When Coach Todd McLellan was asked in the post-Game 2 presser about Ian White’s power play goal in the first period, he got right to the point.
“That’s what we brought him here for – to shoot the puck,” McLellan said of the defenseman who was acquired from Carolina on Feb. 18, “and he did a very good job.”
White’s goal at 4:54 of the first period of Sunday’s Western Conference Semifinal game vs. Detroit would be his only official shot of the game (he was credited with two misses). In fact, White’s shot total on Sunday was his fewest in five games. Before today, he had taken 14 shots in his previous four – including six in Game 1 vs. Detroit on Friday.
“It’s hard to get shots to the net,” White said. “You have to make them count when you get the opportunity.”
White has made many contributions since coming to the Sharks – not just in Sunday’s 2-1 win. He’s played at least 20 minutes in four of his seven playoff games, which helps support Dan Boyle
, San Jose’s other offensively talented defenseman. White knows how to get the puck out of his zone to start the rush and he gets pucks to the net, which is what McLellan is looking for from his blueliners.
“He’s a guy who’s very good offensively,” said Dany Heatley, who got the primary assist on White’s goal. “He can shoot the puck, he’s a right-handed shot, moves really well and can make plays out of our end. He’s been real good for us.”
“He’s a small guy (White is 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds), but he gets into battles,” said defensive partner Niclas Wallin. “We’ve been pretty good together. He’s a righty (right-handed shot) and I’m a lefty, which works out pretty good (their stick blades can point towards the middle, which helps when shooting at the net). He’s a good player.”
White’s goal gave the Sharks early momentum before the home crowd at HP Pavilion. Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader was called for a high stick at 3:11 and considering Detroit’s problems on the penalty kill in the postseason (they entered the semifinals ranked 16th out of the 16 playoff teams), San Jose was at a great advantage.
Heatley got the puck on the right wing and moved towards the bottom of the right faceoff circle. He turned right on his forehand, saw White open on the right point and passed him the puck. “The guy (Red Wings forward Darren Helm) came down pretty hard on me,” Heatley said. “So I knew Whitey was all alone. They (Detroit forwards) do a pretty good job of collapsing to the net. I just threw it back there knowing he would be there.”
Heatley, being a goal scorer, could’ve gone strong to the net to shoot or forced the puck towards the slot and create a rebound opportunity. White, being a good hockey player, was ready for anything. “You never know what to expect from guys with that kind of caliber,” White said. “They’re always making some sort of move to get open or find the open guy. You always have to be ready.”
White took a few steps to his left and saw that Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard was giving him the stick side on the left. White wound up for the shot and placed the puck top shelf. What also helped White was that Logan Couture
was standing in front of Howard, providing him with a great screen.
Of course, Couture’s screen played a role in White’s goal. So did the big hole on Howard’s stick side.
“I saw quite a bit of net on that one,” White said. “Their winger (Helm, who was chasing Heatley) was off his angle. Most of the time, you don’t get opportunities like that, but it’s nice to get a wide open look.”
“He made a great shot,” Heatley said.
Everything’s been great for White in the postseason. Aside from missing Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against Los Angeles after taking a hit from Jarret Stoll in Game 1, the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a fun time for White.
“He’s smiling every day,” Wallin said. “It’s his first playoffs and he’s doing really good.”
“It’s been outstanding,” White said. “It’s been a blast so far.”