SAN JOSE -- Yes, the Sharks have beaten the Canucks nine times in a row, but only two of those have come with John Tortorella behind the Vancouver bench.
Todd McLellan suggested that the Canucks are a different and better team than the one that suffered two early losses to the Sharks in the first week of the NHL regular season. Tortorella seemed to agree, naming two specific aspects of Vancouver’s game that have allowed it to be right in the thick of the competitive Pacific Division race.
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“I’m happy about (our play)…especially away from the puck," Tortorella said. "That’s a big part of the teaching for us as coaches, was play away from the puck. … I think they’ve picked up what we want to do away from the puck. We still have some things we need to chip out, like details off of a faceoff and things like that, but we’re progressing there.
“Offensively, I think we’ve done a really good job playing underneath the hash marks in the other end, as far as grinding teams and not always trying to skill our way to a goal. You need both. You need to be able to skill your way and also grind, and I think we’re growing there.”
Henrik Sedin (20 points) and Daniel Sedin (17 points) are the top two scorers on Vancouver, and each recently signed a four-year, $28 million contract extension. Ryan Kesler leads the team with nine goals, and Roberto Luongo has settled back in as the undisputed starting goaltender with an 8-4-2 record, 2.24 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
Vancouver is also getting contributions from guys like Mike Santorelli, whose play on the second line has allowed Kesler to move up to the Sedin line, as well as solid two-way play from the blue line.
They’ve all bought in to the Tortorella plan.
“I think it starts with the leadership of the team,” Tortorella said. “I made no bones about it when this staff came in -- we’re going to ask for more. I don’t think you get better as a team [if] you go around and look for free agents and take other people from other teams. You need to develop within, and ask more out of your people.
“From our top guys, I think they’ve led the way there in giving more.”