The San Jose Sharks ended their 2009-10 season in dramatic fashion with a 3-2 shootout win against Phoenix and once again jumped into first place overall in the Western Conference. They now hold a two point lead on Chicago after completing 82 games, but the Blackhawks have one game left tomorrow against Detroit and if they earn the win, the Chicago will capture the West’s top seed via a tiebreaker.
Either way the Sharks are extremely happy with the way they were playing and will take whoever comes their way.
“It’s been a good test, the last 15-20 games,” said Dany Heatley. “The last few games we’ve tightened up our defense.”
“It’s nice to be going to the playoffs on a good streak,” said Clowe of his club going 8-1-1 down the stretch, tied for the NHL’s current best 10-game stretch.
“It feels good,” said Setoguchi about the regular season. “We battled the whole year to try and get home ice.”
Through 82 games played, the Sharks still have four possible playoff matchups. They include Detroit, Colorado, Los Angeles and Nashville. Sunday will be a day off for the players with a lot of television on the agenda, with it being mostly hockey and a little golf.
“We’ll wait and see what happens tomorrow and see who we play,” said Heatley.
“Tomorrow is a day off and it’s out of our hands,” said Blake. “The chips will fall where they will tomorrow.”
“I’ll be checking the scores and seeing how Tiger is doing,” said Clowe. “Whatever happens, happens. It will be nice to know (who we are playing). We played 82 games and still have to wait until the last day of the season.”
San Jose knows that simply making the playoffs is an accomplishment, but they want more.
“We came into the season wanting to make the playoffs and we gave ourselves a chance to be first in the west,” said Blake.
NOT ANY ROOKIE MOVE
With the top seed in the Western Conference possibly on the line, McLellan went to a player who has just 25 games of NHL experience. McLellan obviously knew what he was doing as Logan Couture
buried his shootout effort to win the game.
“I think it was a good call by Todd,” said Clowe. “Logan had a few shootouts in training camp and he’s got a few (tricks) up his sleeve. He’s a confident kid and had no problem stepping up.”
Couture admitted to being a bit surprised when his number was called.
“I was nervous at first,” acknowledged Couture. “He (Bryzgalov) pokechecked early and (I got around him). I didn’t expect to shoot with all the talent on this team. I’m glad I did score, so I hope he made the right decision.”
Couture may have the skill, but this was not his best season in the shootout format while with Worcester.
“I struggled this year, going 1-5 I think,” said Couture.
McLellan said he almost didn’t wait for the fifth shooting position to tab the rookie.
“We thought about using him earlier,” said McLellan. “He’s been successful in junior and as a shooter and Bryzgalov wouldn’t know about him.”
McLellan noted the rookie handled the pressure well and should get ready for more.
“He’ll get a taste of more of it next week,” said McLellan.
Earning the shootout victory against Phoenix was an accomplishment within itself as the Coyotes had won 14 games this year in that fashion.
Dany Heatley appeared to have his 40th goal of the season, but it was actually Patrick Marleau
who redirected the shot and who earned the tally.
“Clearly the goal was tipped, it probably was not going in otherwise,” said Heatley. “He actually came over and said I’m sorry.”
ALMOST PLAYOFF LIKE
The game between San Jose and Phoenix was between two playoff teams, they both brought their “A” game and the fans were cheering at playoff levels.
“It was a good atmosphere tonight, it was a playoff atmosphere” said Clowe. “The fans were as loud as they’ve been this year.”
A hockey game is 60 minutes long and it can be hard for every player to be at his best every game for the entire contest. That was the case against Phoenix, but the Sharks grinders took things into their own hands.
“I thought we had a lot of energy from our workers and that brought our skill into the game,” said McLellan. “You can’t always wait for the skill players to do it.”
HELPING OUTDouglas Murray
picked up an assist, giving him three points (1-2=3) in his last four games.
Marleau added to his career-high in goals with his 44th of the season. He is currently fourth in the NHL in goals scored.
notched his 646th career assist, moving him past Bobby Orr on the all-time NHL assist list.
YOU GOT NOTHING
San Jose ended the game with zero penalties, the second time in franchise history this has been done at home (3/5/09 vs. Minnesota).
SHARKS HEAD COACH TODD MCLELLAN
“We better be prepared. We don’t have any more time on our hands. We do have some individual team preparation that will take place over the next few days when we will actually know (our opponent). As far as our foundation and how we want to play and some of our line combinations, we are where we want to be.”
PHOENIX HEAD COACH DAVE TIPPETT
“I thought it was a very competitive game. We knew they were going to come out early and really try to take it to us. They came out and got the early lead, but I thought our guys hung in the game. We did some things that we were trying to accomplish before the playoffs and those things we did a very good job of.”
“I thought it was a competitive last game. It was probably fitting that we ended with a shootout.”
“It’s a fine line. You want to come out and make sure you don’t lose anybody with a meaningless game but at the same time you’ve still got to be competitive.”
The Sharks will know who their first round opponent is following Sunday’s afternoon games. The hope is the playoff schedule is announced on Sunday night.