To win in team sports, a game plan is essential.
The San Jose Sharks had one going into Thursday’s Game Four of the Western Conference Semifinals against Detroit, but they didn’t stick with it and the end result was a 7-1 loss.
The mantra from the Sharks who met with the media today: stick with the plan and work hard.
“We got a little away from it and you saw the results,” Joe Pavelski
said. “We have to stick with the things we do well.”
“There were some mistakes made last night in our zone early that allowed them puck possession,” Rob Blake said. “We didn’t get the puck behind them early enough. We learned we had a game plan and we had some structure in the first three games. We got away from it and it cost us.”
“We need to get pucks behind their D and get the forecheck going,” Dany Heatley said. “I think the forecheck is the real strength of our team.”
In order to get pucks behind Detroit’s defense and to have a strong forecheck, San Jose will have to work harder than the Red Wings.
“Our work ethic needs to be a lot better,” Dan Boyle
said. “It wasn’t very good. They were a very hungry team and we weren’t. That’s something you can always fix. We don’t need to reinvent our game.”
“I expect the guys to come out, play the way we’re capable of playing, play to the game plan and not wander from it,” Head Coach Todd McLellan said. “There are no other tools we can use to convey the message. We have to accept it and go out and play the way we can or at least the way we did in the first three games to give us a chance to be successful.”
“We have to stick to what we do,” Pavelski said, “whether it’s defensively or on offense.”
Regardless of the time of year, a team needs a short-term memory, especially after losing by six goals.
“It’s over now,” McLellan said. “We have to put that behind us. If we carry this with us too long, we won’t be any good tomorrow night.”
“It’s a loss. You can’t look that much into it,” Pavelski said. “It’s important that we respond in the right way.”
“It’s not easy to win in the playoffs. It’s difficult,” Blake said. “You learn and you have to build from it.”
No doubt San Jose wants to end the series in front of the home crowd at HP Pavilion. “We’d like to,” McLellan said. However, he added that his team must take the right approach. “We don’t want to bring Game Six or Game Seven into the equation. We’re going to steal a line from them: worry about one game at a time and that game being Game Five tomorrow night.”
WHERE’S THE “POWER” IN THE POWER PLAY?
In the last two games against Detroit, San Jose has converted just one of its 11 power play chances. In the four games, the Sharks are 5-for-27, an 18.5 percent success rate. And this is from a team that was tied for fourth-best in the National Hockey League with a 21 percent success rate during the regular season.
“Our entries have been all right,” Blake said. “We can compete a little more at puck possession. They’re real good at outnumbering you in the corners. They have a good system. The more we can control things in their end, we’ll be better.”
“We need to be better. There’s no doubt about it,” McLellan said. “We seem to be able to get into their zone at some point, but then as far as manufacturing or creating offense, they’re quick to close on us. We’ve made some poor passing decisions.”
On Thursday night, San Jose had trouble stopping the line combination of Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi and Henrik Zetterberg. The three combined for five of Detroit’s seven goals. They also had 10 shots, paced by Franzen’s five – which resulted in four goals.
Physically, the trio is hard to play against. Zetterberg is the only one under 6-foot (and he’s 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds). Franzen is 6-foot-3 and 222 pounds. Bertuzzi is the same height and weighs three more pounds than Franzen.
One of San Jose’s tasks on Saturday night will be to contain this line combination.
“They’re big bodies,” Blake said. “It’s tough to get the puck off them. They cycle well and they shoot. You have to know where they are.”
McLellan knows Franzen very well as he coached him in Detroit before coming to San Jose.
“He’s a big man,” McLellan said. “He had the ability to get loose a few times because he skated so well. I thought he skated the best he has so far in this series. The one thing he doesn’t get enough credit for, I believe, is his shot. He can put it through a hole the size of a puck and if he has the time, he can do it more than once and we saw that last night.”
Today’s practice was an optional skate. Only five who played on Thursday (Logan Couture
, Jason Demers
, Heatley, Jamie McGinn and Scott Nichol) skated. Others who were on the rink at Sharks Ice at San Jose included Dwight Helminen, Jay Leach, Brad Staubitz and Niclas Wallin.
The Sharks will play hosts to the Red Wings in Game 5 of the Western Conference Semifinals on Saturday, May 8 at 7:00 PM at HP Pavilion. The game will be broadcast on CSN-CA in HD, 98.5 KFOX FM and SJSHARKS.com.