Programming note:Coverage of the Sharks-Kings Western Conference Semifinal begins at 5:00 p.m. tonight on NBC Sports Network.
SAN JOSE – After the Sharks eliminated the Vancouver Canucks in their first ever franchise sweep, the team enjoyed an entire week off before resuming play in the second round against the Los Angeles Kings.
It didn’t help at the start of the series, as the Sharks dropped the first two games in Southern California. Could it help now, as San Jose will have to win two straight in order to advance to the Western Conference finals?
"It should pay off. They had to play an extra two games, we didn't,” Todd McLellan said, referring to the Kings’ six-game first round win. “They played a heavy, physical series against St. Louis.
“But, once you get going again, we played the same five games they did. The bumps and bruises add up. We can look for a whole bunch of different theories heading into this game. It really comes down to us elevating our level of play, and finding ways to capitalize on opportunities and execute the game plan that we want to play. It's as simple as that.”
Joe Pavelski noted the Sharks had two days to dissect what went wrong in Game 5 on Thursday night at Staples Center.
“It lets you reset the body and the mind and especially coming in after a loss, that extra day is good,” he said. “You can use that to your advantage and just reset your game and come ready to play.”
The Sharks are 4-0 in the playoffs at home after losing just twice in regulation here in the regular season (17-2-5). Game 4 at HP Pavilion was their best start of the series, and perhaps the playoffs. San Jose outshot the Kings 15-3 in the first period, and hung on late for a 2-1 win that evened the series at two games apiece.
Joe Thornton led the effort, skating on a line with TJ Galiardi and Brent Burns and playing almost the entire first period in the offensive zone. Duplicating that start could go a long way.
Can that threesome do it again?
“Yeah, for sure,” Galiardi said. “Any time you’re playing with a guy like [Thornton], it’s always attainable to do something like that. Burnzie and I have got to do our part, and all pitch in together. When we’re working as a line, we have success.”
Burns’ goal, assisted by Thornton and Galiardi, gave San Jose the lead six minutes into the first period. The team that has scored first has won each of the five games in the series.
“It’s quite the advantage, especially with the goaltending in this series, how good Nemo has been for us and Quick for them,” Galiardi said. “When they get a lead they feel pretty comfortable. We can help out by getting that first one tonight.”
The Sharks will have to make two notable adjustments to their game that were glaring weaknesses in Game 5, a 3-0 loss. San Jose will have to be better on the power play after going 0-for-3 with just four shots, and it will have to deal better with the Kings’ physical play. Los Angeles out hit the Sharks 51-24 in Game 5, and held the Sharks to just 24 shots on goal. At one point, San Jose went nearly 18 minutes without registering a single shot.
On Saturday, the Sharks worked on their transition game, and moving the puck quickly up the ice.
"It's a lot easier to hit a slow moving target,” McLellan said. “It doesn't matter what sport you're in. We didn't execute very well, we didn't handle pucks, we were slow, and that plays right into their hands. We expect to be better in those areas tonight, and then we'll take our chances from there.”
Joe Pavelski said: “We weren’t on top of our game. We weren’t fast enough. We weren’t good enough with the puck down there – a lot of things put you in position like that. … They came out definitely stronger, more physical, but we weren’t quick enough and didn’t create enough on the forecheck to counter that.”
The Kings played their best game of the series in Game 5. The Sharks will likely have to do the same to force a Game 7 at Staples Center on Tuesday night.
“It’s a pressure situation, but you can’t fold under that. You’ve got to thrive under that, and enjoy it,” Dan Boyle said. “Guys are in good spirits right now, but I think come 5 o’clock, you’re going to see a team that’s working and ready to take this back to L.A.”
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