Early on the Sharks seem to have realized it was a whistle fest and IMO have been essentially baiting the refs into making calls by a few guys over-embelishing the results of hits.
I agree, and it's an extension of part of the Sharks' game play M.O. (drawing as many penalties as possible for better scoring chances) throughout the regular season. It didn't work that well against the Wings in the regular season, who beat us in three out of four games, but that also meant that there was no lesson learned by the Wings either in that regard.
For the other teams, the ones against whom it did work, the strategy was simple. The Sharks would say damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, and crash the net. It didn't matter if they had a real scoring chance or not. They just had to get their opponents believing that they did, as they'd swarm in and position themselves just close and dangerous enough to put the other team into a defensive frenzy, which in turn disrupts team rhythm and communication, and causes them, individually, to make stupid mistakes, like slashing, hooking, holding, tripping, whatever. The Sharks would then draw a penalty, as desire/planned, and try to capitalize on that. And they were very effective at it, as they constantly traded the illusion of a scoring chance for a real one with a man advantage.
It didn't work as well in our opening series against the Avs, because the Avs are very young, speedy, and were actually able to turn the tables from the start, getting the jump on the Sharks by doing essentially the same thing to the Sharks. What a rush that was. Scary. Fortunately for the Sharks, they were able to shake it off, acknowledge it, and adjust in time to turn it around. They even publicly announced that they had "solved" it, putting everyone on notice that they were going to be faster at everything, including speed through the neutral zone. And they were. But that same game plan pulled on us nearly killed us early on, because it really was starting to make us undisciplined.
Enter Round 2, and SI's take on the last game:
...they made the Red Wings uncomfortable...More than anything..., they forced the Red Wings to play defense...In short, they stayed aggressive.
...It isn't often that we see the Wings hanging on, but that is the sense I got. The Sharks forced the Wings to chase the game and then dictated the style, pace and flow. That is never easy to do against the Wings and isn't something the Sharks have a great history of doing.
Read the Full Article
And he's absolutely right.
Another issue, one that the Sharks were facing, had to do with face offs. Watching Game 1, I thought we were piss poor, wondering what the f*** happened to the team? We have no less than three of the top 15 faceoff guys in the NHL, with Malhotra at the top (training videos are made using him as the model). In this last game (as noted by many here at LGW), we absolutely dominated in faceoffs. The Wings couldn't buy one. There's no question in my mind that Mclellan used the team's warmup and rest time to force an increased focus on the internal faceoff competition already ongoing with the Sharks. And it shows in just how nervous the faceoff officials are, given how many players (from both teams) are hopped up and getting routinely kicked out of the faceoff circles -- circles more laden with testosterone than I have EVER seen before in the playoffs. Zetterberg was 0-7 in the first period, That...just...does..not...happen. Do I think that will play out the same way in Game 3? No. I'm sure the Wings are adjusting to that as well.
Also, it's unavoidable that officiating is part of the game. It's true that the NHL has had a kind of unwritten tradition of looser calls in the playoffs, but usually not so much until the final two rounds, generally letting only the top teams bash their way to the Cup. BUT...IF the refs were NOT making calls, I am sure that the penalty-drawing-minded Sharks would sense that just quickly as well, as they would be forced to adjust accordingly there as well. But as we're seeing, that's not the case. The refs clearly are making calls, and for that the Wings do need to (and I am quite sure will), adjust.