McLellan turns to psychology to lift Sharks


McLellan turns to psychology to lift Sharks

Tim Panaccio

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Massaging the minds.

Thats what Sharks coach Todd McLellan admitted doing Tuesday morning at the University of British Columbias Thunderbird Winter Sports Centre.

A little psychology on a college campus helps when youre down 0-1 in the Western Conference Final.

First, some video. Then a hard skate. The Sharks actually looked fairly energized on the ice, which wasnt the case in Sundays 3-2 loss to the Canucks.

We've massaged the mind, Dr. Todd said. We've held them accountable. We've tried to help them. I talked to some of the skaters on the ice obviously today as they were roaming around. They all felt pretty good, refreshed. I expect us to be immensely better.

Heres the rub. McLellan says the hardest thing for a coach to do is to convince players who are already under pressure and feeling it that they need to elevate their game just a bit.

Not a yards length. A foot will suffice. McLellan said he and his staff have tried to do that during this unusual, two-day break between games.

At this time of the year, you always hear us talk, the team that loses says, We've got to be better, work harder, McLellan said. It's not this much, it's only that much. We've got to convince the players of that. We're not asking you to be 10 or 15 percent better, we're asking you to be 1 percent better. Sometimes that's all you need.

Shouldnt this be automatic at this time of year? After all, were talking conference finals here. If youve got to motivate your team, youre in trouble, right?

McLellan doesnt see it that way.

My point there in the convincing of the players is sometimes the players think the gap is huge for whatever reason, he said.

If I talk to Devin Setoguchi, for example, and pull him in and ask him to do a few things better, it's not a big gap. He's done it before. It's just a small gap that he has to close.

That's what I mean by convincing them. Getting them to understand that they're not going to be asked to do something they haven't done before. They're only going to do what they're doing and do it better and longer, if that makes any sense at all.

What the Sharks need in Game 2 is to spend more than half the game in the Canucks' end instead of their own. That would help immensely.

As an offensive guy, I think defense wins the championships, said defenseman Dan Boyle. It all starts in the D-zone. We definitely can be better there. I think we need to eliminate the time we spend there. I think we spent too much time in our D-zone. You spent 30, 35 minutes in the other end, you don't have juice to go the other way. Obviously, yeah, it starts in the D-zone, but I think we need to be better in the offensive zone, as well.

I think it's a combination of all those things. Certainly we need to be more physical. I think puck battles don't necessarily mean just hitting. It means winning 'em. Finding a way in the scrum for our team to gain the puck. In the D-zone, we go the other way. In the offensive zone, we get a shot off of it.

San Jose lost many of the one-on-one battles in Game 1. Puck chases. Board battles. Key faceoffs.

Again, all that has to reverse if the Sharks intend to go home 1-1 instead of being down 0-2 in the series.

We have to be better all over the ice, McLellan said. Mental strength and physical strength. You have to put yourself in a position to be successful, then when you're there, you've got to get the job done physically.

It starts in the circle, ends up in the corners, net front. Even skating to open ice to me is a physical battle because you have to win that race, you have to get there before the other team does.

One Sharks line that needs to improve is Logan Coutures unit with Ryane Clowe and Dany Heatley.

Our line was awful in Game 1, Clowe said, adding that he felt their line made the Canucks defense look better than it really was with unforced turnovers at the blue line. A number of Sharks players harped about turnovers in Game 1.

We dont want to go back down, 0-2, Heatley said. This team has done a real good job this is year of forgetting the previous loss and getting back to what we do well. Our line wasnt very good the other night. We need to get physical. Thats been our line during the whole playoffs.

And what about this mental massaging from McLellan? What can the Sharks really draw from that?

Little things turn into big things, Heatley said. If were sharper and make little plays, theyre going to lead to chances for us. And eventually, goals.

And maybe even wins.
Tim Panaccio is the NHL Insider for E-mail him at

Pearl Harbor speech: Admiral calls out Kaepernick, others for anthem kneeling

Pearl Harbor speech: Admiral calls out Kaepernick, others for anthem kneeling

Wednesday was the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Although he didn't call out Colin Kaepernick by name, Admiral Harry B. Harris gave a speech that included a message intended for a certain group of athletes and/or entertainers.

“You can bet that the men and women we honor today, and those who died that fateful morning 75 years ago, never took a knee and never failed to stand whenever they heard our national anthem being played."

Many of those in attendance gave the Admiral a standing ovation.

During the preseason, Kaepernick remained seated on the 49ers' team bench during the national anthem.

After sparking a national controversy, Kaepernick began kneeling as opposed to sitting.

After the 49ers' loss to the Bears on Sunday, Kaepernick said he will continue his demonstration moving forward.

"Today we have a precious opportunity to reflect -- to reflect on what it means to be a patriot, to reflect on what it means to be a nation tested by war, and to reflect on both the costs and the blessings of liberty," Admiral Harris added. "To America's World War II patriots here and watching at home -- we will never forget your courage under considerable fire and seemingly insurmountable odds.

"Because of you, our future remains bright. We owe you an immeasurable debt and we can't thank you enough for answering the call of duty when Lady Liberty needed it the most."


Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense


Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

SAN JOSE – There are games where the Sharks’ lack of offensive firepower isn’t an issue. Recent 2-1 wins over two of the best teams in the league, Chicago and Montreal, were impressive in that San Jose kept a pair of the league’s better offenses from getting more than a single score.

In other instances, though, that necessary goal from the team’s depth just hasn’t come. Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa was one example. The Sharks got goals from Logan Couture and Brent Burns – no surprise there – while Joe Pavelski was all around the net, generating more scoring chances than any single player on the ice.

Again, though, the depth forwards and defensemen other than Burns never found the scoresheet. 

And it’s becoming a real issue.

In fact, in the Sharks’ last 11 games in which they’ve gotten 25 goals total, 60 percent of them have come from just those three aforementioned players – Couture (7g), Burns (5g) and Pavelski (3g).

Also over that span, in which San Jose has gone 6-4-1, they’ve gotten no goals from Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Mikkel Boedker, Micheal Haley or Melker Karlsson; one goal apiece from Joel Ward and Tommy Wingels; and just one goal by a defenseman other than Burns (Dylan DeMelo). Of the 12 forwards that dressed against the Senators, eight of them had two or fewer goals.

The Sharks sit at 23rd in the NHL at 2.38 goals-per game. Sure, it’s just fine winning games by 2-1 final scores. But at some point, other guys are going to have to start putting the puck in the net if this team is truly going to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Couture – who himself got off to a slow start offensively – believes it’s going to come soon.

“Everyone wants to score,” Couture said after the Senators game. “It’s not about trying, it’s just the way that things are going right now. Pucks just aren’t going in for some guys, and, hey, I went through the same thing for awhile there where I wasn’t finding the back of the net. 

“That’s the way that goal-scoring works in the NHL, is you go through streaks where you’re hot and when you’re cold. Some guys are going to get hot soon. It’s going to happen.”

For his part, coach Pete DeBoer also believes the offense will pick up shortly. In the Senators game, the coaching staff internally tracked the scoring chances as 22 for the Sharks and just eight for Ottawa.

When that happens, “you should win, and you should score more than two goals,” DeBoer said.

Without getting into specifics, DeBoer pointed to the “analytics of where we are in the league” as a reason not to panic. Perhaps he’s aware that the Sharks are sixth in the league in shot-attempt percentage (52.25), and first in the NHL in shot-attempt percentage in close games (55.67).

Still, those numbers don’t mean anything when the puck isn’t going in. So what’s missing?

“I just think finish. I think we’re doing a lot of things right,” DeBoer said.

“Obviously I’d love to see us score some more goals five-on-five, but we’re getting some chances,” Ward said. “I would think if we weren’t or if we were getting shelled then it would definitely be something to be concerned about. … We’ve had some good looks and some really quality chances. Things just haven’t fallen in five-on-five, but I think that will come around.”