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Transcript: Sharks Practice Day Quotes

From the Q&A session with coach Todd McLellan and Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks.

*today’s Canucks transcripts here.
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Q. (No microphone.)
COACH McLELLAN:
I thought that line wasn’t very sharp. It was a little sluggish, didn’t produce a lot. Not a direct reflection on Logan by any means, because there were three of them there. But they can be better.

Q. Joe Thornton is always the center of the attention. He’s been criticized for his playoff performances in the past. Can you talk about his performance in this year’s playoff?

COACH McLELLAN: I’ll go backwards and start from last year. Last year I thought he showed good signs of growth, the ability to lead the team. As a result, when we were looking at our vacant captaincy, he proved to us last year he was a deserving candidate. We picked him.

Throughout the year he’s had an excellent season. Many will say his numbers are down, which they obviously are. But ultimately I think the results are up when you look at his play. That may sound strange, but I truly believe he’s come a long way. His leadership ability in the locker room is very strong. I think he does it as much by example now on the ice as he does it verbally in the locker room. He’s come a long, long way.

Q. You said if you perform the same way, you’ll get the same result. You watched video. Did anything show up on the video?

COACH McLELLAN: It looked very much like the game itself. We weren’t surprised this morning at all. As much as we were hoping to see a different game, it was that game. We were slow. We didn’t get to the battles that we needed to get to. When we get there, quite frankly, we were out-battled. It’s as simple as that. I can’t paint any more of a picture than that.

That will have to change.

Q. Teams perform at a Game 7 level very differently when they come back for another game of a series.

COACH McLELLAN: Didn’t seem to bother this Canuck team against Nashville. We can keep looking back and referring to it. But the quicker we eliminate that and we move on, the better opportunity we have of overcoming it.

Q. (Question regarding Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Demers.)

COACH McLELLAN: I’ll start with Marc-Edouard who I think is one of the most underrated defensemen at least in the Western Conference. As you mentioned, when you’re out east, it’s hard to follow us, so you don’t truly appreciate his ability.

He’s not going to put up big numbers, but he plays huge minutes against very talented players. He’s one of the best defenders I believe in the National Hockey League. Very mobile, very good stick, quietly goes about doing his job.

Jason Demers has improved his game immensely since he joined our organization. Started in the minors. Wasn’t a highly thought of prospect, but worked his way to the National League. Has very good hockey sense. Makes a real good first pass. Plays with a little risk in his game, which we have to accept because it’s part of what makes him a good player.

Q. Talk about Patrick Marleau.

COACH McLELLAN: Patty scored a huge goal for us in Game 7. He did a lot of things leading up to Game 7 that we appreciated. He lost some battles along the way, just like anybody else would.

But we count on him. I mentioned in the past that our use of him, his amount of ice time, is a direct reflection of how much we believe in him and how much his teammates believe in him.

Again, last night he found a way to get on the scoreboard. He’s a streaky scorer, which is a good sign for us right now. If he can put a three, four, five-game streak together, it certainly would be to our benefit.

Q. The issue of closing out games more to the forefront than you’d like? What has to change there?

COACH McLELLAN: You know, I guess we’re talking about giving up leads. But when you look back throughout our playoff run, now 14 games in, we have given up some leads, but we’ve also had to come back from behind in 4-0 scenarios, 3-0 scenarios on the road where we showed a ton of resiliency.

We can look at the negative or bad, which we obviously have to improve. I thought last night they were flat out better than we were in the third period. They scored the goals, earned the power-plays. In the other series where we were able to come back, we did the exact same thing against our opponent.

A lot of times it’s managing the puck, putting it in the right area, so you feel good about your game, and not all your energy is wasted in the defensive zone. We did that last night. In past games when we’ve been able to come back, we’ve done that to our opponent.

Q. In addition to getting your guys to win the battles they didn’t win this time, do you see other adjustments you need to adjust?

COACH McLELLAN: Yes.

Q. Anything in general?

COACH McLELLAN: No. Like you said, we’re always looking for ways to improve.

Q. Clowe and Pavelski, can you go over what you got from them and didn’t get from them last night?

COACH McLELLAN: We talked about Logan’s line. Obviously Ryane Clowe plays a huge part in that. I didn’t think Clowe and Heater skated really well. They’ll be the first to tell you that. When they are skating well, huge bodies, they protect pucks well. They didn’t get to them. They’ll be markedly better in Game#2.

Pav has had some better nights, as well.

The good news is we had a 2-1 lead in the third period. We lost it. But we definitely had our B game on display. We’d like to find that A game again.

Q. Do these two days take care of the mental and physical fatigue you talked about last night?

COACH McLELLAN: We’ll find out Wednesday.

Q. (No microphone.)

COACH McLELLAN: I wasn’t working hard at all to keep him away from Kesler. They played head-to-head most of the night. Any change came on their behalf. I put him on the ice; he played. There was no intent to get him away.

I think Jumbo has played against some of the best players in the world so far, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, some of the Los?@Angeles Kings players. I put Ryan Kesler in that boat. We’re going to continue to put him out on the ice. Whoever they put out against him, Jumbo is going to have to get it done.

Q. Can you evaluate Niemi last night, what you expect from him.

COACH McLELLAN: I thought Niemo, again, gave us a chance to win. Clichés, coach, that’s all they ask from their goaltenders.

Vancouver is a very good team at getting pucks through from the point. They have some guys that can really bomb it, often score on second opportunities. I thought Niemo did a good job of controlling that rebound and second-opportunity chance. So he was sharp.

Q. Todd, how do you feel about your team’s conditioning and physical fitness? In your experience in the NHL playoffs, does the bigger, thicker body do well as it goes forward or is it the skinnier body that handles it better?

COACH McLELLAN: I feel very, very good about our conditioning and fitness level. I don’t have any doubts that we can play deep into games and well into overtime if we have to.

I don’t think there’s a team probably in the history of the National Hockey League that gets to this point if they’re poorly conditioned. So I have absolutely no second thoughts as far as conditioning goes.

I think it’s a combination of big bodies and I think you used the term ‘marathon’ term. You need a combination of both. Torrey Mitchell and Mason Raymond have a huge impact on the series, as do the Ryan Keslers and Joe Thorntons. The Doug Murrays, the thicker, stronger, the bull in the china shop, they have an impact on the series, as well. You need a combination of both.

Q. Your thoughts on Setoguchi’s performance last night?

COACH McLELLAN: You know, you could keep running out player after player after player and I’ll keep giving you the same answer: we need more from everybody.

Seto has the ability, like Torrey Mitchell, to make a difference with speed. He’s got the ability to make a difference with a shot. You have to be in position. You have to be setting yourself up for all those to be factors.

I think overall we can all be better.


LOGAN COUTURE

Q: ?

LOGAN COUTURE: I built the confidence up. Whoever I’m with on the ice, I feel confident. You look at the last series, there was a time when I was with (indiscernible), there were times I was with Clowe and Heater. Last year and this year with the success, definitely helps the confidence.

Q. Across the stat sheet last night you looked pretty good. Are you happy with your personal play?

LOGAN COUTURE: I mean, no, not really. We lost. That’s the first thing I care about is how our team does. We didn’t play well. There’s four teams left and we didn’t play like one of the best four teams in the league.

You can put out any excuses, but it was definitely us that lost that game. They didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary. It’s one we didn’t play well.

Q. Is hanging on to third-period leads become more of an issue than you guys would like?

LOGAN COUTURE: I don’t think so. Someone said it last night, that we’ve blown a couple of third-period leads. I hadn’t even thought of that until that was said.

I mean, I don’t even think we changed the style of play. We just turned pucks over. We looked at some video this morning. We had so many turnovers in the third period. Can’t do that against that type of team. They’re too good.

Filed in: NHL Teams, San Jose Sharks, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: logan+couture, todd+mclellan

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If I’m Alan Vigneault I’m not going to let Todd Mclellan’s remarks dissuade me from having my team batter San Jose.

“I don’t think there’s a team probably in the history of the National Hockey League that gets to this point if they’re poorly conditioned. So I have absolutely no second thoughts as far as conditioning goes.”

See, this is precisely the thing. There is no way San Jose does get to this point normally. Round one is against an underrated, really big L.A squad with a far superior defense, and superior two-way forwards. With a healthy Justin Williams all series long, and a healthy Anze Kopitar, L.A is the better team, and San Jose is eliminated in the first round. As it was, even without their top two forwards, L.A still almost beat the Sharks. When your team’s top forwards, 7 million dollar forwards, are being outscored by Brad Richardson and Kyle Clifford, you really have no business winning that series. And they wouldn’t have had L.A been healthy.

Then, vs Detroit, San Jose gains a three game cushion, in large parts thanks to fortuitous bounces and calls. But you get your bounces sometimes when you outplay the other team, and that was the biggest factor. San Jose outplayed Detroit those first two games, but only because Henrik Zetterberg was skating at half speed, as he had not completely recovered from his injury yet, and Franzen couldn’t skate at all. It was basically Datsyuk and Lidstrom against the entire Sharks team. Detroit still came close to winning all three of those initial games. But they didn’t. However, starting in game 3, Zetterberg started to skate again. This was the difference between Detroit having one good line and two good lines. It was all the difference in the world. Even without a healthy Franzen, Detroit was essentially 3-1 against the Sharks once Zetterberg was healed. Imagine what they could have done with a healthy Franzen.

What’s most telling of all is that Detroit, old, frail, injured and all, was able to win 3 of the last 4 games of the series. How does an older, injured team end up fatiguing the Sharks? That’s rhetorical, but it happened. Mclellan’s comments that no poorly conditioned team could get to this point are indicative of the fact that the Sharks WOULDN’T have gotten to this point if not for very unusual circumstances. In other words, making it to the Conference Finals does not prove his team is well-conditioned. In fact, that the Sharks had so much difficulty beating L.A and Detroit, when both series should have been much easier wins, given the key injuries on both squads, is what is telling. If their road to the Conference Finals has proven anything about the Sharks, it is that they do not deserve to be here, and the only reason they are here is the two teams they’ve faced thus far have both had their top players injured. Sharks fans will likely downplay this fact, but where would the Sharks be if Joe Thornton and Ryane Clowe had been injured the first two series? That’s right, eliminated, without a doubt. And that’s not even a fair comparison. When healthy, Zetterberg is better than Thornton (and thus is a bigger loss than him when injured), and Franzen is better than Clowe. Kopitar is better than Thornton too.

So are the Sharks fatigued and poorly conditioned? Well certainly there is some fatigue for some of their players. I don’t know that they are poorly conditioned. And I still believe they can win this series. Anything can happen, and the Sharks specialize at the most important aspects of playoff hockey, faceoffs, diving, and luck.

But, what I’m saying is, I wouldn’t put it past Todd Mclellan to devise some set-plays that help his team steal an extra goal per game, despite being outplayed. I wouldn’t put it past this SJ team to find a way to win this one series, even if they don’t deserve to win. I’m sure they wouldn’t have been able to find a way to win four series against healthy playoff opponents, but certainly they can for one series, and then the Cup will be a breeze, given that they probably really are better than any east team besides a healthy Pittsburgh.

However, whether they win this series or not, I’m not sure Mclellan can keep all this up about how some players didn’t skate the best, didn’t win the races, and will be better the next game. When he said his team was like dogs chasing cars on the freeway, well, Vancouver is faster than them, plain and simple. They can probably close the gap a little bit more (as Detroit did to San Jose as the series went along, and some players got their legs back), but to a degree, that’s how the whole series will be. Detroit fans saw how Darren Helm skated all around the Sharks, and Detroit basically has 5 Darren Helm variations in their top 9. Burrows, Raymond, Higgins, Lapierre, and Hansen are all in the elite speed range. That’s 5. Kesler would be the sixth. He’s not quite as fast as all of these guys, or Helm, but he’s up there. And the wings are maybe the most impactful position to have speed at, because they both gain the offensive zone with speed after receiving the outlet passes, and they backcheck the oppositions wingers and can keep them from gaining their offensive zone if they are fast enough.

So if you look at Vancouver’s wingers vs San Jose’s… Marleau vs Burrows is a wash. Setoguchi vs Daniel is a win for San Jose. Higgins vs Heatley is a big advantage for Vancouver. Raymond vs Clowe is a big advantage for Vancouver. Hansen vs Wellwood is a big advantage for Vancouver. Torres vs Mitchell is an advantage for San Jose.

So there is already an advantage for Vancouver on those Wings. Mitchell on SJs third line helps to cut it a little bit, but he doesn’t really bring the puck-carrying ability of some of Vancouver’s speedsters. Regardless, Vancouver already has that speed advantage just on the Wings alone. You couple that in with their centers, Kesler’s speed advantage over Couture, and Lapierre’s big speed advantage over Pavelski, and the advantage becomes slightly large. And it’s not like the defense corps speed does not matter at all. Hamhuis, Bieksa, Ehrhoff, Edler, and Salo may not be fast like Mason Raymond, but they can motor adequately, they are mobile enough to elude the forecheck and rush the puck up the ice in instances where maybe some of SJs defense corps cannot.

So Mclellan can try to make like San Jose can match Vancouver in every area they please, and that Vancouver has no advantages over San Jose just as long as San Jose has their normal legs, but that’s not true. Vancouver is at the very least a faster team than San Jose. That alone won’t be enough to beat San Jose, but if Vancouver uses their speed advantages to create other advantages, such as using their speed to catch up to San Jose players quickly and hit them really hard, that’s a great start. If Vancouver takes care of the hitting business every game, and hits San Jose every single game as hard as they did in game 1, they won’t even have to worry about beating San Jose with skill. They will batter San Jose to victory. If they let up the hitting, then they’ll have to go toe-to-toe in a skill game with a more fresh San Jose. They can still win it that way, but there’s more room for error, for bounces, for diving, for all of SJs specialities to steal games. I would go with option A.

Keep smashing them Vancouver. They don’t deserve to be here, so take care of them.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/17/11 at 02:01 AM ET

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And Vancouver basically has 5 Darren Helm variations, not Detroit.

Posted by Johnson22 on 05/17/11 at 02:05 AM ET

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