Have Sharks, McLellan run out of options?

May 19, 2011, 5:40 pm
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May 19, 2011

Tim Panaccio

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The looks of frustration, anguish, and maybe even a hint of resignation, could be found on some of the Sharks' faces after Wednesdays 7-3 dismemberment in Vancouver.

Coach Todd McLellan may have run out of options in how to defense the fastest team in the league. Once again, the Canucks made his club look pedestrian by comparison.

And while not-so gentle Ben Eager played a huge role in giving the Canucks third period momentum -- which they would use in spades, to take a one-goal game and blow it apart -- McLellan dissected one play, one goal that Eager had nothing to do with as the evening's pivotal moment.

I thought one of the turning points, in my opinion, was their third goal, McLellan said. We have a set forecheck. We've practiced that since September. A player gets skated, all of a sudden it's in your net.

You can't chase this team. They're too good. You have to play with him or ahead of them. From there it started to unravel.

He was referring to Kevin Bieksas goal at 12:05 on a marvelous stretch pass from Chris Higgins, who, incidentally, had a three-point night.

While most of Vancouvers players have jet fuel inside their skates, Bieksa is different. Hes more regular at 87 grade. There is nothing particularly explosive about his skating style, either.

And yet the Canucks defenseman was able to take that pass around Douglas Murray and Dan Boyle, then skate in alone for a leisurely breakaway goal on Antti Niemi that snapped a 2-2 tie.

The Sharks were never in the game after that.

Bieksa had a goal, an assist, and of course the fight with Patrick Marleau that incensed Eager and led to him running Daniel Sedin, setting in a motion a chain of cataclysmic events the Sharks could not reverse.

Bieksa took some ribbing from his Canucks teammates on his Gordie Howe hat trick, too.

Yeah, I've heard about it, Bieksa said. It's great, I guess. The main thing is we got the win, so that's why I'm happy.

When McLellan mentioned the amount of open ice the Sharks conceded in Game 2, Bieksa was a prime example. He was actually a part of two breakaway goals. A defenseman joining, even leading the rush -- that was Bieksa on Wednesday.

I wouldn't say I'm getting any more chances than usual, Bieksa said. There's opportunities in a game where you can jump up in the play. That was one.

When there was the opportunity to make an odd-man rush, you go. All six of us have the green light to do that. It was just a set play drawn up for a breakout. There was some open ice and I just took it.

McLellan said the Canucks seem to be doing a better job of making all the intangibles work for them two games into the series. Vancouver can sweep the Sharks out of the Western Conference Final this weekend in San Jose.

You have to perfect the minor details, he said. And they're doing a much better job of it, whether it's faceoff coverage, whether it's a set forecheck, whether it's just their first goal.

Penalty killing, it's on their tape. We're 20 seconds left into a penalty kill, we want to play one-on-one in the neutral zone. They're doing a much better job of those little details than we are right now.

He wouldnt say it publicly, but when he called out a few people in our group, who are not bringing enough to the ice, he likely meant Dany Heatley, Boyle, Devin Setoguchi and Ryane Clowe ... just to name a few.

Setoguchi and Murray were both minus-3 in Game 2. Boyle was minus-2.

I think we have to give credit to the opponent and we have to remember they're playing awfully hard, they have a good game plan, and they're executing it better than we're executing ours, McLellan said.

They're playing a little bit harder than we are. As a result, you tend to make more mistakes, you tend to get frustrated. When you get frustrated, you tend to take penalties. It's just a vicious circle.

One in which the Canucks are giving the Sharks the run around.
Tim Panaccio is the NHL Insider for CSNPhilly.com E-mail him at tpanotch@comcast.net