Antti Niemi

Sharks’ depth, McLellan’s wizardry too much for Kings in Game 2

Sharks set to beat the Kings, Zombies, Dodgers and Cartman

So that thing in the headline about “wizardry” might be overselling it a little bit, but you have to give credit where it’s due: Todd McLellan had four lines worth of real scoring ability waiting in the wings, and it took a 2-0 Kings lead to unleash it. You can’t blame him for going with what worked in Game 1, but that decision to flip flop Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl at the start of the second period resulted in seven [SEVEN! (SEEEVVEENNN!!!!)] unanswered goals to finish the game.

Let’s make it clear right now: this is not the Pacific Division showdown you’re looking for. I would have figured San Jose would score 13 goals total, in a seven-game series maybe. But 13 goals in the first two games? Against the best defensive team in the National Hockey League? On Jonathan Quick, the West Coast’s second coming of Patrick Roy (at least according to the KNBR hosts who suddenly need talking points for their interviews with Jamie Baker)?

Not a snowball’s chance in hell.

Joe Thornton scored. Patrick Marleau scored. Logan Couture scored. Joe Pavelski scored. JUSTIN BRAUN SCORED. RAFFI TORRES SCORED. MIKE BROWN SCORED. MIKE FRICKIN BROWN!

It’s hard to not get excited about what San Jose is doing, even with their past failures. The Sharks are like a chronically relapsing alcoholic, and we are their codependent parents. They tell us they will change. They say it will be different. Up to this point, it never has been.

But this looks different. This looks really, really different.

Most of those who watched last year’s series believed the Sharks were contenders and losing Raffi Torres was their undoing. But that team didn’t have Hertl. I can’t believe I’m about to type this, but they also didn’t have Mike Brown, or any player that really resembled what he’s been for San Jose over the first two games. The Sharks are flaunting 11 10 different goal-scorers in two games, and they haven’t been this relentless on the puck, this resilient, or this angry in a long, long time. You can’t discount what the fourth line has meant against the Kings … especially when they were the ones scoring the goals that opened the floodgates.

Then it was up to the scorers, and they scored. They unloaded pucks on Quick, and Darryl Sutter probably left him in as some sort of cruel and unusual punishment, because there isn’t a goalie in the league that could have stopped the never-ending waves of skill that San Jose threw at him. Especially after Game 1’s third period hiccup, it was only natural to get nervous during the second 17-minute intermission. But Patrick Marleau calibrated the sniper scope — Pavelski, Couture and, yes, even Thornton emptied the clip. All of those goals were highlight reel material.

The Kings said they were coming into Sunday’s game with confidence, and for at least a few minutes they did. But this is a series that — save a slow finish to the first game and a nervous start tonight — the Sharks have thoroughly dominated. This was supposed to go seven, and yet the way San Jose has played, it looks like it should be over in four.

So it’s no surprise that, as the SAP Center crowd whipped into a near-blackout frenzy, the Kings let their frustration get the better of them. It’s not like this was going to be a friendly game of racquetball to begin with, but the Sharks finally have agitators to answer to the Kyle Cliffords of the world, along with scorers galore to answer the Quicks.

It should only get nastier from here. Now the series shifts to LA, where the home team’s crowd will be the only ones acknowledging the 0-2 hole. The Sharks are halfway past what is perhaps the toughest obstacle before the Final. They have to keep their foot on the gas pedal and they have to keep their scorers out of the trainers room. If they can escape this series without too many bandages, the San Jose Sharks have a legitimate chance to go for 16 wins.

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