McLellan, Sharks deny they have 'demons'


McLellan, Sharks deny they have 'demons'

Tim Panaccio

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Five times in the past seven seasons, the San Jose Sharks have lost to the eventual Western Conference champion.When this series began between the Sharks and Canucks, hockey historians labeled it as one where both franchises were seeking to exorcise demons from their past.Vancouver has not been to a Stanley Cup Final since losing to the Rangers in 1994.The Sharks? Theyve never been there and had a chance last year and still have one this spring, as well, under coach Todd McLellan, albeit, a slim chance at this point, trailing 3-1.

Vancouver needs just one win to heap another years disappointment on the Sharks. Ryane Clowe has been a Shark six seasons, so he knows a thing or two about carrying franchise burdens around every spring.
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Theres a lot of pressure on us already because were going to be question marks after the season, Clowe said on Monday night.The last couple of years, its felt different. We lost to Anaheim in Todds first year. That was a tough one. Todd has a different mentality that hes brought in here. We dont feel that way.I know its always a talk with the Sharks -- the need to take that next step. But sometimes, you get so close. Obviously, the last couple of years we were right there. Youre obviously doing something right. You can look at it that way. A lot of teams would love to have an opportunity to get this far. But we cant look at that way.We got to make that next step and get to the Cup Final. Then go from there. I dont know anything about demons. Weve got a lot of the same core here. Theres different guys coming in every year,changing it up, but I think for the most part, the core guys have played pretty good hockey.Hes talking team captain Joe Thornton (17 points), who will play in Game 5 despite a shoulder injury;Patrick Marleau (12 points), Douglas Murray, Dan Boyle, whos won a Cup, and even himself.McLellan objected to the characterization of demons when asked at his morning press conference in San Jose, before the team arrived in Vancouver.
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You guys think we have demons, McLellan responded. They don't exist in our world. We've had a lot of success as an organization and as a franchise. We can keep referring back to the Conference Finals in 2004, say that we had an eight-game losing streak. I think some of you wrote that. I don't know what the hell 2004 has to do with 2011.I don't think we have demons. We have a team that's worked extremely hard to get to the Conference Finals. We've had a team that's faced a lot of adversity, external adversity.The only people we answer to are ourselves in that locker room. We don't answer to the media. We answer to our fans somewhat here at home. We owe them an effort. We owe them a commitment level second to none. But that's it.Trite as it sounds, theres a saying: closing out a series is always the hardest game. The Sharks know firsthand how Detroit came back at them the last series to force a Game 7. Now San Jose has to do the same with Vancouver.You cant win three times in one game.
Often, the pressure to win a fourth game is greater than the pressure the other club feels in an elimination game.You would assume theres more pressure on them; theyre up 3-1, Murray said. Its tough to answer.Clowe said the Sharks could relax a bit and play better because all the expectations are on the Canucks ending the series here.That could be true, but if the Vancouver guys want to take less pressure, I can take three wins, Murray said smiling.The Sharks have been in this situation before, so its nothing new to them, Clowe said.We played Detroit that last series, looked like we had it wrapped up and then we lost and had to go backto Detroit for Game 6 and all of a sudden, it gets your thinking a little bit, he said.Right now, we feel confident if we can win tomorrow, we can go back home and win Game 6 ... For the first time in the playoffs, maybe we just gotta play. Play loose and no pressure on us and just go get them.Were down 3-1, but I think you see us go a little more. A little looser, create a little more offensively. As much as we can try to put pressure on them, why not?

Perhaps if Game 5 is played 5-on-5 instead of special teams, maybe the Sharks can make a go of it.

No disrespect to Vancouver, but weve been beating ourselves, Murray said. We have not been very good on execution in most games. The goals weve been giving up, its not our systems, its execution.Ask either of the coaches or even the players, you dont want to get into a special teams battle. You want to keep penalties down and draw more penalties than you take We want to take as few penalties as possible, but that has not been the case in this series.It would help immensely if Dany Heatley stepped up in this one, as well.Heatley has been a no-show with one assist. He has just five goals in 31 career playoff games as a Shark.Even more stunning, as the San Jose Mercury News reported, Heatley has just one power play goal as a Shark over the teams last 140 chances, going back to last postseason.We often say as a coaching staff about individual players: What more can we do with them? McLellan said. That's a cop-out as a coaching staff. We have to find ways to make them better, help them. There's a real good lesson I learned in Minnesota's organization. Doug Risebrough said, You always have to try to find a way.
"It's up to us to sit with Dany, work with him a little bit, try to find a way to put him in successful situations. Then again, ultimately he has to find a way to do that and produce. We will help him any way we possibly can.Heatley isnt the only Shark who needs to show up. Hes just the most obvious player.At this time of the year, you have some guys that rise to the occasion and give you extra, give you a little more and others struggle, for whatever reason, McLellan said, not singling out any particular Shark.And it can change from night-to-night or series-to-series. You look at Vancouver. Coming into this series, there was an awful lot of talk about the Sedin twins Daniel and Henrik not producing.Obviously, theyve answered that question quite well. And theres always lightning rods on our team, Marleau and Thornton, and they just happen to not only be leading our team but the league in scoring. Were pleased with their play. Theres others that have to give us more, not doubt about it. If we plan on extending the series, those others will have to rise to the occasion.Like Heatley. Dany and others and you can put Dany in that mix and he knows it, McLellan said. Hes admitted it and talked about it. Thats the first sign of turning things around. Hellman up and we expect him to play well tomorrow.Tim Panaccio covers thePhiladelphia Flyers for and let him know what you think! Follow Tim @tpanotch.

Hoesen leads the ways as Earthquakes take down Real Salt Lake


Hoesen leads the ways as Earthquakes take down Real Salt Lake


SAN JOSE — Danny Hoesen scored his second goal of the season and assisted on Marco Urena's second goal, lifting the San Jose Earthquakes to a 2-1 victory over Real Salt Lake on Saturday night.

Hoesen opened the scoring in the 13th minute, off a long cross from Nick Lima. After touching the ball down, Hoesen gathered it off a defender's foot, stepped inside and unleashed a left footer into the top corner from just off the penalty spot.

Hoesen's long through ball down the right side sent Urena free and from a tight angle he rolled the ball past Nick Rimando in the 68th minute.

San Jose (6-6-5), which has battled injuries and call-ups to score just 16 goals in 16 games, won for just the second time in its last seven games.

Lima picked up two yellow cards in the second half and the Quakes played a man down from the 71st minute.

David Bingham made only one save in each half but was denied his seventh shutout when Jose Hernandez scored his second goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time for Salt Lake (5-11-2).

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

Latest round of bullpen auditions go poorly in Giants' 50th loss

SAN FRANCISCO -- Practically speaking, the 50th loss is no different than the one before or the one after, but this sport is built on milestones, and this one came quickly.

The Giants lost their 50th game on August 12 last year. This season, it was clinched when Ryder Jones grounded out in his fourth career at-bat, handing the Mets a 5-2 win on June 24. 

Bruce Bochy called losing 50 of your first 77 games "hard to believe" and "embarrassing." Johnny Cueto, who went seven strong, said the reality was "hard and sad." Brandon Belt, who got Cueto off the hook for a loss, agreed with his manager.

"That's a pretty good word to use -- it is embarrassing to come out and lose every day, especially with the group of guys we have," Belt said. "When you're losing as much as this, it is embarrassing. We're trying to do whatever we can to turn this thing around."

Lately, that has meant changes to the roster. It is officially audition season, and in that respect, it was not a particularly inspiring day for the bullpen. The Giants felt they would have a better mix this year, but it hasn't played out. Instead, they're once again trying to find pieces for the next successful Giants bullpen.

With Hunter Strickland suspended and Derek Law in the minors, two young relievers, a middle-innings stalwart, and a newcomer pitched the final two frames. They gave up four runs.

Sam Dyson was the first on the mound in the eighth. Belt had homered a few minutes earlier, tying a good starter's duel. Dyson gave up a leadoff triple to Curtis Granderson and walked Asdrubal Cabrera before throwing two good sliders past Yoenis Cespedes for the strikeout. With two lefties coming up and the go-ahead run still on third, Bochy turned to Steven Okert. He immediately gave up a seeing-eye RBI single to Jay Bruce. Wilmer Flores doubled off George Kontos later in the frame to make it 3-1. 

In the ninth, Kyle Crick showed some of the wildness that kept him in the minors for seven years. He, too, gave up a leadoff triple, a sin you always pay for. A walk helped put another run into scoring position and a wild pitch extended the Mets’ lead to four. 

Before the game, Bochy talked of getting an extended look at Jones. He was 0-for-4 in his first big league game but he’ll be back out there tomorrow. It’s time to fight for a job, and the same holds true of some relievers who didn’t fare well Saturday. It is a group with a closer locked into a longterm deal and little else decided. 

Are Strickland or Law eighth-inning guys? Will Dyson be a worthwhile reclamation project? Will Kontos be back, and will he carve out a different role? Are Okert and Josh Osich capable of giving Bochy lefties he trusts? Is Crick’s improvement in Triple-A a sign of things to come? There are many questions to be answered over the next three months. 

“This is a good time for them, this is what players get up here for, to show what they can do,” Bochy said. “Because of our situation, we’re going to take a look at these guys and we know there are going to be growing pains.”