The Sharks are in a very strange position. In the SCF games they won, they did not play their best games. The stats all said so, the eye-test said so. They were outshot, outchanced, outworked, out-everythinged except scored, which sounds like some pretty dumb luck. On the other hand, in the games they looked better in, won more faceoffs, limited opposition shots, got more shots of their own… those games they lost. So, what the heck are they to do?
This morning, when asked what the Sharks needed to do to limit Penguins offense, the way they did in their Game 4 loss, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said:
I think being at home helped part of it but I think it was more a mindset. We got away from it last game, we allowed them to funnel pucks to the net and that’s what they do. And I thought we did a great job, it’s probably the best game of the series, where we’ve done a good job of denying them funneling those pucks to the net. So we’ve got to get back to that, help Jonesy out, because even if those aren’t quality shots it creates action at our net, it creates some chaos. That’s what they’re looking to do and we’ve got to put a stop to that.
So far, the Penguins have outshot the Sharks badly in all but one game, and in that game, Game 4, the Sharks just barely outshot the Penguins 24-20. And then they lost. Maybe trying to outshoot the Penguins is not key, maybe it doesn’t matter.
Giveaways. Lots of people complain about giveaways and how some of the best Sharks, like Burns and Thornton, give up too many pucks. That is certainly a problem, especially since Pittsburgh seems to take a shot every time they get a stick on the puck. But giveaways actually favor the Sharks in this series. The Penguins have led in giveaways in three of five games, and in Game 5 the lead was a marked 10-2. That was the fewest giveaways in a game in this series. The total was the same in Game 2, but then it was 8-4, again with the Penguins handing the puck over more often than the Sharks.
So what gives? Do we need to look at takeaways? Or are the Sharks deliberately not shooting, for fear of giving the puck back to the Penguins? It doesn’t seem that way. The Sharks simply do not have the puck often enough to give it away, never mind rack up a healthy shot total. Asked why the Sharks have not drawn more penalties in this series, DeBoer said:
I think it’s a couple things. I think obviously if you have the puck more, if you’re attacking more, you’re creating more of those opportunities. I don’t think there’s any doubt too that, this time of year, the teams get to play a little bit more. That’s historically been the mindset so it’s a little bit of both.
There you go, they simply have not had the puck enough to draw penalties, get many shots, or even give the puck away again. As DeBoer put it, they do need to put a stop to that if they want to go back to Pittsburgh.
Or maybe they don’t. Maybe their goalie can pull another one out of his mask, so to speak. DeBoer was asked to talk about how Martin Jones is the opposite of neurotic. He said:
I mean he is just one of the guys. You’d never know it, there’s no quirkiness to him, he doesn’t seem to have any rituals or any kind of really highs or lows. He comes in, he has a smile on his face, he does his job, and you wouldn’t know the bad days from the good days, I think that’s the beauty of him. He comes out, he’s had some tough starts too this year as well as some excellent ones and the next day you wouldn’t know whether he pitched a shut out or got lit up. So he’s been great.
I have to admit that if I hear one more person talk about how calm and unflappable Jones is, I might start thinking he is actually some other kind of peculiar, some kind of abnormally normal sort of thing. But really, what in the world does he have to freak out about? He’s getting paid good money to play a game he likes for a good team and he’s competing at the highest level in the best league and… yeah, what is there to stress about? There’s everything any normally unreasonable person would stress about in his shoes, but really. Really, whatever does he have to not smile about right now?