The Sharks next game, as all are in the postseason, will be their biggest of the year. A victory maintains home ice and forces Nashville to win three out of the final three. A loss gives Nashville home ice once again and the series becomes a best of three.
“We want to hold home ice,” said Jonathan Cheechoo.
The Sharks game plan to win Game 3 at HP Pavilion was simple: strong puck control. They hope to replicate that on Wednesday.
“We want the same type of game to come out and get another win,” said Cheechoo.
The Sharks know Nashville will be a stereotypical, desperate hockey club.
“They’re going to be bringing it and we’re going to bring it,” said Cheechoo. “We know how important home ice is. For us, they can help us get a couple of quick goals in a quick span (as happened in Game 3).”
MORE WORK TO GO
Nashville may have had the day off Tuesday, but the Sharks skated everybody at a mid-day practice.
“I want our team to understand there is a lot of work ahead,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson.
Cheechoo has yet to score in the series, but much of that is due to his not playing healthy in one complete game due to Scott Hartnell’s knee-to-knee hit in Game 1. Now, Cheechoo is nearing 100 percent and starting to find his chances.
“He’ll score,” said Wilson. “He’ll be even more determined because of some near misses (in Game 3). I think he’s back to 100 percent. I don’t ask. If they show up and play, I expect them to be 100 percent.”
The Sharks have a new tradition following their playoff contests as the skater deemed the player of the game is honored with a Wonder Bread baseball cap. Wilson is famous for using movie clips for inspiration and humor and he recently used the movie Talladega Nights and its lead character Ricky Bobby, played by Will Farrell.
“It’s just something to have fun with,” said Wilson. “I don’t want them to forget they’re still playing a kid’s game.”
NICE WEATHER, BUT MORE
Yesterday the high temperature in San Jose was 76 degrees. Montreal’s high was 39 degrees. But that is not the only change brining a sunny disposition to Craig Rivet these days.
He gets the nice weather and the same full house that he played in front of in Montreal.
“It’s pretty sweet,” said Rivet of the raucous crowd at HP Pavilion. “They were rambunctious the whole game. It was amazing.”
Rivet noticed the fan support more when this club was trailing as much as when the Sharks were winning.
“Even when we were down 1-0, they were still behind us, cheering like crazy,” said Rivet. “The atmosphere was awesome.”
Even though HP Pavilion is one of the NHL’s loudest facilities, many who spent their entire career on the East Coast are surprised when they get a dose of the playoff atmosphere.
“It is a very loud building, like a sixth player on the ice,” said Rivet. “I come to the rink at four and a lot of people are outside. I never realized the fan base was as strong as it is.”
COLLEGE TO PRO
Rookie Joe Pavelski
felt the same way about his HP Pavilion postseason debut.
“We got a big win and that is the biggest thing,” said Pavelski.
So how did the intensity of an NHL playoff game compare to that of the NCAA title game that Pavelski skated in a year ago?
“The championship game was intense because it’s one and done,” said Pavelski. “Here, you take that into every game of a seven-game series.”
Pavelski’s debut did not produce a goal, but it did feature many strong chances.
“He’s a right shot playing center passing to the left wing,” said Wilson. “It’s a different look.”
Nashville will have more fire power in Game 4 as Alexander Radulov returns from his one-game suspension for checking Steve Bernier from behind. Radulov is the Predators leading scorer, but the Sharks will not change their outlook.
“We focused on playing Sharks hockey,” said Wilson. “Our players are aware who is on the ice.”
And to his credit, Wilson has everybody on his team set to match up with whoever Nashville Coach Barry Trotz throws on the opposite side of the faceoff.
“All four lines can play against (Peter) Forsberg and (Paul) Kariya,” said Wilson. “They don’t look up and question if they’re coming off the ice. I have faith they can get it done.”
San Jose’s depth is evident by the numerous players leading in various categories:
Goals (2) – Clowe, Michalek, Rivet
Points (4) – Rivet, Marleau
Assists (3) – Marleau, Thornton
Faceoffs (68.2%) – Goc
Shots (25) – Grier
PIM (23) – Grier
Time On Ice (27.26) – Rivet
Game 4 will start at 7 p.m. at HP Pavilion and will be available on Versus, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.