2011 NHL Playoffs: Sharks readying themselves for Game One against the Los Angeles Kings

During the postseason, game one has historically been a devilish fiend for the San Jose Sharks.

In fact, you have to go all the way back to the 2007 postseason, where the Sharks took game one on the road against the Nashville Predators, to find the last time the Sharks won the opening battle in a seven game set in the first round.

The last three postseasons have seen the Sharks start the series at home, only to walk out of HP Pavilion with a 1-0 series deficit and a must-win game two on the horizon. It's largely been a case of goaltending-- in 2010 Craig Anderson made 25 saves and was the first star of the night, backstopping the Avalanche to a 2-1 victory in the dying seconds of the third period. 2009 saw Jonas Hiller stop everything that came his way in a shutout victory that earned him the first star of the night. And 2008? Well that bore witness to ex-Shark Mikka Kiprusoff's mastery, as Kiprusoff made 37 saves to earn the Flames a 3-2 victory and, yep, you guessed it, first star honors to go along with it.

Three goaltenders, three first stars, three game one losses.

This postseason, Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan is expecting his team to come out of the gate differently.

"We're excited. I hope there's a little bit of butterflies and a little bit of nerves, it would be a valuable thing for our team," McLellan said at the media scrum following the morning skate.. "I think we're ready. We've had four good days of practice, I sense an excitement. It's time to play."

"In the past we've had a little bit of trouble getting out of the gate in game one and we're going to try and change that this year. We want to get out and establish our game...we've prepared well for it, we understand where we're at, and it's time to go put it on the ice."

As history has shown of course, a game loss to start the postseason doesn't spell doom for a team-- the Sharks advanced to the Western Conference Finals last season after dropping the first game to Colorado, and ended up winning the series against the Flames in 2008 during a riveting game seven that has gone down as one of the most memorable postseason games in franchise history.

Furthermore, the tenacity and resilience San Jose has shown over the course of the past two and a half months is something that leads one to believe that no matter how the first ten minutes go, the opening salvo of artillery fire in the corners both teams will count on to get their legs underneath them, San Jose has the ability to mount comebacks in the blink of a shift. The Sharks made a habit of the third period comeback down the stretch, something that should give them the neccesary confidence if the Kings do manage to take a lead into the final twenty minutes.

As Sharks Captain Joe Thornton said, the key to this series won't necessarily be running and gunning the Kings to submission. It will be in the corners and along the boards. Thornton is seen as the catalyst of San Jose's resurgence in the defensive zone, leading by example throughout this entire season.

"Defense is going to win this series. There's going to be a lot of 1-0, 2-1 games throughout, and whoever plays better in their defensive zone is going to win," Thornton said. "Playing against Johnson and Doughty, they are two very good defenseman. All you want to do is keep them in their end as long as possible, work them down low. We've got big bodies that we feel can wear them out through a seven game series."

It's likely that Thornton and his linemates Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi will see the majority of their shifts against top competition, and as we've mentioned before, that allows Joe Pavelski's line to do some damage. If this series goes the route of a defensive chess match that Thornton and many others expect it will, Pavelski's ability to provide the necessary scoring depth that is essential to playoff victories will be a big asset for the Sharks.

An asset that the Kings don't necessarily have.

With Anze Kopitar out, the Kings have struggled to score goals, potting a mere 1.57 goals per game in the seven matches without their All-Star centermen. It poses a question as to which forward San Jose will focus on, as Dustin Penner, Ryan Smyth, Justin Williams, and Dustin Brown all are notable scorers in their own right.

However, Dan Boyle wasn't giving any trade secrets away in that sense.

"Their top guy is out but nothing changes in that sense. They do it by committee, there's a lot of guys who can do it, especially starting with their backend. We just have to be strong no matter what."

So Coach McLellan hasn't tasked you and Murray with matching up against a particular line when you have the last change at home?

"If we did I probably wouldn't talk about it with you right now," Boyle quipped as he laughed. "We'll see how it plays, and if it works we'll keep it and if not we'll adjust it."

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