SAN JOSE Its already been well documented that the Sharks are in unfamiliar territory, compared with every season since the end of the NHL work stoppage.
The calendar reads March 26, and the Sharks are not in playoff position as they get set to face the Colorado Avalanche. Instead, theyre going to have to take care of their own business while keeping an eye on the scoreboard much more than in the past six seasons when the playoffs were already a certainly by now.
Ryane Clowe has been here for all of them (although he played in just 18 games with the Sharks in 2005-06). Hes not used to the position the Sharks are in, but still senses a confident club that can get just as far in the playoffs, or further, than the teams of yesteryear.
Heres Clowes long and thoughtful response when I asked him this morning how the teams mindset might be different this season.
Obviously the mindset is, get in. Were playing pretty urgent hockey here, you could say with a little desperation lately, which is a good sign. Sometimes that doesnt happen when youve got a comfortable position in the playoffs.
We have the same mindset in that if we get in, we feel like we can do the same amount of damage we would be able to do in previous years. Its not like getting in just to get in; our mindset is still that ultimate goal like weve always had. Obviously, youve got to make the playoffs first. We feel like we are going to make it.
There was not a whole lot of feeling around, even when we were struggling a bit, that were not going to make it, or, wow this really might happen. Its always been like, dont worry, were going to make it, were going to make it. Well be fine. Weve got a good enough team. Like I said, the playoffs, we feel the same way we always have. We make the playoffs, we want to win the Cup. The mindset really hasnt changed there.
Todd McLellan was presented with the same question. Not surprisingly, the coach wants to believe that having to battle to get in could end up helping his club in the postseason.
This year the playoffs arrived a month early. The stress and the intensity around the locker room is a little tighter and its not as loose as its been in the past. Maybe thats a good thing for our team, McLellan said.