Thursday was a day off from the 2011 Western Conference Final for the Vancouver Canucks and the San Jose Sharks.
While this day was used for practice and travel by the Canucks, the Sharks utilized Thursday to meet, review video and formulate what to do for Friday’s Game 3 at HP Pavilion (6 p.m., Versus and 98.5/102.1 K-FOX FM).
San Jose will enter Game 3 down 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. After losing Game 1 (3-2) on Sunday, the Sharks were down by the same score entering the third period of Game 2. But in the final 20 minutes, San Jose allowed two power play goals within almost four minutes and committed 42 minutes in penalties in their 7-3 loss.
Vancouver’s seven goals were the most scored against San Jose in any game (regular season and playoffs) this year.
“We have a group of players that can take their intensity level up,” Coach Todd McLellan said. “They’re more competitive than they’re showing now. The team is the sum of its parts and we need more parts to participate at a higher level to have a chance at success.”
According to McLellan, the first step is focusing on winning Game 3. “You’ve seen the effects some of these players can have on a game,” he said. “You haven’t seen that in the first two games. For us to win one game, and that’s all we want to do tomorrow, they have to step up their game up a little bit.”
|San Jose Sharks' Ian White, Niclas Wallin, of Sweden, goalie Antti Niemi, of Finland, Dany Heatley and Joe Pavelski, from left, regroup after Vancouver Canucks' Daniel Sedin, of Sweden, scored during the third period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals, Wednesday, May 18, 2011, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) |
Two players that immediately come to mind are Joe Pavelski
and Ryane Clowe
. Pavelski, whose postseason contributions include three game-winning goals and a team-leading nine last year, has just one goal and two assists in his last eight games. Pavelski won 63 percent of his draws in Game 3, but he said that’s not enough.
“I haven’t showed up in the way I like,” Pavelski said. “I can be better in a lot of areas. I just need to improve.”
Clowe started the postseason hot and had four goals and three assists in his first four games. But in his last 10 games, he’s got just six assists. After missing Game 6 of the semifinals vs. Detroit, Clowe has three shots in his last three games.
“You’d think this kind of series should suit my game a little bit,” Clowe said. “I have to start playing into that way. I have to be a little more stronger in the offensive zone with the puck. I had a better game last night than in the first game, but there’s still room to improve.”
But the improvements can’t be focused on one or two individuals. Hockey is a team sport and the 20 players on a lineup card for a game have to contribute.
“At the start of the playoffs, you set the bar high,” Pavelski said. “We’ve had success in the past. We hold high standards. In each series, they (standards) get bigger. We have to step up. We have to become better players as the series go on.”
Another way to be better is to be disciplined. During the regular season, the Sharks were one of the more disciplined teams, finishing in the top-15 in average penalty minutes per game (11.4 – the National Hockey League average was 24.5). In their 15 playoff games, San Jose is averaging close to 16 minutes per game, the highest amongst the remaining four playoff teams.
Vancouver had nine power play chances in Game 2, converting three times.
“We have to stay out of the box,” Pavelski said. “We’re not drawing enough penalties as it is. We’re better off playing a 5-on-5 game. When we’re killing penalties, that tilts the ice back to them.”
|San Jose Sharks' Ben Eager, left, has a shot stopped by Vancouver Canucks' Roberto Luongo during the second period of Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoffs Western Conference finals, Wednesday, May 18, 2011, in Vancouver, British Columbia. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darryl Dyck) |
Ben Eager admitted taking six penalties for 20 minutes in Game 2 didn’t help the Sharks cause. “I’ve got to stay on the right side of the line,” Eager said. “I can’t be going to the penalty box as many times as I did last night. You’ve got to stay out of the box. Vancouver has a great power play and they showed a few times last night what they can do with it.”
“We made far too many trips to the penalty box,” McLellan said. “That’s often a result of frustration and that catches up with you.”
McLellan also added that the team’s frustration happened when they were down 3-2 entering the third period, not in the period’s latter half. “I thought prior to that, we had lost our composure,” McLellan said. “It wasn’t like we lost it when it was 5-2 or 6-2. We lost it at 3-2. That’s not the sign of a team that can win a series. We were undisciplined in the third period. That has to get better.”
“At times,” Clowe said, “you want to win it so bad, you get frustrated and lose composure like last night.”
If anything, no one can question the desire of the Sharks. After all, it’s the Western Conference Final. And Joe Thornton
made it clear that fatigue stemming from the seven-game semifinal series with Detroit doesn’t exist in this series.
|San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton, left, Patrick Marleau, center,s and Benn Ferriero leave the bench after losing 7-3 to the Vancouver Canucks during game 2 of the NHL Western Conference Final Stanley Cup playoff hockey series in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Wednesday May 18, 2011. (AP Photo/THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck) |
“Not now,” Thornton said. “They’re (Vancouver) just as tired or energized as we are. It’s not an excuse.”
And the captain reminded the media scrum that a team needs to win four games to advance.
“There’s a lot of series left,” Thornton said. “We play well here at home, so they (the home fans at HP Pavilion) can bring us some energy and we can get the win tomorrow.”
“It will be nice to be in front of the home fans,” Patrick Marleau
said. “We look forward to getting our game going.”
“Some times,” Eager said, “games end up like last night. The good thing about playoffs is we play again tomorrow. We’ll just turn the page and be ready for tomorrow on home ice.”
“We just have to respond,” Clowe said.
Those attending Friday’s Game 3 should be aware that there will be more congestion than usual on the streets and freeway exits near HP Pavilion because of the weekday rush hour and the 6 p.m. start. The good news is plenty of parking will be available in the lots and structures near HP Pavilion, but fans should plan on allowing themselves more time to find a space.