Sharks Avoid Overconfidence Heading into LA
SAN JOSE - Now the hard part begins for the San Jose Sharks.
After routing the Los Angeles Kings in back-to-back games at SAP Center to take a 2-0 lead in their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series, the Sharks face two straight games at Staples Center beginning with Game 3 on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, CSN-CA, PRIME).
San Jose hasn't defeated the Kings in Los Angeles since April 6, 2012, in the second-to-last game before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Since that 6-5 shootout win by the Sharks, the Kings have defeated San Jose eight straight times at Staples Center. Their streak includes four wins last season in the Kings' second-round series victory against the Sharks.
"We're kidding ourselves if we think it's going to be like this for seven games," Sharks forward Raffi Torres said. "We've been fortunate the first two games. We'll really find out what kind of team we have going into L.A. It's tough to win on the road, especially going to L.A. We know we need to get on their (defensemen), make it tough to for them to go back for pucks. Just make it difficult for them to make plays and get their confidence up."
The Sharks beat the Kings 6-3 in Game 1 on Thursday and 7-2 in Game 2 on Sunday, when they fell behind 2-0 in the first period but scored seven unanswered goals in the final two. The combined 13 goals set a franchise record for the most in a two-game span in a single postseason, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. On Sunday, the Sharks set team postseason records for most goals in a home game, most consecutive goals and most points (19).
Sharks coach Todd McLellan was asked Sunday night whether he was worried his team would be overconfident after two convincing victories.
"St. Louis Blues-L.A. Kings last year," McLellan answered quickly.
The Kings lost the first two games on the road against St. Louis last season but roared back to win four straight and capture their first-round playoff series.
"The scores are irrelevant," McLellan said of the Sharks' routs in Games 1 and 2. "They are over. These could have been two triple-overtime wins for us. That's all you get is a win. You don't get goals for or goals against that count for anything. The building is tough to play in in L.A. They'll have the energy with the crowd and that type of stuff. Our game has to get better going in there. There are some areas that we have to improve. It will be tough, very tough."
The Sharks have scored three more goals against Los Angeles in two games than they scored in seven games last year in their second-round loss to the Kings. Twelve of those goals came against Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick, who allowed an average of 1.43 goals per game in the second round last year.
Sharks forward Logan Couture said San Jose took advantage of some uncharacteristic mistakes Sunday by the Kings.
"They were kind of running around out of position, and it opened up holes for us," Couture said. "Some bad changes by them again. That's so uncharacteristic of their team. We know they're going to be a lot better in their building. It's going to be a tougher challenge going forward."
The Sharks had an optional practice in San Jose before their scheduled flight to Los Angeles in the afternoon.
"It was an optional skate, but it wasn't an optional day," McLellan said. "We got a lot done video-wise, individually and collectively. The guys that needed to get some ice time got it. Others got a workout in. Hopefully our batteries will be recharged for what lies ahead, which will be a tough battle."
For the first two games, San Jose clearly played with more energy and speed than the Kings. Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said he sensed the Kings getting "a little bit" frustrated, even before defenseman Matt Greene body slammed him late in Game 2.
“We've stepped up the physicality and our speed in the playoffs here," Wingels said. "I think it's kind of caught them by surprise, and definitely a level of frustration. Ultimately we held serve at home here. Now we need to go on the road and win at least one, hopefully two. We did our job at home and we're ready to play on the road.”
After back-to-back blowouts, the Sharks will likely keep the same lineup for Game 3. But the question is whether they'll open up with the same lines.
About five minutes into the second period Sunday, McLellan moved top-line wing Joe Pavelski to third-line center and third-line wing Tomas Hertl to the first line. Pavelski skated between James Sheppard and Wingels, and Hertl skated on a line with center Joe Thornton and Brent Burns.
Pavelski, who scored most of his career-high 41 goals in the regular-season on Thornton's line, scored a goal at 4:07 of the third period after moving to center. Pavelski said he had no problem adjusting on the fly.
"You get excited. You get new linemates there," Pavelski said. "You want to play good for them too. You want to try to create something."
Thornton said having Pavelski play center on the third line makes the Sharks a more balanced team.
"He plays so many positions, but I think it just balances our scoring," Thornton said. "They've got to look at four lines. They've got to respect all four lines that we have."
Author: Eric Gilmore | NHL.com Correspondent