Monday, April 16, 2012
Sharks buzzing, Blues not, about chaos
By Pierre LeBrun
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Still lots of buzz Monday morning at HP Pavilion about the craziness around the playoffs in terms of fisticuffs and dirty play.
"A lot of the series [are in] borderline chaos right now,’’ Sharks coach Todd McLellan said after his team’s morning skate.
And why is that?
"I don’t know, I don’t have an answer for it,” he said. "The other series, we’re all watching them because we’re hockey people and we get excited by the playoffs, but it’s amazing what’s going on right now. Maybe some of the messages will be delivered today [by the NHL] and everyone will reel it in a little bit. But high stakes, high emotions, competitive players, many that are crossing the line.’’
Hitchcock had a slightly different view.
"I don’t agree with that, I think organized chaos would be better (way to put it),’’ said the Blues coach. "I know it doesn’t look organized to you, but it is. This is why the players play. This is what happens when you have a lot of young players in the league. It’s very emotional, it’s very intense. ...
"For me, it’s chaos, I agree on that with Todd, but I still think there’s still organization to it. Otherwise if there isn’t, we don’t have jobs. We might as well just turn them loose. We have to keep our jobs, you know?’’
Hitchcock believes the parity in today’s NHL also plays into it.
"You could predict pretty comfortably before who could win series, you can’t do that anymore in hockey,’’ said the Blues coach. "The eighth seeds are just as good as the ones. ... I just think that everybody thinks they can win right now, there isn’t one team that’s playing in the playoffs right now that doesn’t think it can win. So that makes for at times nasty play when you’re getting it taken to you.’’
The Blues and Sharks ended Game 2 with a fight-filled melee. The Sharks are real unhappy with what they feel was a sucker-punch from Vladimir Sobotka on Dominic Moore, which left Moore with a broken nose. Moore didn’t skate Monday morning (although he did on Sunday). The Blues, meanwhile, aren’t happy with Brent Burns’ elbow/punch to the head of Scott Nichol. So both teams feel the other team crossed the line in some fashion.
McLellan wants his team to be passionate but to know where the line is.
"You want that emotional attachment to the game, you just can’t have it go too far,’’ he said.
The Sharks are a veteran team, so expect them to hold their composure Monday night.
"The smarter team probably wins at the end,’’ said Sharks winger Martin Havlat. "You don’t want to take any stupid penalties and get the other team on the power play. You got to be smart and pick your spot.’’
The Sharks didn’t generate much in the second and third periods Saturday night. The Blues, the NHL’s stingiest team in the regular season, shut them down.
"To be successful tonight and moving forward, we have to take it up a notch,” said McLellan. "We’ll be tested and it’ll be a great test for our group.’’
The Sharks coach hinted at possible lineup changes without naming names.
"Do we need some size in and around the net? Perhaps,” he said. "Is it around their net or in and around our net? We’ll have to make a decision there.’’
My guess is that veteran blueliner Colin White might play his first game of the series.
Faceoffs are key
The Sharks were one of the better faceoff teams in the NHL this season but the Blues have edged them so far, St. Louis winning 52 percent in Game 1 and 55 percent in Game 2.
"We can be better,” said McLellan. "There weren’t many times during the regular season where we lost the faceoff battle back-to-back. And we’ve done that in this series.’’
Stewart back in
Chris Stewart checks back in for the Blues after the winger was scratched in Game 2 -- a decision that got much attention.
"The message was sent and I think it was received loud and clear," Stewart said Monday morning after the skate. "I’m going to go out there and work my (butt) off. You see the last game, those are the games you dream about. End of the game and you win and there’s a line brawl and stuff like that. That’s stuff you want to be a part of. I was obviously disappointed I didn’t get to experience that. But that’s the good thing about this game, you get a chance tonight to redeem yourself."
It’s not every day in the playoffs that a coach changes a winning lineup, but Ken Hitchcock has a hunch Stewart will have an impact after sitting out for the first time this season.
"I think we’ll get a good player tonight," Hitchcock said.
"We need his A game," he added. "When he’s playing, he’s a hard guy to play against. He plays physical, plays a lot like Milan (Lucic) does in Boston. So we need him in. He’s got good hands, can score from the inside, he’s a guy that gives us a chance to get way more 5-on-5 scoring chances, which we’re going to need on the road. We’re not getting enough of those."
Just who exactly Stewart is replacing wasn’t announced. Judging from lines at practice, it would appear Matt D’Agostini might be out although there are whispers that Blues are also debating taking out Jason Arnott.
"That one I haven’t made up my mind yet for,’’ Hitchcock said. "We’ll take that one into warm-up and figure it out from there."
Injured Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak did not take part in Monday morning’s skate.
"He’s day to day,’’ said Hitchcock. "We’ll just see how he feels tomorrow. We’ll see if we’re going to get him back in any short period of time here. We’re not really sure.’’
Nichol is OK
Blues fourth-line center Scott Nichol took a punch/elbow to the head from Brent Burns in Game 2 but said Monday he was fine.
Nichol is in the unique position of being involved in an emotional and physical series against players who were his friends and teammates for two years when he played in San Jose.
"It’s part of the business,’’ Nichol said Monday morning. "Everyone wants to win so bad. You compete so hard. You put all the personal stuff aside and you dig in. This is your team. We want to win just as bad as they do. There’s no cutting deals, that’s for sure.’’