So, the sun did come up Friday. And the Sharks did try to take some consolation from that as they stare playoff-elimination in the face heading into Saturday’s Game 5 in St. Louis.
But there were not a lot of smiles among Todd McLellan and the handful of players who talked with the media before they headed to the airport.
“We’re down this morning,” McLellan said. “If they came in here and it was a circus-like atmosphere, I’d really be concerned. We were what we were supposed to be today: Down. We’re allowed to not feel good about where we are in this series. But now as we get on the plane, I’ll be disappointed if we stay that way. Our job is get back up. We’re a veteran, professional group. We need to find a way to turn the pressure and turn the tables into a must-win situation for them against us.”
Defenseman Dan Boyle, as usual, spoke bluntly about the team’s current plight.
“Other than in this locker room, nobody thinks we’re going to do it, which is fine,” Boyle said of a series comeback. “As long as the guys in here believe that we can, that’s what’s important. But we all know that it’s going to be a very difficult task.”
More from Boyle: “I like playing against other people’s expectations. It’s certainly not going to be easy, but it came be done. It’s not impossible.”
*** You know the numbers. The Sharks and Blues now have played eight times this year. The Sharks have lost seven. San Jose also has scored a grand total of 10 goals.
In this series, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau do not have a point. The team’s other 30-goal scorer, Logan Couture, only has one goal (along with three assists). Marty Havlat, the star of Game 1 with two goals, hasn’t found the back of the net since.
Merc colleague Tim Kawakami asked McLellan which Sharks have played well in this series. McLellan quickly answered: “Jumbo has left his mark.” And Joe Thornton does have a goal, three assists and has been playing three-zone hockey.
But then McLellan turned the question around.
“What we don’t have in this series that we’ve had in other series is the catalyst,” he said. “We’ve Little Joe in the past. We’ve had Big Joe. Patty has come up big. We’ve had Seto (Devin Setoguchi) score overtime goals. We haven’t found that guy. They have. Andy McDonald has been that guy. They could be making NHL commercials like they did last year on Andy McDonald. We’re looking for that guy. But that player or players can still evolve. They can still come to the forefront. There’s still time.”
McDonald, by the way, has seven points — including that goofy goal that bounced off Antti Niemi’s back Thursday that proved to be the game-winner.
“I don’t know how to describe Andy McDonald’s goal last night when it goes up and bounces around like that,” McLellan added. “But he went to right spot, found a loose puck and put it in the net. We need our hero to do that now. We don’t know who that hero will be.”
Obviously the main focus falls on Pavelski and Marleau. And that is fodder for the coming print edition story and column.
“Patty and Pavs, being two veteran players that we rely heavily on for offensive production, they have to find a way to get on the scoresheet,” McLellan said. “For us to have success, our go-to players have to find a way onto the scoresheet.”
And here was Thornton’s response when he was asked about Marleau’s play.
“He competes,” Thornton said. “Both he and Pavs are competing hard. It’s just a matter of time before one of them puts it in the back of the net. They compete hard, and that’s all you can ask for. I’m sure their best in this series is still to come.”
*** When the Sharks took a final faceoff Thursday with about 12 seconds remaining in the game, their best scoring defenseman left the ice. But there’s a good reason why Boyle headed to the bench. He was having a problem with one of the plastic guards he was wearing over his skates.
“Pretty much my whole last shift, one of those skate protectors came undone,” Boyle said. “I almost fell about three times in the last minute-and-a-half. I had to go back and get the puck about three times and I didn’t know what was going on. I couldn’t move because it was almost like losing an edge on your skate and couldn’t turn.”
He added: “It was just kind of stuck and I couldn’t get back out there.”
*** Every postseason teams bring up development players called “Black Aces” to work out with the big club and serve as a practice squad. This year the Sharks have Mike Moore, Tim Kennedy, Harri Sateri, John McCarthy, Alex Stalock and Matt Irwin.
Sateri, a promising goaltender from Finland, is the only one who is traveling to St. Louis with the team for Game 5. He will serve as the third goalie.
Stalock, though, has the most interesting story of the group. The goaltender has recovered from a serious skate cut that he received in February, 2011 while playing for Worcester. He did a rehabilitation stint with the Stockton Thunder earlier this season before returning to Worcester. But because he wasn’t getting enough playing time, the Sharks loaned him out to Peoria.
And Peoria just happens to be the top minor-league affiliate for the Blues.
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