The comforting factor for the San Jose Sharks is they’ve been here before. “Been there, done that” always provides a calming feeling for professional athletes.
What remains to be seen is where the journey goes from this point.
As the Sharks prepare to visit the St. Louis Blues for Game 3 of the Western Conference finals on Wednesday night, it’s with a sense of deja vu. In all three of their Stanley Cup playoff sets this year, the Sharks opened with a big victory but dropped Game 2 with a disappointing performance.
“The one thing I take comfort in is our character, our ability to bounce back and ability to recognize what we’ve got to fix it,” Sharks coach Pete DeBoer said after his team’s 4-2 loss in Game 2. “We’ve done that the entire playoffs.
“Hey, this isn’t going to be easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. We’re down to the last four teams. Look at their record since January, and they’re the best team in hockey.”
In the opening round of the postseason, the Sharks fell behind the Vegas Golden Knights three games to one before winning three in a row — capped by a one-for-the-ages comeback in Game 7, when they erased a three-goal, third-period deficit and won in overtime.
Their second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche was a win-one, lose-one clash in which the Sharks won every odd-numbered game, the benefit of home-ice advantage.
San Jose’s experience is on the plus side of the ledger, but there are some disturbing elements in play right now, too. The biggest is the lack of offensive production from their depth players. Sure, the top two lines are producing — especially Logan Couture — but their bottom six forwards, especially the third line of Joe Thornton, Marcus Sorensen and Kevin Labanc, have gone missing.
“I don’t think we’ve played up to our capabilities in a while now,” said Couture, who leads the league in playoff goals (13) and points (19). “We did just enough to beat the Avalanche, but we haven’t played our best hockey since that Vegas series. It’s discouraging. It’s frustrating because we’re going to need everyone here if we’re going to beat these guys, because they’re a very good hockey team.”
Yet, it’s the Blues who are receiving depth production these days, while many of their big guns — notably Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko — are misfiring, a big reason St. Louis is 1-for-26 on the power play over the past eight games.
“That’s how we’re built,” Schenn told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “It’s kinda been like that all year, whether the back end’s scoring or guys are stepping up. We didn’t have too many 20-goal scorers, and we had 99 points on the season.”
The most consistent producer for the Blues has been Jaden Schwartz, who netted just 11 goals in a disappointing regular season but has a team-high nine in the playoffs.
“It’s definitely the funnest time of the year,” Schwartz said. “I had some struggles earlier that I haven’t really had before, but once playoff starts ... I don’t know (if) you just embrace the games, have fun with it. I don’t really try to think too much about it.”
—Field Level Media