Joe Pavelski is building quite a reputation among followers of the San Jose Sharks.
Some have even started calling him the “Big Pavelski”?a fitting tribute given that no one came up bigger for the team during a white-knuckle six-game series victory over Colorado in the first round.
However, the only reputation Pavelski is concerned about is the negative one that has followed his team around since he entered the NHL. And the 25-year-old forward is intent on seeing the Sharks drop their “playoff underachiever” label this spring.
“That is our reputation right now,” he said Tuesday on a conference call. “You’ve got to work extremely hard to change your reputation once something happens. A lot of us in that room have only been to the second round?a few guys won Cups and we know (we have) that experience?but you’ve always got to reprove yourself every year. …
“It’s new territory. We’ve got to understand it only gets harder in more important games and the mental side of the game I think is really important for us.”
Pavelski has been praised as much for his take-charge attitude as the team-leading five goals he scored against the Avalanche.
He was considered a candidate for the captaincy when veteran defenceman Rob Blake was given the ‘C’ last summer and seems likely to assume that role eventually.
It could be an important transition for a talented Sharks team that hasn’t got over the hump with Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton comprising the leadership group. While those two are obviously still in the dressing room, Pavelski has gradually become a more integral part of the team.
Two of the goals he scored against Colorado were game-winners, including one in overtime of Game 4 that prevented the Sharks from going down 3-1. San Jose never looked back and avoided another embarrassing first-round exit.
“By no means was it a sigh of relief,” Pavelski said of knocking off the Avalanche. “I think we were happy, we were excited. A lot of work went into that series. You look at the first couple games and a few of the games we lost, putting 50 shots (on goal), we invested quite a bit physically.
“It paid off at the end?we didn’t want a Game 7.”
In the second round, they’ll face the winner of the Detroit-Phoenix series, which wraps up Tuesday night in the desert.
Pavelski says his teammates are hoping to start the series on Thursday rather than waiting until Sunday. The team’s home arena is tied up Friday and Saturday with a pair of concerts by The Eagles.
The Sharks will need more in the second round from Thornton, Marleau and Dany Heatley?three of their highest-paid players who all have fewer points than hulking defenceman Douglas Murray so far this post-season.
Pavelski has been compared to his underachieving teammates and some have suggested he’s wrestled the “Big Joe” moniker away from Thornton. However, he says that comparison doesn’t make him uncomfortable.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Pavelski. “Obviously, this first series, something we talked about is overcoming. It didn’t really matter how we got there, we just wanted to win. I think other years he’s led the way at times.
“It was just important that we won and that we found a way. However it got done, I think we’re just happy to be moving on to the next round.”
Asked again about the performance of his teammates a little later, Pavelski acknowledged that he’s looking for them to step up in the second round.
“We earned another series, which gives them time,” said Pavelski. “We expect great things from them. They’ve led us all year and that’s what we expect now. … They’re working just as hard as anybody right now and they want it just as bad as anybody.
“Hopefully it goes in for them and hopefully it keeps going in for everyone else too.”