McLellan turns to psychology to lift Sharks

McLellan turns to psychology to lift Sharks
May 18, 2011, 12:59 am
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Tim Panaccio
CSNCalifornia.com

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 CSNPhilly.com E-mail him at tpanotch@comcast.net