McLellan: 'They're playing for each other'
"They’re motivated by each other, they’re having fun together, they’re seizing the moment." -Todd McLellan (USA TODAY IMAGES)
SAN JOSE – If you're picturing Sharks head coach Todd McLellan exiled to his hotel room in Los Angeles Monday night, feverishly scrawling out prose and assaulting a yellow notepad for a motivating pregame speech before Tuesday's Game 7, think again.
It's not going to happen. And, he doesn't think it needs to.
“The unique thing and the great thing about our team right now is they’re playing for each other,” he said. “They’re motivated by each other, they’re having fun together, they’re seizing the moment.
“We don’t have to come in as coaches and motivate, and give them the 'one for the Gipper' thing. It’s not that way. It’s a good thing for our team. Maybe in the past we’ve had that, but not now.”
What the Sharks have made clear over the last 24 hours, including immediately after their 2-1 Game 6 win at HP Pavilion on Sunday night, is that they play better when they’re a loose group. It’s evident that the Sharks’ locker room can be a lively place with the offseason additions of players like Scott Gomez and Adam Burish.
[RELATED: Gomez's Game 7 advice: 'Don't suck']
Keeping things light before Game 7 on Tuesday will be more important than McLellan attempting to play Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday before the team skates out to the Staples Center ice.
Dan Boyle said: “We have some characters in this locker room that help out. Everybody approaches a game in a different way. Definitely, we had a loose locker room [on Sunday]. Drawing from my experience, whether it’s the Olympic gold medal game or Stanley Cup Final, you have to be somewhat loose, or else the nerves will get to you a little bit.”
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It’s been suggested that the Sharks are playing looser due to their being the underdog in the series. Although the Kings (five seed) finished just one place higher than sixth seeded San Jose, it’s probably fair to say that the defending Stanley Cup champions were heavy favorites in the second round series.
Is there a different feeling around the Sharks because of that?
“A little bit, I guess,” Logan Couture said. “There’s a different feel to this team this year overall I think. Guys are just having fun with it. That’s more of our mentality this year. Go out, play the game and have some fun. It’s one game. … We know what’s at stake. We’re just going to go out there and have some fun and play some hockey.”
Couture suggested that no one expected the Sharks to be where they are right now, and the overall perception before the shortened season began was that of a franchise in decline. Their play from early February through mid-March suggested the same.
“We came in this year and a lot of people, so-called hockey experts, picked us to miss the playoffs. We came in with the mentality that we were going to prove people wrong. We did. We made the playoffs, won the first round, now we’re in a Game 7 against the Stanley Cup champions. We’re going into their building. It’s going to be tough to do, but hopefully we can win.”
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Yes, the home team has won every game in the series, and, yes, the Sharks are well aware.
So how will they prepare?
“Just don’t approach it as a road game – we’ve just got to approach it another game,” said Brad Stuart, who will play in his seventh Game 7. “At home, I think we are a little more aggressive from the beginning, and that’s what we’ll need to do tomorrow. The crowd’s going to be into it and we’ve got to make sure that’s not creating momentum swings in their favor by us being too concerned about their crowd level.”
Couture offered a reminder that the team that has scored first has won each of the six games.
“I think we have to go out and score the first goal for us to be successful,” he said. “Get the first goal, play well the first 10 minutes. All six games, the start of the games the home team has come out with a strong push. Start well, get the first goal, and go from there.”