Jim Neveau, NHL Correspondent
After what has felt like a lengthy hiatus, the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks will take to the ice on Wednesday night at Rogers Arena to play Game 2 of their conference finals series. The Canucks will look to take a 2-0 lead, while the Sharks will look to recover from their Game 1 collapse.
What are the most important keys for both teams in this crucial game? Here’s the skinny on both clubs:
Keys for San Jose:
Play a Full 60 Minutes
Blame it on exhaustion, failure to stand up to the pressure, or whatever else you like, but there is a simple explanation of what happened to the Sharks in Game 1 of this series: they choked. They had a 2-1 lead, and much like they did on several occasions in the last round against the Red Wings, they coughed it up by playing lazy defense and leaving their goaltender out to dry. Add in the fact that they turned off the jets offensively, and you have a recipe for disaster. San Jose cannot afford to coast in the last 20 minutes of a game. They HAVE to play a full 60 minutes.
Play With More Discipline
In the first two periods of Game 1, the Sharks got away with committing three penalties, most of which were completely avoidable. Ben Eager picked up a foolish interference penalty in the first, and Kent Huskins got a hooking call in the second. Perhaps the most blatantly foolish penalty was the elbowing minor that Dany Heatley committed shortly after Vancouver tied the game in the third period, and it was enough to give the Canucks a power play goal, and ultimately the victory.
San Jose has to do a better job of avoiding the penalty box, or they’ll put themselves behind the 8-ball against a team who is fundamentally solid on the man-advantage.
Keys for Vancouver:
Do Better in the Face-off Dot
With the exception of Henrik Sedin’s 12-for-17 performance, the Canucks were a lost cause in the dot on Sunday night. Maxim Lapierre (who picked up a silly diving penalty late in the game) went 2-for-10 on draws, and Ryan Kesler was 8-of-19 on face-offs.
It is an oft-repeated cliché, but winning hockey games starts by winning face-offs, and if Vancouver wants to control the offensive flow of the game, they have to be able to win draws when it counts.
Keep Getting Pucks on Net
The Vancouver offense, even with all those lost draws, still looked pretty in sync on Sunday even after a long layoff. They managed 38 shots in the game, and really took advantage of San Jose running out of gas toward the end of the contest. They need to continue exploiting their offensive chemistry advantage, and they need to make Antti Niemi work for every save.