Just two years ago, the San Jose Sharks found themselves in a similar 3-0 hole in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That version of the men in teal did more than just play hard in Game 4, they won two straight contests to force a Game 6 in Dallas. Had it not been for a heroic last stand by the Stars in the fourth overtime of Game 6, the Sharks would have had a Game 7 on home ice at HP Pavilion.
The series did not conclude ideally for San Jose, but the fight they showed is still within many core members of that club. Patrick Marleau
, Evgeni Nabokov, Joe Thornton
, Ryane Clowe
, Marc-Edouard Vlasic
, Douglas Murray
and others were part of the team that almost completed a huge rally. Considering the four overtimes, the Sharks in essence did play seven games worth of hockey.
“It is,” said Murray about finding confidence in a recent rally in a series. “So many things change after you win a game. We get a little more confident and they get a little worry in their lockerroom. That Dallas series, what happens if we win that four overtime game? That Game 7 is anyone’s game.”
“We were in the situation against Dallas a couple of years ago and we went to Game 6 and that went to four overtimes,” said Clowe. “I think if we would have won that game we would have won the series. That would have devastated them going back to San Jose for Game 7. We know we have to win four in a row, but we’ve won six in a row these playoffs. You can definitely get hot and get momentum on your side and roll with it.”
The Sharks know that to even get to a Game 5, they will have to capture a battle that will be harder fought than Game 3.
“It’s not like we blew Dallas out in Game 4 or 5,” said Murray about the series two years ago. “It’s all tight games in the playoffs. There is a reason the four teams that are left (are here). They have confidence and something going on. They are playing well. There are no easy games.”
“Philadelphia just did it,” said Vlasic. “When a team is down 3-0 and they are playing desperate hockey the pressure is on the team up 3-0 to finish the series. You can look back in the Dallas series and everybody pulled together and played as a team. It can be done, but it is going to be a big task against a great team. We’ve got to start with tomorrow.”
A little Lady Luck angled in the Sharks direction wouldn’t hurt Team Teal’s cause.
“When you are down 3-0 you are going to need a few bounces,” said Murray. “We need to play some great hockey.”
Even before Game 4 takes place, the belief has to be there in the process.
“With this team it feels realistic,” said Murray. “We do tend to get really hot. We are quite streaky and we have a lot of long winning streaks behind us. We think nothing is impossible.”
Taking is one game at a time is all the Sharks can do and it begins on Sunday.
“We want to win and take it back to San Jose,” said Clowe.
It doesn’t matter that the series has been played closer than the game total indicates, there is no pity for San Jose in the Windy City.
“You can’t feel bad for yourself,” said Clowe. “At the other end, it’s been a lot tighter series than 3-0. A goal here or there and we could be up a game or two. We feel like it is going to happen. We had a great effort last night. There is not much else you can do but put the effort in again.”
“It’s just a matter of trying to find a way to win,” said Evgeni Nabokov. “When you find yourself in a deep hole, you have no (room) for a mistake. If you lose the game, you go on vacation. This series is still on and we feel good about ourselves.”
Both clubs had multiple chances to win Game 3 in regulation, but a dangerous opportunity for Chicago came when Hossa had the puck on what appeared to be a wide open net, only to see Rob Blake put himself in harm’s way.
“He’s a 40-year-old and he went down on his knees to do the dirty work,” said Vlasic about the blocked shot. “He’s been playing great and is a big part of our team.”
With NBC covering for Game 4, the start is at 2 Central Time, which is a little easier on the body than the Noon start in San Jose.
“You get to sleep in a little bit,” said Vlasic.
The Sharks were up 3-0 in their previous series and now find the shoe on the other foot. Detroit won Game 4 and the Sharks learn something from that experience.
“I also talked to them about the Detroit series,” said McLellan about his morning meeting with the team. “In that situation, we talked about the pressure we felt when we came home after getting shellacked in Detroit. Detroit played very loose in that Game 4. They came out and threw everything they had at us. We didn't respond well, that increased some pressure. We'd like to come out, throw everything we have, play loose against Chicago, then put a little pressure on them after that. We've got to take step one first.”
McLellan could easily juggle his forward lines as he did in Game 4 because there was a lot of success in the plan.
“I thought it probably kept them on their toes a little bit, but more importantly, it kept our guys on their toes,” said McLellan. “They had no idea who they were playing with before the game, right up to after the warmup. I went in and told them this is what was going to happen. I think that alerted them that this wasn't normal, this wasn't the same.”
Game 4 will be at Noon Pacific Time and will be on NBC, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.