SAN JOSE – At his postgame press conference after Game 3, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said he would remind his team what happened the last time it was in its current situation.
Ahead three games to none on Detroit in the second round in 2011, the Sharks proceeded to lose the next three. They regrouped and came out victorious in Game 7, avoiding being just the fourth team in league history to surrender a three game series lead.
At some point between Sunday night and Monday morning, though, the coach had a change of heart.
“Last night in the press conference I mentioned that I was going to come in and remind them. We decided not to,” McLellan said on Monday. “There’s enough people in here that were involved in it, both for and against. We just left it alone. Our group is mature enough, they should know what’s coming and what to expect and how to respond.”
There were plenty of media-types, of course, offering that reminder to the Sharks players that were on the team that season, when it eventually lost to Vancouver in the Western Conference finals.
The Sharks can close out the Canucks on Tuesday night at HP Pavilion in what would be their first-ever franchise sweep. They’ve been ahead 3-0 in a series three times in their history, but have never won Game 4.
Logan Couture, tied for second in the NHL with six playoff points, was in his second NHL season two years ago. To him, experiencing that near meltdown is helpful now.
“I think it helps myself, I know. I was here when we went through that, and we let a team into a series,” Couture said. “Obviously, it went seven games and we were fortunate to win it. We let them back in, and that’s something we don’t want to do. We want to play to win Game 4.”
“I don’t think it even needs to be talked about. Within this room, the guys that we have and the veterans we have, we know what needs to be done. Todd doesn’t have to say anything about it.”
Brad Stuart had a different perspective of that series, playing for the Red Wings at the time. All it takes is a single win for a team to start believing and gaining momentum, according to the veteran defenseman.
“Things can turn quickly. I was on the other side of it a few years ago. You can lose that momentum,” Stuart said. “It gets to 3-2. and you start getting a little nervous, and it gets to 3-3 before you know it. You want to come out with the mindset of finishing a team off as quickly as you can.
“You play those extra games, I think it catches up to you, even if you do advance.”
Stuart is right. By not wrapping up the Detroit series more quickly, the Sharks’ energy reserves may have been drained by the start of the Canucks series.
“You know it can turn very quickly,” Patrick Marleau said. “We have to stay focused and continue to work on our game, and keep getting better.”
McLellan said: “We’ve been on the other side of the coin where you’re down in a series, you win one, and you start to believe. Then it gets rolling.”
That’s something the Sharks will try to avoid on Tuesday night.