May 18, 2011, 12:40 PM EST
The San Jose Sharks seemed to run out of gas during the third period against the Vancouver Canucks in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. That being said, it wasn’t like the Sharks were absolutely trampled in that contest. The Canucks earned a 3-2 win after scoring twice in rapid succession in that final frame, but a one-goal loss is something the Sharks have dealt with quite a bit lately.
Then again, when you get this far in the playoffs, each win and loss often comes down to which team fights a bit more for loose pucks and comes out on top in board battles. It seemed like the Canucks were the ones winning a lot of those “50/50 battles” on Sunday night, but the Sharks hope to play a better all-around game tonight (at 9 p.m. ET on Versus).
Small – yet crucial – improvements seemed to be what Sharks coach Todd McLellan was preaching about today. He told CSN’s Tim Panaccio that he isn’t asking for huge improvements from players, just small ones that could make all the difference.
“We’ve massaged the mind,” Dr. Todd said. “We’ve held them accountable. We’ve tried to help them. I talked to some of the skaters on the ice obviously today as they were roaming around. They all felt pretty good, refreshed. I expect us to be immensely better.”
“At this time of the year, you always hear us talk, the team that loses says, ‘We’ve got to be better, work harder,’” McLellan said. “It’s not this much, it’s only that much. We’ve got to convince the players of that. We’re not asking you to be 10 or 15 percent better, we’re asking you to be 1 percent better. Sometimes that’s all you need.”
“If I talk to Devin Setoguchi, for example, and pull him in and ask him to do a few things better, it’s not a big gap. He’s done it before. It’s just a small gap that he has to close.
“That’s what I mean by convincing them. Getting them to understand that they’re not going to be asked to do something they haven’t done before. They’re only going to do what they’re doing and do it better and longer, if that makes any sense at all.”
People say that playoff hockey can come down to funky bounces, but there’s some truth to the sentiment that you “make your own bounces” too. The Sharks eventually stopped doing that in Game 1. If they hope to avoid heading back to San Jose down 2-0, they need to win more of those legitimate little battles. Even if making that little improvement is a lot tougher than it sounds.
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