Mad-as-hell Sharks coming out swinging
San Jose Sharks left wing T.J. Galiardi (21) flips over Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick (32) during their NHL Western Conference semifinal playoff hockey game. (REUTERS)
Hockey players have been known to spit out an occasional cliche.
To bear down.
To lay it all on the line.
To, you know, give 'er 110% out there.
But really ...
“This is when there's nothing to hold back,” said San Jose Sharks centre Scott Gomez, one of the most insightful, thoughtful guys in the professional puck business.
“All those cliches that you say all during the year, this is when you actually can use them.”
So there you have it, hockey fans, the Sharks are backed into a corner, ready to come out swinging.
They'll have to.
With Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center, the Sharks are officially teetering on the brink of elimination, trailing the reigning Stanley Cup champions 3-2 in a best-of-seven series that has been defined by who has home-ice advantage on any given night.
Come playoff time, you hear the term 'momentum' more often than 'forecheck' or 'maintenance day,' and there's no doubt the Kings have it as the series shifts back to the Silicon Valley for Sunday's Game 6.
Maybe, in a twisted way, that's a good thing.
The Sharks are ticked off. Hockey history is littered with tales of guys who've turned frustration into a first-star performance.
“I wasn't happy with the way I played (Thursday), personally, and that's going to motivate me for Sunday's game,” promised centre Logan Couture, San Jose's leading playoff scorer with five goals and six helpers in nine games.
“And I hope it motivates the rest of the guys, as well.”
Rewind one week, and the Sharks were returning home from a crushing 4-3 loss in Game 2 in L.A., a back-and-forth affair they maintain they deserved to win.
Nobody was saying that about Game 5.
The Sharks weren't very good.
Period, end of story.
“In my opinion, of our nine playoff games, that was the weakest effort that we've had,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan. “We didn't have our legs. We didn't execute. Some of that had to do with L.A., but a lot of that had to do with San Jose.”
The spotlight is squarely on San Jose now.
Maybe, despite as much top-end talent as any team in the NHL, they can't match the intensity and physicality of the Kings.
Maybe, despite the addition of proven winners like Gomez and blueliner Brad Stuart, there are still a couple of missing pieces.
Maybe this is the last chance for a group that's been a contender for so long.
“We're a positive team,” Couture insisted. “We still believe. We never doubt ourselves.”
“This group has done a lot of good things to get to where we're at, and we deserve to keep that confidence,” added Sharks winger Joe Pavelski. “We don't need to let it go, let it slip away.”
That anger and emotion from Thursday's loss?
They might want to hang onto that, too.
“I think you have a pride level as a player and as a team. Individually, if your pride has been tapped or altered or questioned either by yourself or a teammate or sometimes the media, you have a tendency to get your back up and respond,” McLellan said. “Not that that's happening in this situation, but that was our weakest game in the playoffs, so if there ever was a time for us to get our back up against the wall and respond, it's now.”
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson