2011 NHL Playoffs: 7 Things Sharks Must Do to Win Game 2 vs. Vancouver Canucks
San Jose faces a tough task ahead in Game 2, where they try to put the difficult Game 1 third period behind them. Powered by two goals in the span of 79 seconds in the final frame, the Canucks snatched victory from the jaws of defeat as the Sharks blew yet another postseason lead.
With the additional day off for rest, the Sharks must get back to basics to earn the split at Rogers Arena before returning home to the friendly confines of HP Pavilion.
Coming into their second-consecutive Western Conference Finals, not many experts and pundits gave the Sharks a chance, many already slotting Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final.
The Sharks had enough game to win Game 1, but old habits are hard to break, and they now face a near must-win situation to prevent the 0-2 hole.
Sharks fans were shocked to discover that Jason Demers was a scratch for Game 1 due to some lingering injury issues.
Taken from sjsharks.com, Demers stated that he's now healthy and ready for action in an interview earlier this week;
"When the coaches tell me to play, I'll be ready to play and I'm ready to go," Demers said, adding for emphasis: "Whenever they need me, I'll be ready."
Inserting veteran Kent Huskins into his role, it drastically reduced the Sharks’ blue-line effectiveness against the Canucks in Game 1.
Playing his first game in several months resulted in some to-be-expected rust in Huskins game, but rust had nothing to do with his horrible performance.
Simply put, Husky doesn’t have a place at the table for San Jose in the playoffs, where his slow, plodding style of defense does not fare well against Vancouver’s speed. Multiple times, Vancouver’s depth players pushed Sharks defenders deep, and Huskins was turned around relatively quickly on quite a few Canuck rushes down ice.
It’s one thing to see the Sedin twins or Ryan Kesler pushing San Jose Sharks defenders back with speed, but when it’s Jannik Hansen, you might be in trouble.
Jason Demers must return to the ice for San Jose to bring back his speed, his physical play and, most importantly, his dependable first pass.
Tighten Your Helmet
Following the emotionally draining seven-game series against the Detroit Red Wings, the Sharks' top-three lines did not come ready to play a full game of physicality.
The Canucks outhit the Sharks 38-26 and had some big hits all game long, especially from their bottom two lines.
Vancouver surprised the Chicago Blackhawks in the quarterfinal series early by coming out and taking the body, and the Sharks must be ready to play a physical brand of hockey in Game 2.
The Sharks must take full advantage of the rest, but cannot lose any mental edge to finishing their checks. They’ve got to continue taking the body against a very deep Canucks blueline when dumping into the attacking zone, and make the Canucks forwards pay to slow down their transition game.
Leading the way with 27 hits in the Detroit series, but managing just three in Game 1, Douglas Murray must lead the way in Game 2.
Outplay Vancouver’s Stars
After a very promising start to Game 1, the Sharks' top line just ran out of gas towards the end of the second period.
After drawing the Ryan Kesler line for the early going, the Sharks top line of Marleau-Thornton-Setoguchi had difficulty sustaining any pressure against the Lapierre-Torres-Hansen line late in the game.
Even though the secondary scoring for the Sharks had fallen off, San Jose still needs the top line to outperform Vancouver, and especially Henrik Sedin.
Henrik enjoyed an excellent game against San Jose in Game 1, scoring the huge goal, and went undefeated against Pavelski, Marleau, Heatley and Nichol in the faceoff circle.
Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have to continue being the difference, as they were in Game 1, and outperform the Sedin twins.
Vancouver has had a bit of a reputation of embellishing calls in the playoffs so far, and especially during the Nashville Predator series.
Dan Boyle echoed those sentiments in a postgame interview, saying the reputation was well-deserved. Those things may or may not be true, but the Sharks have to keep their heads in the game and avoid the situations that may dictate a penalty.
Did any of the Canucks embellish the calls in Game 1? Maybe. Did the Sharks deserve to be penalized in those situations? Absolutely.
With the emotions running high before the series, the Sharks must keep to their business and ignore the extracurricular activities. Against a very good power-play unit, San Jose must eliminate the lazy or dumb factor from their play and keep their feet moving to draw some power-play time of their own.
Even though the Sharks had a very solid special teams performance in Game 1, they’ll need to continue taking steps in the right direction.
Vancouver went 1-4 with the man advantage in Game 1, and the Sharks converted on their only power-play opportunity. San Jose’s penalty killers started fast, holding Vancouver to just two shots in their first two power plays, but couldn’t stop the Canucks in the third.
Even with the 100-percent conversion rate in Game 1, the Sharks power play has gone just 8-52 this postseason, which is only better than Boston’s horrid power-play percentage.
Head coach Todd McLellan has to get the Sharks power play going, because the Sharks won’t be winning any Stanley Cups with a seven-percent powerplay.
After dominating for most of the semifinals, the Sharks' second and third lines struggled in Game 1 against the Canucks.
Ryane Clowe may still be feeling the effects of the big Niklas Kronwall hit delivered in Game 5, as the Sharks’ leading scorer recorded just one hit in 18 minutes of play.
And where is Dany Heatley? Sharks fans have waited for him to make the difference, but outside of an exciting odd-man rush with Thornton, he was invisible in Game 1. He’s got eight points in 14 games and a minus-three while averaging 18 minutes a game, and you would be hard pressed to find him through some long stretches
For that matter, he’s been invisible for most of the second half of the season, outside of a few breakout tease performances.
The Sharks depth has to be the difference in a positive way against the Canucks, because the Higgins-Kesler-Raymond line outplayed their San Jose counterparts by a wide margin.
The third line of Wellwood-Pavelski-Mitchell fared slightly better, but still got outperformed by the Lapierre-Torres-Hansen line.
The Canucks second line in particular feasted on the Sharks, hemming them in their own zone with a strong forecheck.
San Jose’s secondary scoring has to step up their play to counter the versatility of the Vancouver skaters and get back to their style of play.
Play a Full 60
While the Sharks logged two strong periods of play after a grueling seven-game series, they need a full effort to seal the deal with the lead.
After attacking briefly in the third period, the Sharks looked comfortable sitting on their lead but couldn’t clear their zone to relieve the Vancouver pressure. The flurry at the end of the second period hinted at the lack of jump in San Jose's skates, and the third only validated how tired they were.
Fatigue was a clear factor midway through the third period, as the Sharks looked like they were skating through mud.
With the additional rest, it will allow the Sharks to gather their wits and get back to their style of play.
This series could very well go the distance as the Red Wings series did, but could also be much shorter should the Sharks blow a lead as they did again. And while the fatigue excuse could certainly be used for Game 1’s blown lead, it won’t apply in Game 2.
Another defining moment is ahead for San Jose, and I think it will lead to another victory despite the obvious challenges, as the Sharks will win Game 2.
Here’s to winning nine of 16 and a huge San Jose Game 2 victory.