Ratto: Sharks in need of the real Dan Boyle

April 27, 2011, 11:39 pm
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Ray RattoCSNBayArea.com

The Sharks got what they wanted the first round in their rear view mirrors. But now, with Detroit in their windshield and looking very Detroit-y, they have to deal with what they need.And what they need, frankly, is Dan Boyle at his best again.Boyle, San Joses top defenseman, just finished what he candidly called a pretty poor series against L.A., and few people have tried to argue him off that position. As much time as he spends on the ice (an average of 27 minutes per game in the first round) both straight-up and special teams, he will be noticed. It is unavoidable.And he was. And he knows it. Which is why he more than anyone wants to reset the odometer for the Red Wings.I dont think you can look at the past. I dont, he said when asked about previous meetings with the Red Wings, most notably the second-round series victory. I think even after every series, you stop looking the numbers and you start all over again.But the same is true of individuals as well as teams. The Sharks won three of four games against the Wings this year, plus the four of five during the playoffs last year, but those Wings were not whole, or rested, or spoiling for a do-over with the team that took them out last year.RATTO: Red Wings vs. Sharks -- what you need to know
They are different in some ways, head coach Todd McLellan said. I think theyre still a puck possession team, but they are willing to dump the puck in more than they used to. The goalie (Jimmy Howard) is different than he used to be, and theyre getting a lot more out of the Darren Helms and Justin Abdelkaders (fourth liners). Theyre healthier, theyve been off, and theres the revenge factor. If we fall into the trap of thinking this is like last year, we will surely regret it.Boyle, for one, knows that much. He was neither the steady backliner nor the linchpin for the power play against Los Angeles, often getting to the twin traps of carrying the puck too much and running about to do things that are either above or below his pay grade. He is not a stay-at-home defenseman, but home is important.All this is why the Sharks uneven series with over the Kings might also have served as a healthy last call, and not just for Boyle. San Jose had extraordinary highs (the first period of Game 6 was about as well as they can play) and stupefying lows (most of Game 2 and the first 10 minutes of Games 1 through 5). They did just enough to beat a battered seven-seed, which is no way to get deep into the party. Most of the big numbers Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau had what they would regard as substandard series.But they have taken their turns in the barrel over the years. This is Boyles turn, because so much is demanded of him, and his presence and absence is so noticeable. If in fact the Sharks can turn it on and off (and typically, when they start believing that, they have a hard time finding on in the dark), they should give serious thought to turning it on and keeping it on, for the Wings are not a forgiving lot.They dont commit a lot of stupid penalties, but they do have a healthy gift for agitation. They are good in the circle and on both the power play and penalty kill, and having Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen and Nicklas Lidstrom beats a groin strain every time.This is San Joses moment to show what they are, against quite likely the toughest opponent left in the postseason (you have our permission to argue for Washington if you must). All the shovels have to be in the ground, and the ones entrusted with the back hoes, like Boyle just to name one, must dig the most of all.