There have been 20 overtime games during the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, fifth most in NHL history (the record is 28, set in 1993) despite the fact the conference semifinals have yet to be completed. The Sharks have participated in 25 percent of those overtimes and are 5-0 after beating the Red Wings 4-3 on Wednesday night to grab a 3-0 stranglehold on their best-of-7 series.Ryane Clowe
offered an explanation that seemed to summarize the reasons for the Sharks' success during the extra period.
"We have a lot of confidence," Clowe said. "It's a tense time in overtime. It's easy to tighten up. You might want to just dump it out and you don't want the puck on your stick and you don't want to be the guy who turns it over. We think to win."
Coach Todd McLellan, however, was a bit more dismissive of his players' reasoning.
"It's easy for them to say because we won five of them," McLellan said. "Having been on the wrong end of that, you have a different theory."
McLellan believes the foundation for the Sharks' winning ways in overtime goes back to a 2-1 victory against the Nashville Predators in February, where Patrick Marleau
scored with 1:07 left in overtime.
"We didn't have a lot of composure," McLellan said of the team's mindset in February. "We looked at them and said there's no reason why we shouldn't have composure. We've all been in this situation before. Just take a deep breath, settle things down and go from there. Maybe that's what helped them."
With five of their seven wins in the playoffs coming during overtime, it clearly has helped.
The Sharks won three overtime contests against the Los Angeles Kings, getting game-winning goals from Joe Pavelski
, Devin Setoguchi and Joe Thornton
in the series-clinching sixth game. Against the Red Wings, Benn Ferriero
scored the winner in Game 1 and Setoguchi capped a hat trick with an overtime goal in Game 3.
Dany Heatley credits the Sharks maintaining their aggressive style while most teams play not to lose with the game on the line.
"You can't do that," Heatley said. "Watching the games this year, teams that sit back and try to protect things are the ones that get burned. We never want to get away from our game of being aggressive and getting in on the forecheck. That's not only overtime, but in regulation as well."
While most players said it was confidence and forcing the action, Logan Couture
said it starts with the leadership in the locker room.
"It starts with our coaching staff and goes right down through Jumbo," Couture said. "Every overtime he comes in and says get your breath and get ready to get back out there and win it. For a guy like myself, it's calming."
Thornton played in perhaps the most pressure-packed overtime in hockey history as a member of Team Canada against Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Team USA tied the score late in regulation, but Team Canada emerged victorious when Sidney Crosby beat goaltender Ryan Miller with a quick shot.
Despite that unique experience, Thornton said that overtime didn't matter as much to him as the ones he's gone through with his Sharks teammates during last season's playoffs.
"We won some big games in overtime last year," Thornton said. "A couple here in Detroit, a couple in Colorado. I think that gave us confidence going to overtime."
There has been at least one overtime contest for six straight days during the conference semifinals and at least one for 15 of 16 days. If it gets to overtime for Friday's Game 4, the trend says the Sharks will likely advance to the Western Conference Finals for the second year in a row.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock acknowledged the Sharks are having success in overtime, but feels there's nothing he can do except worry about his team.
"They're a good team, don't get me wrong, but they're finding ways to win in overtime," Babcock said. "They're doing a good job. The big thing about it is we don't have to spend a whole lot of time on it worrying about them. We have to spend our time focusing on us."
The Sharks are on pace to equal the record of 10 overtime wins in the playoffs, set in 1993 by the Montreal Canadiens, who won the Stanley Cup that season.
That sounds pretty good to Thornton.
"Halfway there," Thornton said after Game 3. "If we get five more overtime wins, that would be something special."