The story after Game 2 was San Jose's lack of it, and Vancouver's composure — the Canucks lauded themselves with praise for having learned from their previous playoff experiences, explaining that this team was not like Canucks teams of old. Up 2-0 in the series and having just trounced their visibly rattled opponent, it was hard to disagree with them.
In Game 3, Vancouver fell behind early in the game and had the perfect opportunity to prove the things they'd said they'd said between games — 11 penalties later (whether they liked the calls or not), they had lost the game 4-3 and had squandered the chance to essentially bury the Sharks' hopes of seeing the Stanley Cup Final.
That door is officially back open.
Fittingly for this series, the only reason it ever got back to 4-3 after the Sharks early dominance was thanks to Jamie McGinn(notes) recklessly running Aaron Rome's head into the glass on an overly aggressive forecheck. McGinn just so happened to have replaced Ben Eager(notes), the guy that Sharks head coach Todd McLellan had taken out of the lineup for demonstrating a lack of discipline in Game 2.
While there's a lot more to winning a hockey game than just playing with discipline, the fact remains that in each of the first three games of this series, the team that's taken more penalties has lost.
As absolutely everyone is aware, Game 4 this afternoon is of massive importance for both sides. After getting shellacked in Game 2, McLellan made the observation that a series doesn't start until someone wins on the road, and his team has a chance to defend their home ice just as their opponent did — heading back to Vancouver knotted at two would be a fresh start for his group, and allow them to justifiably believe in their direction once again. If they fail to do that, they're facing an awfully large hill to climb.
The Canucks, for their part, have another chance to "start the series," and they know giving San Jose 10 powerplays as they did in Game 3 isn't the way to do it.
"You don't want to put those guys on the powerplay that often, that's for sure," said Roberto Luongo(notes) during yesterday's off day. "In this series, we want to keep it five-on-five as much as we can, and we like our chances if we do."
What we've seen so far between the top two seeds in the West is that composure is less about being able to turn your head and laugh at someone having a meltdown when you're winning 7-3 and more about being able to keep it together when you're the team losing, frustrated about being unable to climb back into the game.
Powerplays are more than just an offensive opportunity — you allow your opponent's best players to handle the puck, to get comfortable and to get in a rhythm. With the amount of offensive stars on both teams, they should hate the idea of helping out their opponent out like that.
Because of the effect discipline has had on earlier games between these two teams, we're likely to see a tighter game with more five-on-five hockey. If either team doesn't hold up their end of that bargain, they'll find themselves on the losing end today as they have in the first three games of the series.