Ratto: McLellan keeping doom in the air

May 21, 2011, 10:39 pm
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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

The Sharks rolled out a spirited practice at their ancillary facility Saturday, in Todd McLellans words because I thought it was important for our hockey club to skate today. We felt it was important to get back on the ice before the noon start just to feel it again, get our legs moving, feel the puck a little bit.It was, in its own way, a reminder that the Sharks are at their most dangerous when theyve just enjoyed some good old-fashioned across-the-board success. Thats the time when they are most likely to go bad again.That is the undercurrent of their latest triumph, Fridays 4-3 victory over Vancouver. All the superior forechecking and neutral ice play, all the hits that decimated the Canucks defense corps (neither Christian Ehrhoff nor Aaron Rome skated Saturday), the fast start and the resumption of the renaissance of Patrick Marleau all of it tells a practiced Sharks eye that the worm is positioning itself to take another turn.
RECAP: Sharks survive Canucks' late flurry for first win
First, their good news. Jamie McGinn was not suspended for the hit on Rome that earned him a five-minute major and a game misconduct in Game 3.VIDEO: Jamie McGinn boards Aaron Rome
Next, their bad. Defenseman Jason Demers remains day to day.Now, back to cases.These are the Sharks things never look quite so dark as when they look so light, because they always respond best when backed into a corner with a wasp hive taped to their nethers. Hence, we suspect, the all-hands-on-deck practice barely 24 hours before Game 4.It wasn't an overly extensive practice, McLellan said, despite the visual evidence that suggests a considerably extensive workout. There wasn't a lot of exertion. We brought all of our black aces, if you want to call them that, on the ice, so the reps were down. It was more a cleaning out process, resetting the mental part of the game again.RATTO: Three keys to Game 4
In short, McLellan was doing more brain maintenance on a team that seems to know what to do at all times, but doesnt do it quite as often as one would expect of a true Stanley Cup contender.Not because of sloth, or disinterest in the coach, or even short attention spans run rampant. In fact, nobodys ever really out a finger on why the Sharks have had so much trouble maintaining momentum in the postseason, except the always trite Were playing good teams too, you know.Fact is, McLellan looks eternally for the edge that will keep his team on edge, because he has come to understand that they play better when theres doom in the air. There was doom Friday afternoon. By Friday night, they had reestablished their bonafides as a Cup contender. Now with Sunday, they have to do it again, because even if you ignore the other history, their work in this postseason has been, well, confounding.> Up 1-0 against the Kings, they get the news that Jarret Stoll is suspended, thereby leaving the Kings two very good centermen short for Game 2. Result: Kings win, 4-0.
> Up 3-1 against Kings, come back home for Game 5 and lose.
> Up 3-0 against Detroit in what was admittedly a great series, they need a seventh game to escape the ignominy of becoming the fourth team to blow a choke-slam.
> And now, with an inspiring win over the Canucks and two defensemen seemingly out for awhile, they have a Game 4 that will test yet again their ability to take good fortune and treat it like something other than a chicken-on-gelignite sandwich.Maybe the fear of going down 3-1 will serve the purpose of maintaining the teams revival. Or maybe they need to go down 3-1 before they take the hint. The test comes Sunday in a game that is no longer a must-win situation, but may become one if the Sharks arent careful.In other words, if the Sharks are, well, the Sharks.