McLellan: 'We have a great opportunity in front of us'
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Programming note: Coverage of Game 5 between the Sharks and Kings begins tonight at 7 p.m. on CSN California (Channel locations)
SAN JOSE – Had a crystal ball foretold the Sharks before their series with Los Angeles that they would have a chance to clinch at home in Game 5, chances are they would have been just fine with that scenario.
Despite squandering their first chance at advancing on Thursday in Los Angeles with a 6-3 loss, the Sharks seem exhilarated to return to a familiar environment on Saturday with a three games to one lead on the Kings.
“It’s awesome. We love playing here,” Joe Pavelski said. “Me, personally, I love getting a chance to play in here, especially playoffs. That’s the way this team feels, so we’re excited to be back here.”
Todd McLellan said: “[We] feel good. We get a great opportunity in front of us.”
[IN THE CREASE: Sharks get another chance to end Kings' season]
San Jose played its worst game of the series on Thursday, while the Kings were the more desperate and energized club with their season on the line. McLellan pointed specifically to net play, meaning he’d like to see his team be hungrier in front of the opposition net while playing a stronger game around its own crease.
The Sharks fired 39 shots on goalie Jonathan Quick, but according to Pavelski, they could have had more than three scores.
“We had a lot of good chances. I think it’s about finishing a little bit more,” he said. As for the other end, “you give up five or six goals, and they’ll say the same thing, the way the series has gone it’s tough to win. We have to take care of our end first, and it’s a few simple little things in that area.”
McLellan said: “We know we have to be better. That simple fact makes me feel good. … We weren’t good enough last game, we’re not fooling ourselves.”
Oddly, the series had remained a high-scoring affair through each of the first four games. The Kings allowed the fewest goals in the regular season, while the Sharks surrendered the fifth-fewest.
Starting goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Antti Niemi’s numbers reflect that. Quick has a 5.05 goals-against average and .871 save percentage, while Niemi is only slightly better (3.45 GAA, .889 SP). Each goaltender has been pulled once.
Last season, the Sharks and Kings combined for 24 goals in a seven-game second round playoff series. There have already been 34 combined goals through four games this year, with the Sharks holding a 20-14 advantage.
“I am completely surprised that there’s been this many goals,” McLellan said. “I’ve said all along, even after Game 1, we expect it to go back to the 2-1 or at best 3-2 type scenario. … I still think we’re going back to that tight-checking type game for the rest of the series. If we don’t, then we’ll have to deal with it as we go along.”
Each team has found success on the power play, too. San Jose has scored one power play goal in each of the four games, while Los Angeles scored three times with a man advantage in the last two games.
In a high scoring series, power play success “definitely has to continue,” Patrick Marleau said. “We could have definitely got a few more. We had some good looks last game that we missed wide or they just got a stick on. They're going to make adjustments and we're going to have to keep adjusting on the fly, as well."
The Sharks will try and win their eighth straight playoff game on home ice, and sixth in a row over the Kings.
Marleau said: “It's nice to be around your familiar surroundings, but you can't just rely on that. You have to go out and put in the work and put in the effort to get the win."