The Sharks pulled off an amazing accomplishment in Sunday’s game against Chicago: zero power play chances for the Blackhawks.
No one should mistake that as the Sharks being less aggressive. In fact, if the Sharks are even more aggressive on the forecheck, they could make themselves even harder to call a penalty on. Chicago creates problems for teams when their forwards get time and space. San Jose’s goal is to reduce those opportunities.
“We addressed it at the beginning of the playoffs and we keep addressing it,” Douglas Murray
said. “I don’t think there is a power play under 20 percent left in the playoffs. Those are numbers you don’t want to mess with.”
The Sharks will continue to skate instead of reaching to keep the PIMs down. San Jose is taking just 10.6 minutes per game, the lowest of any team remaining postseason team.
“It’s about moving your legs,” Murray said. “A lot of times, penalties are lazy and you have to be extra sharp and stay fresh physically and mentally. All the lines have been playing great and the D corps as well.”
“When you get a game with no penalties, you’re just moving your legs really, really well,” Joe Thornton
Making fast line changes and not getting tired is critical and Coach Todd McLellan keeps everyone involved.
“We’ve been using a lot of people and aren’t going to two lines or playing three or four D,” Murray said. “I think that has helped. Penalties happen with fatigue.”
Ideally, the Sharks will control the puck as much as possible as they have throughout the postseason and possession time limits the defensive risks.
Thus the Sharks will look to be more aggressive in Game Two to keep the chance of a power play goal against down.
“Aggressive in the right way, keeping sticks down,” Murray said. “Keeping the sticks down is one of the biggest things.”
CAN BE BETTER
Offensively the effort was there, but the Sharks are hoping to fine tune their efforts in a few areas to alter the outcome in Tuesday’s Game Two.
“We executed the game plan pretty well, but I still feel we need to be a little bit better,” Thornton said. “We’d like to get some quality shots upstairs. We saw some video this morning and that will be better. We just want to throw a lot of shots at him (Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi
), but he played well. We just need to challenge him a little more.”
SHORT AND SWEET
McLellan put his team through a short on-ice session on Monday morning.
EVEN IT UP
Must-win games are elimination games, but the Sharks aren’t diminishing the importance of taking Game Two.
“We’ve got to win tomorrow night, we realize that,” Thornton said. “You don’t want to go down 2-0 going into Chicago. Tomorrow is an important game and we’ll be ready.”
“We played a good enough game to win last night, it was just a 2-1 game,” Niclas Wallin said. “It’s like Philly and Montreal (on Sunday night). It was a 6-0 game, but it’s 1-0 in the series. For us, we want to come back tomorrow. We’re not going to change anything, just keep doing our game plan. We’re not worried about that game. It’s history and we’ll come back tomorrow.”
looked back on his shot that would have provided San Jose’s second goal had it not been for a stunning save by Niemi.
“My whole mind set there was to try and get it on my stick and get it to the net as quick as possible,” Clowe said. “I thought I did that, but give him a lot of credit. That was a great save.”
The Sharks saw Colorado goaltender Craig Anderson hold them in Game One Colorado and rebounded for a Game Two victory.
“I hope so,” said Clowe of a similar result. “If we keep the mindset of getting another 40-50 shots, I think we’ll score more than one. We need a little more traffic and to make it a little bit harder. Just like everyone tries to do with the opposing goalie.”
San Jose will also hope to limit their turnovers as well. The Sharks had 20 giveaways in Game One.
“It’s execution for us,” Patrick Marleau
said. “We turned the puck over a lot of times and it led to their chances.”
FIVE FOR SCORING
Marleau extended his playoff point streak to five games with an assist (two goals and three assists) in Game One. Dan Boyle
is now tied with Detroit’s Niklas Lidstrom for fifth overall in defenseman scoring this postseason with 10 points.
Boyle’s power play assist on Jason Demers
’ first period goal gives him seven power play points overall this postseason, also tying him for fifth in the league with Montreal’s Michael Cammalleri and Washington’s Sergei Gonchar.
GETTING IN FRONT…DEFENSIVELY
The Sharks defensemen combined to block 18 shots in Game One. Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic
led with five each.
SEVEN ON DEFENSE
McLellan again used seven defensemen as he has since Wallin returned from injury. McLellan used a variety of wingers to fill in alongside Scott Nichol and Jamie McGinn.
SEVEN DAYS TO SUNDAY
The Sharks were coming off seven days of not being able to replicate the game experience found during the playoffs, but they didn’t blame their Game One loss on the long break.
“Not really,” Rob Blake said. “I thought we were all right in the first. I don’t think it did much.”
“I think we controlled the play in the beginning,” Murray said. “They are fast when we don’t take care of the puck. We were the ones who made them faster in the second. We didn’t do what we did in the first with moving the puck forward. Once you get lazy in the neutral zone against these guys, they’re too good at catching you.”
The Sharks played somewhat of the game they wanted, but they know they can be better.
“We can get harder,” Blake said. “We can (play) much harder.”
San Jose now knows how to attack Niemi, who’s playing in his first postseason.
“Myself especially, I had two or three he kicked right off his pads,” Blake said. “We generated a lot of shots, but we can get more traffic.”
“We had our chances to score and there were a lot of pucks laying around for second opportunities,” Joe Pavelski
said. “We have to get the puck up and by him. We had more than 40 shots and second chances. We need a few more goals than one. We’ve just got to find a way to keep putting them in.
“We need the same kind of effort, maybe a little more, and find a way to get the crowd into it a little more,” Pavelski added. “He’s an NHL goalie. If he sees the puck, he’s going to stop it.”
SHORT TERM MEMORY
The Sharks know the road is always easier when grabbing the first game, but there will be no sulking.
“We can’t hang our heads,” Evgeni Nabokov said. “We have to follow the plan and keep going. We were disciplined and we were skating pretty good with them, but they still got the win.”
Game Two of the Western Conference Finals will at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and will be on Versus, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.