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San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton looks back as he plays against the Vancouver Canucks after being cut in the face during Game 2 of their NHL Western Conference Final hockey playoff in Vancouver, British Columbia May 18, 2011. REUTERS/Ben Nelms (Ben Nelms/Reuters)
San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton looks back as he plays against the Vancouver Canucks after being cut in the face during Game 2 of their NHL Western Conference Final hockey playoff in Vancouver, British Columbia May 18, 2011. REUTERS/Ben Nelms (Ben Nelms/Reuters)

GARY MASON

Bloody mess for Sharks Add to ...

In the aftermath of his team's listless performance in the opening game of the Western Conference final, San Jose coach Todd McLellan said Game 2 would test the Sharks' commitment and resolve. It would reveal what his players were truly made of.

After Wednesday's 7-3 drubbing at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, McLellan has to be horrified at what he has witnessed in the first two games of this series. If Game 2 was supposed to reveal the true character of his team, then his conference final will soon be over.

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While there has been plenty of attention on the Sharks' composure meltdown in the game - and deservedly so - the team's problems don't end there. Yes, the Canucks demonstrated that they are more Cup ready by keeping their heads while the Sharks' players were losing theirs, but the Canucks have also dominated this series in almost every department.

Coming into the final, the Sharks were said to have more depth up front. And yet, it has been the Canucks' top three lines that have dictated the pace of play. One of the most well-worn adages in hockey is that to win championships, your best players have to be your best players.

Vancouver's best players have stepped up their game. As for San Jose, well, poor Todd McLellan said after the game Wednesday that he was tired of making excuses for many of his. "I'm not going to hide them any more," he said. But when asked which players he was calling out, McLellan refused to divulge their identities.

Not that it takes much sleuthing to figure out whom he would be talking about. If you've watched the first two games, you know.

Go down the list: Devon Setoguchi, Ryan Clowe, Dany Heatley, Dan Boyle, Kyle Wellwood, Ian White, Torrey Mitchell have all been missing in action. And though they have scored, even Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton haven't done much beyond offering hints of the players they can be.

(But you have to give Marleau credit for taking on Kevin Bieksa, a fight that likely wouldn't have happened had former teammate, now analyst, Jeremy Roenick not called the Sharks' winger "gutless" after a particularly poor playoff outing against Detroit. That's what that was all about.)

The Sharks' best player in Game 2 was hulking defenceman Douglas Murray. Even their spectacular goaltender, Antti Niemi, appeared human and vulnerable.

Right now, Vancouver looks like it often did during the regular season - unbeatable. If you are a hockey purist, watching the Canucks at the top of their game is a delight. There were times on the power play Wednesday when they looked like those Russian teams of the early '70s that came over and stunned us with their puck possession wizardry. The Sedins, when allowed to roam as they have in this series, can make you laugh they are so good. The way Vancouver's defence often plays is like having two extra forwards on the ice.

For whatever reason, the Sharks have appeared two steps behind the Canucks in the first two games. Either Vancouver has found another gear or San Jose has lost something. "You can't chase this team," McLellan said after the game. And he's right. There is no sense chasing what you can't catch.

The Sharks are bigger, but they are getting badly outhit by the Canucks. Down low, the San Jose defence can't seem to handle the Vancouver pressure. It seems overwhelmed.

The Canucks are winning without the Ryan Kesler who single-handedly took over the series against Nashville. Instead, they have the Kesler who is merely very good. His linemates, Chris Higgins and Mason Raymond, have been more noticeable in the first two games. But that just shows you which team really has the most depth.

Hockey is a strange game. Teams can often demonstrate split personalities, within a single game. And teams can change dramatically within a seven-game series. All of which is to say that San Jose seems to be too good a team to continue to be subjugated by the Canucks.

But unless the Sharks find themselves soon, like Friday night, this series is over. If it isn't already.

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