San Jose was playing a strong early game Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. They lead by one goal after each of the first two periods and the shot clock was close to even. However, McLellan felt his club was a bit tired and sluggish and it cost them in the third.
“It started through the ears and worked all the way through the body,” McLellan began. “We were like dogs chasing cars on the freeway. We just weren’t catching anybody. We’ve got to find a way to get energized as a hockey club. That starts with the mental part of it first and then (you) come back and play better in Game 2.”
When McLellan mentioned the mental part, he was referring to some of the decision making of his usually heady club.
“We were putting pucks in very poor spots and eventually they beat us at the type of game we want to play,” McLellan said. “They laid it in behind, they won a lot of races, they sustained offensive zone time. They wore us down. We didn’t give ourselves a chance.”
Had there been a little lady luck on San Jose’s side and a random puck found its way home, maybe there would have been a different outcome.
“We tried to put on a brave faced and talked about being mentally ready to go,” McLellan said. “For 37 minutes, we were able to skate. We needed a couple more opportunities to go in for us. Basically what happened, I thought, the team that (could have been) rusty because they hadn’t played for a while found their legs while we lost ours.”
McLellan acknowledge the Game 7 required to put away Detroit may have been a mitigating factor.
“When you look at the route they took to get here, they had a few days off and we had an emotionally taxing game,” McLellan said.
HEAD TO HEAD
With so many similarities between the clubs, many games will come down to specific line matchups. McLellan noted that a goal from Maxim Lapierre and his linemates is the type of tally he wants from his team.
“Both teams are built quite similar,” McLellan said. “I believe both coaches rely on three lines immensely, that all nine of those forwards on both teams are capable of contributing. They got good nights from their third line. It’s a very evenly built series and they did a good job. Our third line was adequate, but not good enough.”
To a man, the Sharks feel they can alter what happened late in the game and come back stronger.
“Sometimes when you have that, it’s more about us,” Joe Pavelski
said. “They did a good job. When they get the lead, they trap up a little bit. We have to continue to be better at that point.”
San Jose’s Joe Thornton
was strong on the night, getting a goal and gaining an assist on San Jose’s power play tally. The penalty killers were strong despite allowing a Canucks goal on the man advantage, but the problem was Vancouver had three more chances than San Jose with the Sharks only getting one call all night.
“I wasn’t disappointed in the power play or penalty kill,” McLellan. “We understand how dangerous they are. They have a lot of different looks and our penalty kill id a pretty good job. The power play got us a goal. The special teams, (we’re) not overly concerned with. I’m a little more concerned with the five-on-five play.”
Thornton expressed that the Sharks will do more to draw more than just one call in Game 2.
“We’ve just got to drive our legs,” Thornton said. “When we skate we’re a pretty good team and then we draw some penalties.”
San Jose did not use the officials as a scapegoat even thought a couple of calls did not go in their favor.
“We took a penalty and late in games it’s going to kill you and it did tonight,” Thornton said.
There was an offsides call against Dany Heatley that should have been waived off as Vancouver put the puck back in the zone. That whistle eliminated a clear one-on-one scenario for Heatley in the offensive zone.
“There were a couple of calls that could have gone the other way, but we’re not going to make those excuses,” Heatley said. “I think he knew that it was the wrong call (on the offsides), but I’m not about to argue with him at that point.”
Kent Huskins was in for Jason Demers
on the night and played almost 13 minutes.
“Husky went in and I thought he played a pretty honest game and we’ll see what we do for Game 2,” McLellan said. “(Demers) is bumped and bruised just like everybody else.”
Huskins wanted a different outcome, but felt fine on the ice in playing his first game of the playoffs.
“It’s the best time of year and when you want to be playing so it was great to get back in there,” Huskins said. “I had an idea of the pace and what I was in for and tried to get as mentally prepared as I could. I’ve been working in practice and gearing up for it in case I got in the lineup.”
PUCK STOPPERAntti Niemi
took the loss, but played a very strong game and stopped several Vancouver scoring chances. His teammates wish they had provided a bit more support.
“We’re getting used to it, but when he makes a couple of big stops, we’ve got to react to it as players,” Murray said. “He saved the big one for us.”
“There were a couple of scrambles in front where the puck was all over the place, where people were all over the place,” Heatley said. “He held his ground and it’s why he’s one of the best in the league.”
San Jose fell to 0-3 all-time in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final.