A good deal of talk heading into Game 3 was how the Sharks would find a way to score more in five-on-five situations. However, even with the perfect game plan, the contest can go in another direction, so as the Sharks must prepared to score more, they must also be ready in case they have to win the game with just defense in a 1-0 affair.
“Throughout the playoffs, we’ve a lot of one goal games,” said Marc-Edouard Vlasic
. “When you face a good goaltender or have trouble scoring . . . you have to play tight defensively. Against a good offensive team like Chicago, you’ve got to shut them down. They’ll have chances, but you have to limit their chances. Give them what you want to give up.”
When it comes to the traffic in front, the Sharks will work to limit the stick work of the offensive players.
“You play them like Holmstrom, you let them stand there,” said Vlasic. “You’re not going to move them. Doug Murray might be able to, but the rest of us won’t. As soon as the puck comes, lift his stick. He can’t score without his stick.”
The Sharks would rather not be down two games, but due to the veteran leadership of their club, no panic has set in. Captain Rob Blake has done and seen everything in his career. Players like Dan Boyle
, Patrick Marleau
, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton
and Joe Pavelski
played in the Olympic Gold Medal game. There is plenty of experience to draw from.
“They are our leaders for a reason,” said Devin Setoguchi. “They lead on the ice, but away from the rink, I don’t think people know the character they’ve got. If you can have everyone on the same page and everyone leading by example, then you know you’ve got something special.”
The players aren’t the only ones impressed with the leadership.
“I like the fact that our leaders have shown some passion and some emotion over the last couple days. It's certainly needed and wanted,” said McLellan. “But yet in the locker room, when we have our meetings, they're very attentive. They are under control. So we're doing all the right things. We're saying the right things. It's about now putting it all together and getting out there and competing and looking for the results we need.”
Nothing will come easy in Chicago, but the Sharks will be prepared to match their best game with Chicago’s.
“Goals are always hard to come by in the playoffs, but the only way to get through it is to work,” said Setoguchi. “If you go where a lot of people don’t want to go to, you’re going to score a lot of goals.”
The Sharks have started well in both games of the Western Conference Final, but have been able to make it stick on the final scoreboard.
“We need to start to dictate play a little more,” said Blake.
“We'd like to have the same start we had in the last two games, but we'd obviously like to find a way to finish,” said McLellan. “If we can do that, it puts us in more of a driver's seat than the backseat. We'll be looking to do that.”
Chicago’s hockey teams have always gained a little energy from the famed anthem to begin the contest. The Sharks will need to draw their own energy as the opponent.
“It’s an amazing feeling and the excitement level will definitely be there,” said Blake.
“We need to be on our toes and not be caught off guard in the beginning,” said Setoguchi. “They are going to be coming out and skating hard.”
“I can feed off the energy, especially during the national anthem,” said Vlasic. “As soon as the guy starts, I’m waiting for it. It’s different, but it’s very cool.”
For tonight, no matter how the game is played, the results are all that count as the Sharks look to avoid a 3-0 deficit.
“Get the win however you can,” said Blake. “Our focus here is this game. Whenever you are out there, you do your job. You have to have that competitive edge.”
With all the pressure on the top lines to come up big, that is a time where others might need to step up.
“In the Detroit series, there were some timely goals by the third and fourth lines,” said Torrey Mitchell
. “We need that to get back in the series. We want to contribute.”
The Montreal Canadiens also lost the first two games of their series and rallied to win Game 3.
“Montreal has responded pretty well and now they got the momentum,” said Ryane Clowe
. “If we come out and put in a good start, we’ll build some momentum and maybe draw some penalties. We expect it to be a physical game, but probably nothing stupid. Probably more between the whistles. It’s too hard to be sitting in the box and having your team down (a man).
HAWKS ON THE ROAD
The Blackhawks, who set an NHL record this year for consecutive road victories, have not fared as well at the United Center.
To try and remedy things, the Blackhawks are spending the game day at a hotel, much in the manner of how they handle things on the road.
Game 3 will be Friday night at 5 p.m. and will be on Versus, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.