The San Jose Sharks boarded their flight to Edmonton Tuesday, fully focused on forcing a Game 7 in the 2006 Playoffs presented by Intersil. The Sharks know that if they can force one more game, they will have regained home ice advantage.
“They stole one in our place and now we have to steal one in theirs,” said Jonathan Cheechoo.
Even with the pressure of a do-or-die game, the Sharks have maintained their calm, cool nature.
“We like to have fun,” said Cheechoo. “We know to get down to business when the game begins.”
The Sharks need two victories to the Oilers one, but both sides will view Game 6 as a necessity. For the Sharks, their season would be over and for Edmonton, they would rather end the series at home without the risk of Game 7 back in HP Pavilion.
“We simply have to win the game,” said Captain Patrick Marleau
. “We had to do it a lot down the stretch.”
The Sharks have shown all season that they can come back when being counted out. This is the team that lost 10 in a row in November and then hit a brief three-game losing streak (Columbus, Phoenix, Phoenix) in March that many believed would keep them out of the playoffs.
“We’re excited to play the game,” said Wilson. “We’re the underdog, but we’ve been counted out so many times, we’re immune to it.”
Every year in the postseason, a team comes from down 3-2 to capture a series and the Sharks have that goal in mind.
”It happens every year, but it hasn’t this year,” said Wilson. “In the last six years, 15 teams have come from down 3-2 to win. Calgary was up 3-2 and lost Game 6 and 7 to Tampa Bay.”
Sharks winger Ville Nieminen was on that Calgary club and was also a part of a Colorado team that won a Cup by coming back from a 3-2 deficit.
“We’ll rely on his experience,” said Wilson.
The Sharks hope to pick it up on the power play, which has scored just twice in six games.
“We scored one the last game,” said Wilson. “I look for us to score a power play goal every game and that would be successful. We did that last game, but we gave up a shortie.”
So how will Team Teal crank up the results on the man advantage?
“We need bodies in front and shots to get through,” said Wilson.
“We have to move the puck around quicker and get more shots to Roloson,” said Marleau. “We have to put it all together in one game.”
Moving their feet will also help create more power plays for the Sharks.
“We have to be strong the first shift,” Cheechoo. “If we skate they have to reach out and take some penalties.”
Cheechoo, one of the NHL’s most dangerous players on the power play will try to simplify his efforts as well.
“They are sending two to three guys after Joe,” said Cheechoo. “I have to be ready to shoot when he finds me. They are making it hard to get open so I have to take advantage of the space I find.”
The Sharks have entered the zone well some nights, put pucks on net well on others and put bodies in front at other times. All three need to happen to better ensure their season’s survival Wednesday night.
San Jose will also need to be prepared for the physical play that has been prevalent all series.
“It’s fun when it’s physical,” said Cheechoo. “You get used to it in the playoffs.”
One of the best attributes of Vesa Toskala is his mental approach. He simply cannot be rattled and his confidence is as high as it was following Games 1 and 2.
“I don’t need a head doctor,” joked Toskala. “Warren (Strelow) will probably give me a call. He’ll just tell me not to do too much.”
That six goals were scored in two consecutive games hasn’t negatively affected the Sharks netminder.
“You can always say you should have stopped them later, but they were good goals,” said Toskala of Game 5. “I had a great run (so far) and I still feel good.”
They old saying in hockey is the fourth game of the series is the most difficult to win. The Sharks hope they get an opportunity to win a fourth game.
“The whole group has confidence,” said Joe Thornton
San Jose would likely have control of the series if they could eliminate their own mistakes.
“We’ve played well, we just have to eliminate the little mistakes,” said Cheechoo. “Momentum has been huge so far. We have to play simple road hockey.”
Cheechoo is a big fan of the Edmonton Oilers home rink, mostly because it was where he watched his first NHL game.
“That is where I saw my first NHL game,” said Cheechoo. “Dad was in school in Saskatchewan and we drove up. I was six-years-old and they beat L.A. 9-1.”