Canucks-Sharks Preview

San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan sees no need to remind his

team of the precariousness of a 3-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup


The Sharks nearly squandered that advantage the last time they

held it, needing the full seven games to eliminate Detroit in the

second round two years ago.

With many of the same core players still around, McLellan is

content to let past experience serve as the teaching tool heading

into Game 4 of the series on Tuesday night at the Shark Tank.

”We just left it alone,” McLellan said. ”Our group is mature

enough. They should know what’s coming, what to expect and how to


Given the comments coming out of the dressing room on Monday,

it’s clear McLellan is correct. Players echoed the mantra that the

fourth win in a series is always the hardest and insisted nothing

had been won yet despite a decisive 5-2 win in Game 3 that followed

two narrow victories in Vancouver.

”I was here when we went through that and we let a team back

into a series,” center Logan Couture said. ”Obviously it went

seven games. We were fortunate to win it. We let them back in.

That’s something we don’t want to do. We want to put them away in

Game 4.”

There’s one big difference from that series two years ago when

the Sharks eked out three straight one-goal wins to build their

cushion over the Red Wings. Their edge over the Canucks so far has

been more convincing, especially in the 5-2 thrashing on


The power play clicked to tie a franchise record with three

goals, the defense kept pressure off goaltender Antti Niemi and the

Sharks showed discipline to stay out of the penalty box even when

the game got testy.

The Canucks feel there is another factor: embellishment.

Defenseman Kevin Bieksa singled out Couture and Sharks captain

Joe Thornton for exaggerating contact to draw penalties. Bieksa

said Couture flails every time he is touched and blamed Thornton

for taking off his glove and shaking his wrist to draw a slashing

penalty on Dan Hamhuis that led to a 5-on-3 goal that opened the

scoring Sunday.

”Those are two Canadian guys that are supposed to be playing

the game with integrity,” Bieksa said. ”Maybe our team has to do

more of that. Maybe we have to sell calls.”

The Canucks have earned quite a reputation for embellishment

themselves over the years with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows

considered two of the main violators.

In fact, Kesler crumbled to the ice grabbing his throat after

taking a high stick from Patrick Marleau on the helmet strap

Sunday. Kesler quickly recovered and stayed in the game for the

ensuing power play.

The Sharks had eight power plays in Game 3, while Vancouver got

only two chances with the man advantage.

”That’s always something we talk about especially when they

have a potent power play like they have,” Marleau said. ”At

playoff time you have to try to stay disciplined and not let your

emotions get the better of you sometimes after the whistle with

pushing and shoving.”

The talk of diving may have been a tactic to divert the

conversation from Vancouver’s brutal recent playoff past.

After beating the Sharks in the Western Conference finals and

taking a 3-2 lead in the Stanley Cup finals over Boston two years

ago, the Canucks have been downright abysmal in the postseason.

Vancouver has lost nine of its past 10 playoff games, having

also fallen behind 3-0 in the opening round a year ago to Los

Angeles before being eliminated in five games.

The Canucks have 15 goals in that span as a normally potent

offense led by the Sedin twins has disappeared of late in the


”There’s some good chances there 5-on-5,” coach Alain

Vigneault said. ”So far we haven’t been able to put the puck in

the net. I have to believe that for one game we can do it.”

The other big question for the Canucks comes in goal where

former starter Roberto Luongo played well the first two games in

place of the injured Cory Schneider before Vigneault made a switch

from Game 3.

Schneider allowed five goals on 28 shots and was replaced after

giving up three in the opening 4:07 of the third period.

Luongo stopped all 10 shots he faced in relief and has a .915

save percentage in this series.

Vigneault said he has made a decision about his starter for

Tuesday, but won’t announce it until after he tells the


The focus now is on figuring out how to beat the Sharks four

straight times after losing the first six meetings between the

teams this season.

”I believe we can win one game,” Vigneault said. ”We haven’t

beaten the Sharks once this year. I believe we can do it