Sharks face another crossroad in game 3
Two games into the Western Conference Finals and the San Jose Sharks find themselves in the same predicament as the two previous rounds. For the third time in a row, the Sharks hit the road after splitting the first two games at home. It's not an ideal recipe for success, but one the Sharks have managed to work around.
They've been in this spot before and the mission is still the same - win and maintain that precious home ice advantage. San Jose is 7-3 at home in these playoffs with all three losses coming in game 2. The road hasn't been as kind. The Sharks are 2-4 away from the Tank, but again, the team in teal has persevered.
Right after game one, I was about as confident as I've been throughout the playoffs. The Sharks looked that much better, but nothing has gone as planned this spring. I should have known better. I should have expected this series to be more of the same chaos we witnessed in the previous rounds.
This series will be all about the in-game and game-to-game adjustments. St. Louis made the adjustments necessary to slow down the Sharks and pull even. Can Pete Deboer and the Shark do the same with the series shifting to the Gateway City?
Of course, they can! The Blues are 4-3 on home ice and have been outscored 19 to 14. That said, this series is about as even as a series could be. It's the little things that will swing it one way or another. It's the Sharks turn to push the right buttons and I expect they will.
Here are my three keys to victory in the all-important game 3.
- Continue to win the faceoff battle. San Jose is dominating the dot. They are winning 60% of the draws in this series (73-54). Much of the Sharks offense has been dictated by their faceoff success and it will be especially important as the road team.
- Neither team has been especially strong with the man advantage. SJ is 1 of 6 and STL is 0 of 6.
The Sharks power play hasn't been great in these playoffs. They rank 10th at 18.3%. The Blues are even worse at 14.9%. Where the rubber hits the road is on the PK. The Sharks' PK is at 83%, while the Blues are sporting a very mediocre 77% PK. San Jose got a huge Shorty in game 2 from Logan Couture and they have the series' only power play goal. If the numbers hold true, it should work out well for the team in teal.
- SCORE THE GAMES FIRST GOAL! Very cliche and obvious, but man... is it important (Ask Carolina). San Jose was 31-8-5 when scoring first in the regular season and they've been even better in the playoffs. It goes without saying that playing with a lead on the road is vitally important to their success. Scoring first will quiet the crowd a bit, and reinsert a little bit of that post-game one doubt that the Blues may have been feeling.
BONUS: Get Evander Kane going. He's been all over the puck but has nothing to show for it. Instead, he's become a turnover machine. If he can get back on track it will be the difference in the series.
Like I said before, nothing comes easy for this team.
Thanks for reading,