SAN JOSE – There isn’t a whole lot that didn’t go right for the Sharks’ in their first round sweep of Vancouver. San Jose was better five-on-five, stronger defensively, got better play from its goaltender, and won the special teams battle by a wide margin.
The Sharks’ power play scored seven goals to just two by Vancouver, and it played a major role in three of the four wins. All seven goals, however, came from the top unit of Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Dan Boyle.
That could be why a good portion of the Sharks’ practice on Saturday was devoted to the power play, including a second unit of Scott Gomez, TJ Galiardi, Raffi Torres, Brent Burns and Matt Irwin. It’s a unit that has been fluid all season long, as the Sharks continually searched for secondary production after their loaded top unit.
[RELATED: Sharks practice, still unsure of opponent]
“We still need some work, definitely, but it’s just about getting to know where guys are going to be and having little plays set up,” Galiardi said. “It’s nice when you get that stuff to be second nature, and I think the more you play together that comes, just like five-on-five.”
The leader of that unit in coach Todd McLellan’s view is Scott Gomez. The center missed the first two games of the Vancouver series with a suspected concussion, but returned for games three and four. Of his 15 points in the regular season, seven came on the power play.
Gomez recorded the primary assist on a couple of man advantage goals in the two games before he got hurt on April 23 against Dallas.
“He has a ton of experience there, and he seems to be able to settle things down on that power play unit. When it’s in his hands, it’s calm,” McLellan said. “They gave us some quality minutes and created some situations where we didn’t give up momentum, which is real important. There were times they created some momentum. We’d like that to continue.”
“He’s got great vision, and he’s one of the best passers in the league still," Galiardi said of Gomez. "As far as our unit is concerned, we usually want to get the puck in his hands and let him do his thing. Torres has been doing a good job on the goal line and takes it to the net pretty hard. We have a lot of loose stuff lying around, we’ve just got to put it in.”
The Kings or Blackhawks will likely present a bigger challenge on the penalty kill than the Canucks did. In the first round, Los Angeles allowed two goals on 17 chances to St. Louis. Chicago was a perfect 17-for-17 in its five-game series win over Minnesota.
The Canucks put the Sharks on the power play 24 times in four games, often taking ill-advised and just plain dumb penalties.
That series and the power play success the Sharks found is in the past, though.
Dan Boyle said: “Every round, you just kind of reset.”
“That’s all behind us,” McLellan said. “In my opinion, we’re going to start fresh again. Our power play is at zero and the penalty kill is at 100 percent. We’re even everywhere. Both penalty kills – Los Angeles and Chicago – were elite in the first round. They didn’t give the other teams very many power plays. If we’re going to be limited with the number of opportunities we get, we better be sharp against good penalty kills.”
An effective second unit that can find the back of the net when the big guns don’t, could go a long way.
“I think the chances we’ve gone out there, we’ve done a pretty decent job,” Galiardi said. “We haven’t scored yet, but you just want to work on it, and we were working on it in practice today. Just trying to have that secondary offense.”