstrom, but they still have a lot of skill and speed. Datsyuk and Zetterberg can beat you one-on-one and they play the give-and-go. We have to play physical. If you don’t, they will make you look silly.”
Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson does not have to adjust his game plan due to the overall depth the Sharks have on the back end. At any one point veterans Scott Hannan, Kyle McLaren or Craig Rivet are on the ice and the youthful legs of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Matt Carle and Christian Ehrhoff can skate tirelessly all game long.
“We’ll go at them hard and take away their time and space,” said Hannan.
“We’ll have to keep the third man high and everyone has to be back on defense,” said Vlasic.
Vlasic will continue to frustrate opponents by using his stick in the perfect fashion.
“Sticks on pucks,” said Vlasic. “I might not be as big as some to push guys off the puck, but a stick in the right position can do the same thing. It can be frustrating and it works.”
The Sharks know they are facing increasingly talented teams and environments each time they advance.
“By far this is the most exciting time of the year,” said Hannan. “It’s why you play. The focus and intensity go to a different level.”
Hannan, McLaren and Rivet, along with Ehrhoff, have many years of experience and even Carle played in the second round last year, but this is Vlasic’s first foray deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“I’m a lot more comfortable (since the midway point of the season),” said Vlasic. “I’m a lot more confident to jump up and make plays by joining the rush, but not to a fault or to change my game.”
The Sharks final line of defense will be Evgeni Nabokov between the pipes and he is plenty playoff tested.
“All the playoffs are is about goaltending,” said Ron Wilson.
The Red Wings had a difficult series with Calgary while the Sharks are coming off a six-day rest, but Wilson notes there are no guarantees about who will benefit from their recent games, or lack thereof.
“I don’t think it’s an advantage,” said Wilson. “We didn’t play for a week and sometimes the rust can set in.”
Wilson scrimmaged his club for two days to try and instituted some what of a real game scenario, but he acknowledged that nothing is like the real thing.
“You try to create a little environment, but even regular season games can’t copy the playoffs,” said Wilson.
The Sharks power play continues to be questioned, but Wilson is not worried. He has not ignored that it didn’t score too often against Nashville, but he also knows he doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel.
“Our power play will get the job done,” said Wilson. “We’ve had plenty of chances. We had one of the top power plays in the regular season.”
San Jose knows Detroit’s high-powered offense will create some opportunities, but that the shot differential will not be the record amount Detroit held on Calgary in Round 1.
“We don’t expect to give up 50 shots,” said Wilson.
The Sharks-Detroit series will start Thursday at 4 p.m. PST on Versus, 98.5 KFOX and
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