Tempers short as Sharks await Canucks, Gm. 3


Tempers short as Sharks await Canucks, Gm. 3

May 20, 2011

VANCOUVER (2-0) vs.
SHARKS (0-2)

Coverage begins at 6 P.M. on Versus

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) The San Jose Sharks lost more than the first two games in the Western Conference final during a lost trip to Vancouver. They also lost their composure.

From captain Joe Thornton challenging Ryan Kesler to a fight before the opening faceoff of Game 1 to enforcer Ben Eager's parade to the penalty box late in Game 2, the Sharks have been on the wrong side of the aggression line too often the first two games and find themselves down 2-0 in the series.

Led by Eager's 20 penalty minutes, the Sharks committed 53 minutes in penalties in a 7-3 loss in Game 2 on Wednesday night, leading to seven power-play chances and three man-advantage goals for the opportunistic Canucks.

"That's often a result of frustration," coach Todd McLellan said Thursday. "It catches up with you. ... It wasn't like we lost it when it was 5-2 or 6-2. We lost it at 3-2. That's not the sign of a team that can win a series. That has to get better."

RELATED: Have Sharks, McLellan run out of options?

The Sharks held an optional workout Thursday as they look to get back into the series in Game 3 at home on Friday night.

Eager was the biggest violator for the Sharks, committing four minor penalties and a misconduct in the final 21 minutes of the game. He also scored San Jose's third goal and was praised by McLellan for his forechecking and skating - a sign that he likely will stay in the lineup despite the penalty-filled game.

The Canucks believe that shouldn't be San Jose's choice.

Coach Alain Vigneault was upset there wasn't more punishment from the NHL for Eager's hit from behind against Daniel Sedin in the final minute of the second period. Eager also got a roughing call for taunting goalie Roberto Luongo after scoring to cut the deficit to 7-3 and called Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa a "phony" for fighting Sharks top-line player Patrick Marleau instead of a more accomplished fighter.

"Obviously he's on the ice to try and hurt people," Vigneault said. "He ran Danny from the back, one of the NHL's potential MVP, he ran our goaltender. Their coach goes out and says that's the way he wants them to play. I just hope nothing serious is going to happen on the ice otherwise there will be some serious consequences to that."

RATTO: Canucks coach sensing a conspiracy

McLellan and Eager downplayed Vigneault's criticisms, with the coaching praising his fourth-line player one of his best players in Game 2 and saying he can be a force if he can limit his penalties.

Eager has a history with the Canucks, having knocked them out of the playoffs the past two years while with Chicago.

"If you play a team three years in a row there's going to be some dislike," Eager said. "When it's in the conference finals it's that much more intense. Sometimes games end up like last night."

The Canucks were on the other side of that in last year's second-round loss to Eager and the Blackhawks. The most notable loss of composure came from high-scoring Sedin, who uncharacteristically fought with Dave Bolland during that series.

"You get frustrated when you feel their team is better than your team and this year we have a better team, that's the bottom line," Sedin said. "Chicago had a lot more depth last year and that's what happens. It's one incident, nothing I worry too much about. It's the playoffs, sometimes things get out of hand."

The Canucks have been better at almost every aspect of this series, showing more speed than the Sharks, beating them to loose pucks, and most importantly, doing a better job of staying out of the penalty box after allowing seven power-play goals in 28 chances in the six games against the Blackhawks last year.

Vancouver has been short-handed just three times this series, allowing goals all three times, but have controlled the five-on-five play for most of the series.

"We learned our lessons the hard way," Bieksa said. "At the time it really cost us and we talked about it a lot during the season and talked about it a lot before the playoffs, and have been very good at it all season, staying discipline and even keeled and staying away from the stuff after the whistle."

The Sharks have lost five of six games since taking a 3-0 lead in the second round against Detroit with the only win coming in Game 7 at home against the Red Wings last week. They have also lost eight straight games in the Western Conference finals, dating to 2004 against Calgary, after getting swept in this round a year ago against eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago.

"This organization will always have the label of underachieving until it wins the Cup," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We've been talking about it for three years now. We have to find a way to win and that's it."

Steve Kerr doesn't really care that much about blowout loss to Spurs

Steve Kerr doesn't really care that much about blowout loss to Spurs

The Warriors will play their second game of the season on Friday night in New Orleans.

But that doesn't mean they are done talking about the 29-point loss to the Spurs on Opening Night.

"We played a team that just came in and beat the crap out of us, frankly," Kerr told 95.7 The Game's Damon Bruce on Thursday. "They're the one team I would say, when you're adding a lot of new parts and pieces like we are, you either don't want to play the Spurs on Opening Night or you do. The reason you don't want to play them is because of what happened the other night -- they're gonna execute, they know who they are, they got all that continuity from the roster that they've had for years.

"The reason you do want to play them is because they'll expose your weaknesses right away. I don't really care that much about the loss to be honest with you. I felt bad for the fans, who had to suffer through that. But as far as our team goes, even though it was embarrassing and humiliating and nobody slept very well that night, it really opened up every weakness that we had. And it'll sharpen our focus, and we'll be able to work on a lot of things based on that game."

[RELATED: Antawn Jamison: Warriors really miss Andrew Bogut]

In the game's aftermath, a lot of the focus was centered around the idea that the Warriors missed Andrew Bogut's presence on the defensive end.

The Warriors surrendered 21 offensive rebounds and acknowledged they miscommunicated many times within their scheme.

"Every team that you put together is gonna be different," Kerr explained. "Obviously, we had to move Andrew (Bogut) in order to get Kevin Durant. Even Boges himself said, 'Hey, if I'm the GM, I'd do that, too' ... we were really lucky to get Zaza (Pachulia) and David West, and they're gonna play huge roles on our team, but they're different players.

"It's our job as coaches to figure out what works best and the players have to get to know one another. And they'll get more comfortable as they go. We should be a very good defensive team. We won't have that shot blocking at the rim but we'll have a lot of other really good components to work with and we'll figure it out."

[POOLE: Rebooted Warriors in trial-and-error phase]

Kerr also discussed the team's mentality in regards to the regular season. Is 74 wins possible?

"I think that record is impossible to break. I don't care who we have on our team. What we did last year to break the 72-win record was incredible. I don't think that record will ever be broken, but of course, we're gonna be asked about it because we've got Kevin Durant.

"It's unfathomable for any team to win 74 games ... anybody who predicted that we were gonna win 74 games, doesn't get the NBA. It doesn't work that way ... it's not even something that enters our mind.

"The most important thing for us is to win when it matters in June. We didn't do that last year, so that's the focus."

Rewind: 'Beautiful' night for Kings, Sacramento despite loss to Spurs

Rewind: 'Beautiful' night for Kings, Sacramento despite loss to Spurs

SACRAMENTO -- Basketball was supposed to take a back seat Thursday night at the Golden 1 Center. After countless failed attempts to build a new arena in Sacramento, the Kings were almost allowed to leave twice. But a new building comes another 30-plus year lease, cementing NBA hoops in the capital of California until at least the midway point of the century.

The evening was supposed to be a celebration of an accomplishment that many believed would never happen. And then a basketball game broke out.

No one expected the Kings to compete with the San Antonio Spurs. Gregg Popovich’s club won 67 games last season and were fresh off a smackdown of the Golden State Warriors in the season opener on Tuesday.

But this isn’t the 2015-16 Sacramento Kings that would routinely yield 110 points to their opponents. This is Dave Joerger’s club and they are grinders.

The end result was a loss, but one that you can live with. 102-94 doesn’t tell the whole story. For much of the night, the Kings were the best team on the floor.

“I consider this a good loss,” DeMarcus Cousins said. “I’m ready for the next one.”

There are moral victories when you are two games into an 82 game schedule and you go toe-to-toe with one of the best in the league. The mood in past seasons would have been somber in the Kings locker room, but that is not what it felt like on Thursday evening.

“The scary apart about it is we’ve still got so much more room to improve,” Cousins said. “In the past, you usually walk in here and guys are sulking and pissed off. (Tonight) it’s like okay, let’s get onto the next one. We know we made some mistakes. We know we broke down, but we’re on the right path right now.”

That path is built on a defensive identity and the Kings are building chemistry at a shocking rate. With five new rotational players and three new starters, Sacramento’s roster is still learning how to play together.

“As a group, we were pretty good defensively, we communicate with each other, so we’re always going to have a chance every night,” veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo said.

When you play the Spurs, your margin for error is almost nill. The game turned on a turnover here and a mistake there and that’s something you can’t have when you’re playing a group that has been together for years in the same system.

“Defensively, I think we took a step in the right direction,” Rudy Gay said. “They’re a great team, I think we played great defense. Had a couple of letdowns, but it’s a basketball game. They’re a veteran team playing together. They have a system and they stuck to their system.”

It will go down as the first loss in the history of the Golden 1 Center, but the Kings are showing signs that they might be better than expected.

As for the opening of the building, it went off without a hitch. Both David Stern and Adam Silver were in attendance to see the event. As was Oklahoma City Thunder owner Clay Bennett, former Sacramento Kings All-Star Chris Webber, mayor Kevin Johnson and a bevy of local celebrities.

It was an emotional night all around, even for Cousins who has spent the first six-plus seasons of his career in a Kings uniform.

“It was beautiful, man,” the Kings’ big man said from his locker stall. “As much as this city has been through, as much as they fought, they were more than deserving of this night. I wish we could have sealed the deal with a win, but we got 80 more so we can make it up later.”

The Kings face a young and athletic Minnesota Timberwolves team on Saturday that has given them fits in the past. It’s a new challenge that this team looks better prepared to face this season.