People tend to throw around the term “must-win game” around even when a game is merely important. Ultimately, elimination games are the only clear contests that merit that title.
The San Jose Sharks know that tonight’s Game 3 matchup against the Vancouver Canucks is important, but they’re also aware that a 3-0 series deficit doesn’t mean automatic defeat. After all, both the Canucks and Sharks saw 3-0 leads evaporate into Game 7 nail-biters. Obviously the team needs to play more disciplined hockey and get their act together, but head coach Todd McLellan downplayed the team’s perceived struggles in third period situations.
Many wonder if the Sharks’ late game troubles stem from inferior conditioning or a “lack of killer instinct” but Mclellan told CSN’s Ray Ratto that those final frame follies might just be a matter of coincidence.
“The first period wasn’t good to us in Los Angeles,” he said, “and now it’s a not very good third period. That’s the nature of the game. If we’re good enough to play beyond this, it might be the second period that gives us problems next.”
Hard-hitting defenseman Douglas Murray reflected on this important (but not quite “do-or-die”) Game 3 contest.
“Game 7? No,” he said with a smile that could have turned smirk with a few more muscle twitches. “Detroit lost three in a row, and they came back and made it a pretty tight series.”
Of course, banking on the healing powers of going down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series makes little sense, but Murray’s greater point is taken. Game 3 is very important, but it is not the death-hammer.
The Sharks just need to approach it as closely as possible to being a death-hammer.
“This is a huge game in the series, no question,” he said. “We’ll prepare for anything, and treat this game that way. But we need to treat every game that way. Everyone’s seen what happened. We just have to go out and do what we’re capable of doing as quickly and consistently as possible. We don’t want to be down 3-0, obviously.”
The Sharks are obviously not approaching tonight’s game with a sense of panic, but they hope to bring plenty of urgency nonetheless. We’ll see if they can get back into this series or if the Canucks will dig them a bigger hole beginning at 9 p.m. ET on Versus.
It doesn’t look like the NHL will suspend San Jose Sharks troublemaker Ben Eager for his antics in Game 2, including a questionable hit on Vancouver Canucks star Daniel Sedin. That allows the Sharks to keep him in the mix tonight … but should they?
Eric Duhatschek reports that the Sharks are likely to keep Eager in their lineup in Game 3, even after his Game 2 meltdown helped trigger a disastrous third period for San Jose. In grand goon tradition, Eager had about twice as many penalty minutes (20) as he had time on ice (10:59) in that contest. Sure, he scored a goal, but that was after he drew the ire of both teams with some knucklehead play.
It looks like he hasn’t lost the respect of his coach Todd McLellan, though. Duhatschek points out that Eager’s role has expanded against a more physically demanding series against the Vancouver Canucks after playing against a more finesse-based team in the Detroit Red Wings. McLellan went as far as to call Eager one of the team’s better players (at least in a couple areas).
“I thought Ben Eager was one of our better players as far as the fore-check and creating scoring opportunities,” McLellan was saying Thursday. “He had a number of shots on goal. He played with an energy and passion required of him.
“He took penalties that he cannot take. Is he an asset or a liability? He was both last night. If we can limit the liability part, then we’ve got one heck of a player.”
If nothing else, it would be difficult for Eager to be more of a liability in Game 3 than he was in Game 2. The Sharks better hope not, or they might face the prospect of a second consecutive sweep from the Western Conference finals.
Tonight’s Game 2 matchup between the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks could tell us a lot about this series. Sure, the Sharks won’t be totally dead if they went down 2-0 since they play the next two games in San Jose. That being said, a Sharks victory would greatly increase the chances of a lengthy series between these two talented teams.
San Jose @ Vancouver (Versus) – 9 p.m. ET; Canucks lead series 1-0
Before we delve into the multitude of sparkling PHT material on the game, here are a few more bits about the Canucks and Sharks. First things first, Jeff Tambellini will replace Tanner Glass on Vancouver’s fourth line. Lastly, the Sporting News named Daniel Sedin their player of the year and NHL.com looks at the questions for both teams going into Game 2.
OK, now that we took care of some housekeeping, check out these posts.