VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Dan Boyle spent 30 seconds in a pinball game here. He was the pinball.

The sequence began halfway through the second period against the Vancouver Canucks -- no, really, against almost the whole team.

First, one Canuck slammed Boyle, the Sharks defenseman, into the boards. Ten seconds later, another Canuck belted Boyle across the chest. Just 20 seconds after that, a third Canuck player took his best shot. Three teeth-vibrating hits in barely half a minute.

"Yeah," Boyle acknowledged afterward, shrugging with a smile. "Yeah. That was pretty good."

Pretty good? It looked pretty excruciating. But as we all know, hockey players are different from the rest of us. Or even other athletes. Pro football players like to talk about being in a car wreck on grass every Sunday. Well, hockey players are in car wrecks on the ice every 48 hours or so. And the annual playoff car wrecks, with the stakes so high, are even more brutal.

Boyle, after 14 seasons and 90 playoff games in the NHL, has learned the proper technique of violence management. He knows how to be smacked and smushed, then come right back two nights later for more of the same. In this case, that means Friday evening, when the Sharks and Canucks go at it again in Game 2 of their best-of-seven.

Joe Thornton, the Sharks captain, had an interesting way of explaining the hockey mindset this time of year.

"Yeah, you like waking up and being sore," he said.

If Game 2 is anything like Game 1, a rugged 3-1 victory for the Sharks on Wednesday, then neither team will wake up anything but sore for an indefinite period.

Thursday, the Sharks held an optional practice. Not surprisingly, only a few participated. The rest were receiving treatment, be it hot tub or cold ice or both, for their various bruises and nicks. The Sharks also keep a masseuse on call at the team hotel, for any cramps or kinks that might arise for the players.

"They know their bodies," coach Todd McLellan said. "They know how to get rest and recover."

Some of the Game 1 nastiness -- the Canucks and Sharks combined for 66 statistical hits -- went over the line. That included Vancouver defenseman Kevin Bieksa's unpenalized stick-to-the-groin stab of the Sharks' Martin Havlat. But much of it was simple toughness. And a portion of it was Vancouver's offensive attack plan.

Here's how it works: Rather than carrying the puck into their offensive zone as the Canucks' top two lines usually did during the regular season, they dumped it to specific deep spots in the corners where specific Sharks defensemen had to retrieve it. Those defensemen then paid the price by being forechecked and smashed into the glass or boards.

The idea, a legitimate strategy, was to force those Sharks defensemen into coughing up the puck while beating them up and wearing them down so that by Game 4 or Game 5 their bodies turn into limp dishrags.

"If you're their team, that would make sense, wouldn't it?" McLellan said of the Canucks. "It was a big deep-ice, soften-up-the-D-men night for them."

Boyle, listed generously as 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, is smaller than many NHL defensemen. He is also the Sharks' most skilled point-producer from the blue line. So he was an obvious target for the Canucks. McLellan also said Boyle was taking more hits because he plays so many more minutes. The only Sharks defensemen with more ice time Wednesday were Justin Braun and Marc-Edouard Vlasic -- and Vlasic in particular absorbed some memorable thumps that also made you wince.

"When you're on the ice more, you're more exposed," McLellan noted.

It was a positive sign, of course, that the Sharks were able to persevere through the ferocity and grind out their Game 1 victory. So the question is, will that result change the Canucks' wicked-hit road map? Or will Vancouver stick with the dump-and-pound architecture? Thornton thinks so.

"They've got guys who like to bump," Thornton said.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault was naturally offering no clues.

"The type of game being played by both teams now," Vigneault said, "is called playoff hockey."

That's why the Sharks are spending the intervening hours in recovery mode. Some pedal stationary bikes to keep muscles loose. Some jump in the hot tub. Logan Couture, at age 24, has his own program.

"I just try to get a lot of sleep," he said.

Sleep fast, young man. Wake up call for the next round of pound is 7 p.m. Friday.

Contact Mark Purdy at mpurdy@mercurynews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MercPurdy.