If the Sharks are to face Boston and play for the Stanley Cup, it will necessitate a third consecutive series featuring a Game 7. On Sunday, San Jose had the bold opportunity to seize a three-games-to-two series lead against St. Louis but fell completely flat after the first 20 minutes.
Now they face elimination, needing two wins to escape and advance. Here are the big takeaways from the Western Conference final Game 5 loss.
More concerning than the 5-0 loss is the four players San Jose lost to injury during the contest. Erik Karlsson skated only three minutes of the second period and never returned. A best logical guess is that his previous leg-related ailments have returned or worsened. Tomas Hertl absorbed an Ivan Barbashev head hit in the first period, and while he played during the second period there was no return for the third.
Joe Pavelski was unnecessarily pinned and elbowed into the boards by Alex Pietrangelo early in the third, and immediately left the contest. Lastly, Joonas Donskoi was accidentally struck in the face by a puck that Justin Braun was trying to clear from the defensive zone in the third. The bloodied forward made a quick exit to the dressing room.
The challenge for San Jose to adapt and be better in Game 6 while facing elimination on the road would have been enough on their plate. However, if they are forced to do without one, or two, or more of those previous four mentioned players — the task goes from difficult to dire.
It’s been a slogan all season that the Sharks would go so far as the defense could take them. However, the offense has hit an uncharacteristic low at the most unfortunate time. San Jose has just one goal in their last six periods.
Their first 20 minutes on Sunday saw eleven shots on goal. But then, things dwindled to just six and four in the respective final two periods. Anyone looking at the final score might be concerned with the “five” allowed from Game 5, but if you’re following trends, San Jose’s “zero” is the bigger story.
San Jose and St. Louis have many things in common, including getting things done the hardest of possible ways. The Blues own a 7-2 playoff record outside of Missouri, meaning they’re an unexplainable 4-5 on home ice. As for San Jose, they’ve got an 0-6 record when leading a series, but a 10-3 record when tied or trailing in these Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It’s amazing how the Sharks have never had the opportunity for a single comfortable breath in these playoffs. The last two losses are their first in sequence since April 14 and 16 while facing Las Vegas. This means they went more than a month without losing back-to-back games -- but now., they face elimination.
No matter how and when these playoffs conclude for San Jose, the overwhelming theme is already starting to write itself: Every step has been a grind.