Special teams are always important in deciding a hockey game, but it might not be truer than in the Western Conference Semifinal series between the Sharks and the Stars.
When Dallas rolls out the National Hockey League’s No. 13 power play (18.1 percent), they’ll encounter the NHL’s top penalty killing unit. San Jose killed 85.8 percent of their penalties.
|Dallas Stars center Mike Modano (9) passes the puck past San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) in the third period of their hockey game in Dallas, Monday, Oct. 29, 2007. The Sharks won 4-2. (AP Photo/Donna McWilliam) |
“They don’t stand still,” defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic
said about the Stars power play. “They move the puck and get the power play moving. That drives the penalty killers nuts when you’re not able to set up.
On the flip side, San Jose’s power play clicked at 18.8 percent. They’ll have to face the NHL’s second-best penalty kill unit in Dallas (85.5 percent).
“Special teams are huge at this time of year,” Captain Patrick Marleau
said. “If you do both effectively, you’ll be in good shape.”
Of course, there’s only one sure way to kill penalties.
“They’ll try to stay out of the box and we’ll try to stay out of the box,” Marleau said. “The best way to kill a penalty is to stay out of the box.”
However, that’s a hard thing to do. So when up or down a man, there’s only one way to be a success – through outworking the opponent.
“Absolutely,” Marleau said. “We’ve taken pride all year in our special teams.”
“Our penalty killing going forward will have a lot of pressure,” Vlasic said. “The last series (vs. Calgary), we weren’t as good as we wanted to be and Dallas has an even better power play. We have to shut them down.”GROUND HOG DAY, HOCKEY STYLE
|Dallas Stars defender Mattias Norstrom (4) and San Jose Sharks right wing Jonathan Cheechoo (14) battle for puck as Dallas goalie Marty Turco, left, looks on in the third period of their NHL hockey game Sunday, April 6, 2008, in Dallas. Dallas won the game 4-2. (AP Photo/Tim Sharp) |
Considering that Dallas and San Jose are in the Pacific Division and play each other eight times in the regular season, there should be no surprises from either side.
“There’s nothing they’ll do or we’ll do that’s new or different,” Marleau said.
“We know their tendencies and they know ours,” right wing Jonathan Cheechoo said.
Calgary played a physical game against San Jose. When the Sharks face Dallas tonight, they’ll have to adjust to a different kind of game.
“They’re a faster skating team,” Cheechoo said about the Stars. “We have to get off to good starts.”THE SIXTH MAN
The Sharks might be the NHL’s strongest puck possession team, but when they do dump it into the opponent’s zone, they’ll need to be smart. After all, Stars goaltender Marty Turco is one of the League’s best puck handling netminders.
“We’ve got to keep the puck away from him,” Cheechoo said. “He’s probably the best goalie in terms of playing the puck.” THE LAST TIME
Dallas and San Jose faced each other in the last regular season game. San Jose lost, 4-2, but the story of the day was the 36 penalties and the 161 penalty minutes accumulated by both sides.
Neither club feels memories of the fight fest will play a role in this series.
“I wouldn’t even call that a hockey game,” defenseman Brian Campbell said. “That was about who got the last punch in. The fans really enjoyed the last one.”
THE SECRET IS OUT
Center Jeremy Roenick changed his diet to lose 30 pounds so he could play in San Jose this season. It’s possible he could’ve done that another way.
In his post-morning skate presser, Head Coach Ron Wilson dropped this comment about Roenick and the hit ABC Television program “Dancing with the Stars.”
“That’s what ‘J.R.’ told me he’d be doing if he (wasn’t playing hockey),” Wilson said.
Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. Dallas will be at 7 p.m. on Friday and will be available on Versus, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.