May 16, 2011, 6:49 PM EDT
The San Jose Sharks lost Game 1 against the Vancouver Canucks, but that doesn’t mean they need to panic. Sure, it’s a bit discouraging that they gave up another third period lead, but it’s not like they were up 3-0 and fell apart. Vancouver produced two quick strikes after consistently taking the game to the Sharks, to the point that a lead change almost seemed inevitable.
While the Sharks shouldn’t be overly worried, they do need better contributions from some of their top players. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen targeted three players, in particular: Dany Heatley, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski.
Here are our observations about each players’ chances of working out of their funks.
When it comes down to it, Heatley has one mission: to create goals, whether that means a nice pass or a ruthless snipe. He’s a two-time 50-goal scorer and already has 325 regular season goals at the age of 30, so he’s an expert at doing just that.
He’s not particularly adept at doing much else, though. Heatley received a (somewhat dubious) elbowing call on Raffi Torres, a penalty that gave the Canucks an opportunity to take a 3-2 lead. Which, of course, they did.
Heatley has eight points in 14 playoff games, his worst postseason output aside from the 2008 series in which the Ottawa Senators were smothered by the Pittsburgh Penguins in four games. The Sharks would love more from him, but it’s almost as if opportunities will need to come to him.
It doesn’t seem totally fair to criticize Clowe when it’s quite likely that he is playing injured.
Unfortunately, he’s been a catalyst for the Sharks offense in the playoffs, so they could really use more from him. Clowe is tied with Joe Thornton for the team lead with 13 playoff points and he played in one less game than Big Bird.
Losing his physical edge is a problem because that’s a more consistent part of his game than the offensive production that probably wasn’t sustainable anyway. Here’s what Clowe told NHL.com about the team’s game.
“Let’s call a spade a spade, we were awful (Sunday) night,” Clowe said. “We’ve got to be a lot better than that. We had the puck a lot of times on our stick and just turned it over. That hasn’t been in our game. Our line has been successful in grinding teams down and scoring goals, but we weren’t very good. I think you can expect a lot more from us next game”
Rosen critiques Pavelski for “only” having seven points in 14 games after producing an astounding 17 in 15 contests last playoff year, but I think the real Pavelski lies somewhere between those two results. He still scored some big goals so far and is a nice weapon for San Jose, overall.
That being said, the Canucks’ third line clearly outplayed Pavelski-Kyle Wellwood-Torrey Mitchell in Game 1. Pavelski’s solid complimentary line feasted on easier matchups in previous rounds, but they’re up for a tougher test in the Western Conference finals. Here’s what Todd McLellan said about Pavelski’s Sunday night.
“Pav has had some better nights,” McLellan said. “The good news is we had a 2-1 lead in the third period. We lost it, but we definitely had our ‘B’ game on display. We’d like to find that ‘A’ game again.”
Overall, I’d say that Pavelski has the best chance to willfully make a bigger impact on Game 2. Heatley might produce more, but that might have as much to do with circumstance as it does with attitude. Clowe would be another type who could put his hard hat down and make a bigger difference, but I worry that injury issues are slowing him too much.
That being said, all three players have the talent to be difference makers for what could be a long and enthralling series. We’ll see if they can make that happen, starting Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on Versus.
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