Sharks' Game 3 focus: composure, commitment


Sharks' Game 3 focus: composure, commitment

May 20, 2011

Tim Panaccio

SAN JOSE -- Sometimes a one-word answer pretty much says it all.

You can dissect the Sharks' two losses in Vancouver every which way but loose, and still end up with the one word that signifies what has to change Friday night at HP Pavilion.

Win, Sharks captain Joe Thornton said. Were going into this game as if its Game 7. Its a must win.

After taking 13 penalties in the 7-3 Game 2 debacle, perhaps spending more time on the ice 5-on-5 and less in the box would be a good start.

Be crisper, stay out of the penalty box and be hard on pucks, Thornton said. Their power play is as deadly as ours, just stay out of the box as much as we can.

That would imply the Sharks need to just play the game without gamesmanship. Coach Todd McLellan summed that up in one word, as well: composure.

Many of the San Jose penalties in Game 2 were the result of losing composure and enacting revenge. Self-discipline will be pivotal in the games here.

Have a little more composure, but still have that intensity and fire, Patrick Marleau said.

Most of the Sharks cited this game as the most important one so far.

Not that McLellan would argue that point.

When youre in the playoffs, if you have the approach that Game 1 is like Game 7 and Game 2 is Game 7, thats a real good indicator of intensity and focus, he said.

Our job is just to win Game 3. However we approach it from the mental perspective, its to win Game 3.

We know were gonna play Game 4. Wed like to play with a record of 2-1 versus 0-3. We cant look ahead. We need a better game than Games 1-2.

McLellan admitted hes contemplating both lineup and line changes.

Since calling out his players to raise their games, and in some case, get their heads into the series, McLellan was asked how he presents that differently to players if hes already said it to them in the past.

Some of the individuals have shown marked improvement over time, McLellan said. Sometimes just showing them where they were and how far theyve come strikes a chord with them. Remind them of some of their achievements.

Hes not talking goals or assists here, hes talking commitment to teammates when you get to this stage of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Its not always about rubbing their noses in it, McLellan said.

The most likely candidates hes talking about are Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe, Dan Boyle and Devin Setoguchi, among others, but basically, that core group.

Every one of those players except Clowe is a minus player in the playoffs, with Setoguchi at minus-6.

Everybody responds differently, McLellan said. Some guys need to see it and quite frankly, need to be pushed. Other guys need to be sat down and their progress needs to be reviewed ... how they got there ... all pointing toward a collective effort and then the results.

Heatley was asked about McLellan calling players out anonymously.
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Yeah, I think for our line Clowe and Logan Couture, we havent played as well as wed like to, Heatley said. Or even as well as we have in the playoffs so far.

Were a line that needs to spend a lot of time in their end and grind their defense down. Weve got to do a better job of that tonight.

Most of the Sharks stressed, more than anything, a need for more even-strength play, not to mention puck possession in the Canucks defensive end.

Through two games, too much of the play has been in the Sharks' end where San Joses forwards are expending too much energy trying to get up ice. Hence, the forecheck has been a non-factor for the Sharks.

Just compete for the loose puck, surround the puck and get our big bodies out there and get shots on the net, Marleau said.

Thats where puck placement has been an issue. Some of the Sharks' dump passes are not in areas where their forecheckers can get them, with Vancouver turning the puck right back up ice.

Boyle again mentioned how poorly the Sharks are doing in the neutral zone. There have been sequences of turnovers -- one breakout after another -- by the Sharks against the Canucks pressure.

I still say the neutral zone has to be better, Boyle said. Coming up the ice with speed. We can certainly take an alert from these guys where their defensemen jump in late.

Weve got to find those opportunities, too. Right now, theyre not there. Or, at least, Im not seeing it. We just got to find a way of being a little bit better coming up the ice.

No Demers: Defenseman Jason Demers remains out of the lineup with an undisclosed injury. Given his offensive capabilities on the blue line, his absence has hurt the Sharks.

He thinks the game creatively, McLellan said.

Again, given the Sharks' breakout issues, with many turnovers happening in neutral ice, this is where a creative, offensive-defenseman like Demers comes into play.

Kent Huskins is playing in Demers' spot but hes a stay-at-home blue liner.

When you put Kent in, it changes things, McLellan said. It changes the dynamics. You have to ask others to do more in certain situations.

Canucks changes: Coach Alain Vigneault reportedly is considering two moves tonight -- re-inserting Tanner Glass for Jeff Tambelllini, who replaced him in Game 2; and removing center Cody Hodgson for Alexandre Bolduc.

Sometimes you've got to make some adjustments, Vigneault said. Sometimes players are off their game a little bit or not on top, and you need to make quick adjustments. If we do make some changes tonight, you'll find out at the game.

Been a while: Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo has not won at HP Pavilion since 2006-07.

You're telling me he's due? Vigneault said, as the room broke up with laughter. No, this is a great building. It's loud.

I only remember our last game in here was on a back-to-back, and Schneids Cory Schneider was playing a back-to-back. I don't remember the other occasion. If that's the case, he's due.
Tim Panaccio is the NHL Insider for E-mail him at

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

Stanford star McCaffrey boosts NFL Draft stock with special teams skills

INDIANAPOLIS -- More and more college coaches are putting their starters and even their stars on special teams as they seek to pile up every possible point in an era of pedal-to-the-metal shootouts and never-safe leads.

Fading fast are the days when superstars would catch their breath on the sideline when the kicker or punter trotted onto the field with the scrubs.

NFL teams love it.

Watching how players handle themselves as a blocker, gunner or returner provides a glimpse into a prospect's range, selflessness and versatility. It also delivers a sneak peek into how coachable he'll be, says Phil Savage, the SiriusXM NFL Radio host who spent two decades as an NFL coach, scout and executive and now oversees the Senior Bowl.

"I think because of the landscape of college football where scoring is at a premium, you've got to figure out a way to put points on the board not only on offense but through your special teams and defensively, as well," Savage says. "These coaches want to get these young players on the field as soon as possible, and a way to do that is utilize them on special teams."

These tapes provide a bonus to pro scouts.

"Now you have a vision of what that player might forecast to in the NFL as a young player and, specifically, as a rookie," Savage said.

Offensive and defensive coaches have a better idea of the types of players they're integrating into their schemes, and special teams coaches no longer get blank stares and blank canvases from the rookie class.

"Not only do you like the fact that they come in and have experience doing it, but you love the mentality if you're a coach and a decision maker that this guy isn't a diva, he's got no ego about it, he understands the team and puts team before self," says ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay.

"And he comes in with the mindset of 'What can I do to help the team and how can I contribute?' Those are the guys that seem to make it and last longer in the league because they're just willing to do different things and whatever it takes."

The prime example in this year's draft class is Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey , a "dynamic player than can do it all," according to Broncos GM John Elway.

McCaffrey gained more than 5,000 yards from scrimmage in his college career and added almost 2,000 more as a returner.

"There's just a lot of big plays open in the return game," McCaffrey says. "You see special teams have such an impact on the game today. Any time I can have the ball in my hands, I feel like I can do something dangerous, and that's really why I love the return game."

Other highly touted draft prospects who polished their resumes on special teams include Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers, LSU safety Jamal Adams, Washington wide receiver John Ross, and USC cornerback Adroee' Jackson, all of whom are projected as high selections.

McShay says "we're seeing more and more programs put an emphasis on special teams and having their key players contribute in one or more areas on special teams."

He pointed to Ohio State, where Urban Myers coaches special teams himself.

"It's a major emphasis there, and so you'll see some more guys typically lined up and contributing that are starters and stars," McShay says. "It's an honor to be on special teams."

Not a burden.

"It is not uncommon now to see people that are going to be picked in the first round having 100-plus special teams plays," suggests NFL draft consultant and former Dallas Cowboys executive Gil Brandt.

He pointed to the University of Florida, where Gators defensive backs cover kickoffs as well as they do receivers.

"Everyone's always trying to get their best guys on the field," Brandt says.

That's a change from years past when coaches feared exposing their star players to the extra hits.

The added value benefits the players, whose multiple talents allow NFL general managers to address many needs.

"We're seeing more emphasis on it in college, and I think NFL teams love to see it because if just means you're getting a bit more for your buck," McShay says.

Top talents who bolstered their value by playing special teams:

CHRISTIAN McCAFFREY , RB, STANFORD: He shined at the combine working out with the running backs and was as impressive running routes. Asked if there was anything he couldn't do, the son of former NFL wide receiver Ed McCaffrey said then: "I can't sing."

JABRILL PEPPERS , S, MICHIGAN: He worked out with safeties and linebackers at the combine, where teams talked of him playing RB and WR in addition to returning kicks. "The bottom line is I'm a ballplayer and I'm a hell of a ballplayer," Peppers said.

JOHN ROSS , WR, WASHINGTON: He caught 81 passes with 17 TDs last season but actually posted more return yards (2,069) than scrimmage yards (1,924) in his college career.

ADOREE' JACKSON , CB, USC: One of the best special teams coverage players in the NCAA, Jackson also scored eight TDs on punt and kick returns in college. His punt return averages rose from 6.0 yards to 10.5 and 15.8.

JAMAL ADAMS , S, LSU: Another star in coverage, Adams' defensive mentality extends to special teams. "I love being on the field and just playing football," said Adams, whose father, George, was a first-round pick by the Giants in 1985.

ALVIN KAMARA , RB, TENNESSEE: In a deep running back group, Kamara separates himself with his special teams acumen. "A lot of teams have been bringing up special teams," Kamara said.

DESMOND KING , CB, IOWA: He had eight interceptions as a junior and three as a senior. "I had a really good special teams season," King said. "Not being targeted as much, I still went out there and competed the best I could and was still making plays."

CHRIS WORMLEY , DE, MICHIGAN: Wormley touts playing for Jim Harbaugh as one of his attributes. "Coach Harbaugh came in and ran our program like an NFL program, like he had with the 49ers," said Wormley, who blocked three kicks his senior season.

ZAY JONES , WR, EAST CAROLINA: Like McCaffrey, he has good NFL bloodlines (son of Robert Jones, brother of Cayleb Jones). He caught 158 passes as a senior, but spent his first two seasons in college also making his mark as a returner.

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

Whether Brown or Kerr coach, Warriors sticking to same blueprint

OAKLAND -- For the first time since he joined the coaching staff last summer, Mike Brown on Wednesday morning arrived at the Warriors facility a man in charge.

As acting head coach, he would decide when practice started and when it ended, and conduct proceedings in between.

The general activity was not much different for anyone else, though, as it continues to become evident that everything the Warriors do for the foreseeable future will be a Brown-Kerr, or Kerr-Brown, production.

“Steve is going to be a part of this process the whole time,” Brown said after practice. “Almost before I do anything, I’m going to consult with him. The only time I won’t consult with him is probably during a game.”

Since Kerr’s announcement last Sunday that he was taking an indefinite leave to attend to personal health issues, Brown has been wielding the clipboard. He actually coached Game 3 against Portland last Saturday, in Kerr’s absence, before knowing in advance he’d also coach Game 4 Monday night.

Brown is 2-0, with the Game 4 win clinching a Warriors sweep of the Trail Blazers. Yet Brown is quick to remind anyone that he is following the plan laid out by Kerr. The two exchanged texts Tuesday and, according to Brown, “spoke at length” after the game between the Jazz and the Clippers -- one of which will face the Warriors in the next round.

Though the Warriors are operating under a different head coach, all indications are the atmosphere around the team remains stable and relatively unchanged.

“Obviously it’s different personalities, but when you make it about the players, when you make it about winning, all that other stuff really doesn’t matter,” Kevin Durant said. “He coaches us. He coaches the game of basketball and he does it very well. Our whole coaching staff does the same thing.

“When it’s about basketball, it’s not about trying to have authority over us. He’s just coaching us. He’s just coaching us up. He’s just telling us the proper way to do things on the basketball court. It’s pretty simple when you try to do that. Then it’s on us to try to execute.”

Execution has gone well, particularly over the last six quarters of the series against Portland. The Warriors wiped out a 16-point deficit in the second half to win Game 3, and then rolled to a 35-9 start in Game 4 before coasting to the closeout victory.

Brown was on the sideline in Game 4, with Kerr watching the game from the locker room.

It’s fairly apparent, though, that everyone involved feels a heightened sense of accountability and ownership.

“Mike has had a pretty big voice throughout the whole season,” Durant said. “He’s been a head coach before, understands what it takes to be a head coach. And the coaching staff is just so smart, and they empower each other.

“Anybody, if you’re around us on a day-to-day basis, anybody can tell that they work well as a group. Coach Kerr does a great job. He spearheads it all by empowering everybody, from the coaches to the players.”