With the Western Conference playoff picture coming down to the wire, the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks faced off for a late-season home-and-home series that could possibly present a first-round playoff preview. The teams split the series, but not before it became very clear that the California teams had developed a real rivalry.
Getting a chance to live the drama is Sharks rookie forward Jamie McGinn. McGinn, on his fourth recall this season, has taken advantage of the Sharks injury situation to make a strong case to remain with the team throughout the playoffs.
While the 2006 second-round draft pick has shown some offensive prowess, scoring 30 points in 44 games with Worcester (AHL) this season, it’s his versatility and his current role on the Sharks checking line alongside forwards Travis Moen and Marcel Goc that may earn him his first trip to the NHL postseason. From there he’s scored six points in 35 games and is -6. For a 20-year-old player one year removed from junior, that’s quite an accomplishment.
Hockey’s Future caught up with the 5’11 Fergus, Ontario native to get his thoughts on the home-and-home games, potential playoff rival Anaheim as well as what it’s like to play for a Stanley Cup favorite. Then we caught up his head coach, Todd McLellan, to get a report card on the rookie. First up, Jamie McGinn.
HF: What was it like playing a home-and-home game against a potential playoff opponent?
JM: It felt like a playoff atmosphere out there. We knew last night we didn’t get it done so we knew today was a must-win and I felt we did that. We were getting a lot of shots to the net and doing the little things right tonight.
HF: You guys dropped the first game against Anaheim. What adjustments did you guys make to get the win tonight?
JM: It started out with face-offs last night, we were down a lot and we weren’t moving our feet so I thought we had more energy tonight. We were starting with the puck and getting them deep and going to work and just making their defense work — crash and bang and stuff like that. We were just getting pucks to the net and fortunately they went in for us.
HF: Does the home-and-home format encourage more of a rivalry especially when you know you could be facing Anaheim in the playoffs?
JM: Absolutely, you just see how much heart there is at the end there [referring to an on ice scrum Ducks and Sharks after time had expired on the game]. Everyone was ready to go and protect their teammates so I think it’s a huge rivalry and I know our fans were into it last night and these fans are definitely into it tonight. But that’s hockey and we love these kinds of games and for us to come out on top tonight shows a lot of character.
HF: This is your first year in the league and you’ve been bounced around on a couple of lines here — started out on the fourth line, spent some time on the first line. What’s that been like, especially being on a team that’s battling for the President’s trophy?
JM: It’s kind of like a roller coaster for myself. You know I’ve been up and down and I’m just trying to play as hard as I can every night and stay in this league. You know I don’t want to go back down. This is where my heart is at. This is where I want to stay the rest of my career so I’m just going out there every night and just trying to play as hard as I can and just do the small things. My job right now is trying to stay in the line-up for playoffs. There’s a lot of healthy bodies coming back so I’ve got to just make it tough for the coaches. I’ve just got to do the small things like get the puck out, getting them deep and making my presence felt.
HF: When you’re a young guy coming into a line-up for a team that is a Stanley Cup favorite, does that make a difference in how you adjust your game to fit in?
JM: I think it’s just getting the job done. We have a great group of guys in the locker room, a lot of guys have won Cups and a lot of the older guys have been around the league and know what to do to make it to the playoffs and to do well in the playoffs. So I look up to a lot of the guys and they’ve helped me out tons and they’ve been positive throughout this whole time. I think it’s just they’re going to be really happy if I get the job done when I’m on the ice. I just try to learn from them and do little things.
Next, HF spoke to coach Todd McLellan.
HF: What has your assessment been of McGinn?
Todd McLellan: Jamie in particular has earned the opportunity more and more with our hockey club. He’s become a very confident player. I think that confidence goes two ways — ours with him and him with us. He’s been all over the map. He’s been on the fourth line. He’s been up with Joe Thornton for a little while but I think he’s settled into a spot where he feel comfortable and that would be on that third or fourth line position.
HF: What are you looking for from these younger guys, like McGinn and some of the other rookies, heading into the playoffs?
TM: Well, they have to be available to us. They’re definitely part of the team. They’ve made a commitment and played here long enough that if we need them they have to be prepared to play. We would prefer to get our veteran players back that are injured, but if that doesn’t happen they have to be ready to go. We don’t expect them to be the game breakers but we expect them to contribute nightly.