The San Jose Sharks have encountered many challenges in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Remember how Colorado’s Chris Stewart scored a tie-breaking goal off his skate with 50 seconds left in Game One? Who could forget the wayward puck of Dan Boyle
’s clearing attempt in overtime of Game Three in that same quarterfinal series? And overcoming ghosts of playoffs past by eliminating Detroit in five games of the semifimals?
Well, the Sharks now have a new challenge. They’re down two games-to-none in their Western Conference Finals series against Chicago.
Sure, the odds are against them. Sure, the task of rallying from a deficit – especially in the opponent’s rink starting Friday – won’t be easy. And the stat geeks have proof.
Just don’t tell that to Boyle.
“You can throw those stats out the window,” Boyle said in an angry and frustrated tone after Tuesday’s 4-2 loss.
The same applies to Chicago’s lack of success at home during the postseason. The Blackhawks are 7-1 away from the United Center, but 3-3 at the UC.
“It’s playoff hockey,” Boyle said. “I don’t care if they haven’t lost or won at home. They’re a very good hockey team. The task is going to be absolutely difficult. We understand that.”
Boyle also reminded the media about how Philadelphia lost the first three games of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series to Boston before winning the next four. “We don’t need to look any further than the Philadelphia series,” he said. “They showed a lot of heart in coming back from a 3-0 deficit.
“It can be done and will be done.”
And how is it going to be done?
“Whatever we’re doing isn’t good enough,” Boyle said. “Maybe it was good enough in the first two rounds, but it’s not good enough right now. When it’s not working, you have to do it better. During the regular season, we have 82 games to get out of it. But we have two right now. I’m not saying reinvent the wheel or reinvent the game, but (do it) better.”
“We haven’t played well enough to win yet by any means,” Rob Blake said. “They’re (Chicago) hungry around pucks. We had sloppy play and lack of execution in different situations.”
“It’s a big challenge for us,” Evgeni Nabokov said. ‘We have to find a way to win. We have to win more battles. We have to be quicker and better around the net in both ends. It’s the conference finals and we have to be better.”
The Sharks are now part of the National Hockey League’s final four. Along the way, they eliminated a No. 8 seed in Colorado and were victorious over No. 5 Detroit. Now they’re facing No. 2 Chicago, a team that finished one point behind the Sharks for the top spot in the Western Conference.
“It was a test for us tonight,” Joe Pavelski
said. “And we didn’t pass it. Our backs are against the wall.”
“We talked about it getting harder and it is harder,” Nabokov said. “We were able to battle through against Detroit and Colorado. It’s a new task for us. They’re (Chicago) a young fast team. They go to the net hard and they seem to get a lot of pucks deflected. We have to do the same thing to them. We have to be better.”
“The effort is there, but we can execute much better than that,” Blake said. “Our level is down a little from the last series. You have to commit harder. We need to be quicker through the neutral zone. We don’t look like a very fast or quick team. They look quicker now because they’re making the plays. We’re not putting pucks behind them.”
Pavelski’s sentiments are the same as Blake’s.
“We understand the reasons why we got here. We need a lot of commitment,” Pavelski said. “We didn’t have nearly enough guys out there tonight. When we’ve won this season, it’s been a commitment by everybody. That’s what we need.”
So, with all of that said, just how important is Game Three on Thursday in Chicago?
“It’s not a must-win until you’re down 0-3,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s an important game. It’s one of seven you play in a series. But we’re going to approach it like it is.”
The Sharks will travel to Chicago for Game Three of the Western Conference Finals on Friday, May 21 at 5:00 PM (Pacific). The game will be available on VERSUS, 98.5 KFOX FM and SJSHARKS.com.