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Knowing From Experience

by Staff Writer / San Jose Sharks
San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau, left, defends on Detroit Red Wings center Valtteri Filppula, of Finland, during the third period of of Game 5 of an NHL hockey Western Conference second-round playoff series in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, May 8, 2010. Sharks eliminate the Red Wings with a 2-1 victory. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Experience. You can’t buy it and it can only come with time, but fortunately the Sharks have plenty of it heading into the 2011 Sharks Playoffs, presented by El Camino Hospital. The postseason is different and the only way to be prepared for them is to have first hand experience.


According to an official National Hockey League playoff publication, the Sharks rank second in the Western Conference in total postseason games played by the current roster, trailing only Detroit (2,064). San Jose’s games played by the current team is 865 and Vancouver and Anaheim are tied for third with 735.

Leading the way for San Jose is Patrick Marleau and his 106 postseason contests. That’s followed by Joe Thornton (91), Niclas Wallin (75) and Dan Boyle (66). One of the keys learned over time is to not let a minor set back affect the series moving forward.

“I think it’s pretty big,” Marleau said of the playoff experiences. “When you’ve been through the ups and downs, you know how to deal with them in a playoff series. The next playoff season, you adjust accordingly and it’s not too big a sway up or down.”

“I just think you learn to turn the page, whether it’s good or bad,” Boyle said. “When the game is done, as you get older, you learn to forget pretty quickly. When you’re younger, you tend to hold onto that a little more.”

San Jose Sharks center Joe Pavelski (8) shakes hands with Detroit Red Wings center Johan Franzen (93), of Sweden, after the San Jose Sharks defeated the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Game 5 to win the NHL hockey Western Conference semifinals, Saturday, May 8, 2010, in San Jose, Calif. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
Players will continuously face different situations in a seven-game series and the more times they’ve faced that scenario, the better off they will be.

“I think it helps in many ways,” Dany Heatley said. “The biggest thing is you’re going to be in tight games. You’re going to be down two going into the third, you’re going to be up two, you’re going to be up one. There are going to be a lot of different situations and you’ll have the experience to stay calm and have confidence in your team. We’ve got enough guys in this room that have been there before and can keep this team focused in the right way.”

There’s no way to be prepared for the extra level of a playoff game, or advanced series, without having experience.

“How long of a grind it is,” Marleau said about what can be surprising the first time around in each series. “You get mentally prepared for it better having gone further. You know a little more what to expect each round. How things change and how they ramp up. There are all different types of things away from the rink and in the rink.”

Having experience doesn’t guarantee a single thing, but the positives of the past definitely are influential.

“I don’t think it’s overrated. It definitely helps when guys have been there,” Douglas Murray said. “I don’t know anymore if it’s the most important thing or not. It absolutely doesn’t guarantee anything.”

“You can’t just rely on history and experience,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “The fact that some players have a chance to draw upon their past experiences and maybe share them can always help. We have to make our own history. Commit ourselves and move forward.”

San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton, right, scores past Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard during the second period of of Game 5 of an NHL hockey Western Conference second-round playoff series in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, May 8, 2010.(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Games played is one thing, but thanks to their deep run last year, the vast majority of current Sharks have played through a conference final and the importance of the playoff games played is also a factor in the experience gained. Heatley made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final with Ottawa. Four players (Boyle, Wallin, Ben Eager and Antti Niemi) have won a Cup. Young players like rookie Logan Couture may have gained three years worth of experience in the Sharks run last season.

“Last year, I was kind of wide-eyed at the start,” Couture said. “The rinks are so much louder. The atmosphere is just unbelievable. The play is so intense. It helps playing the 15 games I did last year making it to the Western Conference Final and being that close to the Stanley Cup Final. I know what to expect in Game 1 and I’m excited for it.”

An error in the regular season can be made up for over an 82-game regular season. One in the playoffs can be fatal to a club’s chances.

“One mistake can cost you the game and you’ve got to be ready every time you hop over the boards,” Couture said.

San Jose will find out soon enough if their experience will make a difference when they open the playoffs tomorrow night against the Los Angeles Kings.

NEXT GAME
San Jose will play Game 1 of their series with Los Angeles tomorrow night at 7 p.m. The contest will be on CSN California, 98.5/102.1 KFOX and www.sjsharks.com.
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