|Sharks won't change style to face Red Wings|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2007 13:28|
The Sharks won three of their four games against their upcoming playoff opponent while scoring a jaw-dropping 13 power-play goals, including a franchise-record six during a 9-4 win on Jan. 4. They skated faster than the Red Wings, worked harder in the corners and moved the puck with more success - at least in all those highlights beaming above the teal carpet in San Jose.
Those results won't mean much when the clubs face off for their second-round series beginning Thursday in Detroit, but the video of one impressive goal after another reminded the Sharks that the tradition-rich Red Wings are just 25 guys who finished just six points above San Jose in the conference standings.
``We did a pretty good job with the power play in the four games we had against them,'' said Joe Thornton, who had six assists in the Sharks' five-game dispatching of Nashville in the first round. ``Obviously the postseason is different, but hopefully we'll have some confidence from our success.''
San Jose handily beat the Predators despite going 2-for-30 with the same power play that dominated the Red Wings during the regular season. The teams haven't met since January, and both made additions since then, with Bill Guerin and Craig Rivet joining the Sharks while Todd Bertuzzi and Kyle Calder moved to Detroit.
Despite those changes, the Sharks won't adjust their basic style of play to face Detroit's combination of skill and toughness. While Nashville tried to bully the Sharks with heavy hits, the Red Wings are more likely to use their heads - and neither approach affects coach Ron Wilson's plans for his deep, talented club.
``They'll pick a matchup that they think can help them, and we'll be rolling all four lines,'' Wilson said. ``We'll make it tough for them. If we work hard 5-on-5, we're going to draw penalties, and our guys have to convert them.''
Wilson plans no major changes to that struggling power play, preferring to believe his club can recapture its dominance from the regular season. Thornton, who typically runs the show with his devastating passes from the boards, spoke of only minor adjustments to the Sharks' strategy.
That confidence has been a constant from Wilson and his staff this season, particularly after adding veterans Guerin and Rivet near the trade deadline.
``We feel like we've got a team that can win the Stanley Cup without any tricks or special (things),'' captain Patrick Marleau said. ``We're just going to keep working hard, play our game and get everybody to make a contribution.''
Even with Marleau and Thornton centering the top two lines, all four of San Jose's lines averaged more than 11 minutes per game during the Nashville series. Wilson - who refuses even to assign numbers to a first line or a fourth line - doesn't flinch at using any forward in any situation.
He also juggles lines when inspirations strikes, as it did in the clinching Game 5 against the Predators when his pairing of Thornton and Marleau produced the go-ahead goal.
``The whole idea was to wear Nashville down for a sixth or seventh game, and we managed to get it done in five,'' Wilson said. ``That's the attitude we take into every series. They might get into a line-matching thing, but when you control that, there's a psychological edge.''
Wilson has a particular stake in the series, and not just because the Red Wings swept two of his previous playoff teams - with Anaheim in 1997 and again in the Stanley Cup finals with Washington in 1998.
His father, Larry, and his uncle, Johnny, both won Stanley Cups while playing for the Red Wings. But Wilson was a Toronto Maple Leafs fan from his youth, and he refused to sit on Gordie Howe's lap when he visited the Red Wings' locker room as a precocious 8-year-old in the spring of 1964.
``Dave Keon was my hero,'' Wilson said of the former Maple Leafs captain. ``Gordie Howe - I hated him. He tried to give me a Pepsi, so I had that, but I wouldn't sit on his lap.''