Tonight, the San Jose Sharks will head into Game #5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals up an imposing 3-1 in the series, and only one win away from sending the Los Angeles Kings packing for good.
A week ago, it was a little bit of a different story, and the transformation of this team into its’ current incarnation as a rolling four line monster has been pretty fantastic to watch.
Last Saturday, the Sharks had just been blanked 4-0 at home to drop Game #2 and even up the series with the Kings at one apiece, but it wasn’t the fact that it was a loss that frustrated as much as how they lost.
And it wasn’t just Sharks fans who were ranting either.
“I’m disappointed in our team…hard to find two or three guys who really competed at the level they needed to…”
That damning quote was from none other than head coach Todd McLellan responding to a post-game press conference question of which specific player needed to pick it up. McLellan’s response? One player…how about all of them?
Never shy to challenge his gaggle of Olympians and All-Stars, it has always been a tenet of McLellan’s leadership that he will speak bluntly, no matter if the criticism is to be levied against a superstar who just mailed it in during a puck battle along the boards…or if the negative assessment is meant for himself.
So when the Sharks came out in their “response” Game #3 down in L.A. and spotted the Kings four more goals—to make it now eight straight L.A. unanswered tallies—McLellan must have been on the verge of going catatonic, wondering how in the world he was going to get through to this team.
No sweat coach, we’ll just pull off one of the most spectacular and historic playoff comebacks in the history of the NHL.
Facing a Los Angeles Kings team reeling on the other end of that historic comeback win, the Sharks took advantage of a shell-shocked Kings squad a couple nights later to play an inspired Game #4, where they dominated from the opening faceoff, out executed the Kings along the boards and in front of the net, and laid a 6-3 collar around L.A.’s neck.
Now, at only one win away from their season’s end, the Los Angeles Kings are backed into a corner, their coach Terry Murray is trying (ineffectively) to rope Sharks’ players into locker room motivation material by calling out Dany Heatley as ‘gutless‘ among other tactics, and you won’t recognize three of four Kings lines tonight because they have all been changed.
They are desperate, their coach is desperate, their stars whine and complain all game…but desperate can be dangerous.
Easiest way to get the Kings thinking about their off-season would be to continue the deluge of pressure, work and goals that have erupted over the last couple of games.
Action starts in less than an hour, and the Sharks have larger plans for this season, but first things first…it’s closeout time!
Just don’t remind me about the 2-15 the Sharks currently are on the power play…I’m in a pretty good place emotionally right now…
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