Sharks

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer reflects on success since last playing Senators

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USATSI

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer reflects on success since last playing Senators

SAN JOSE – The first time the Sharks faced off against the Senators this season, they were in the middle of their longest losing streak this season and were having trouble finding consistency. Since that game, things have certainly changed.

After Ottawa handed San Jose their fourth straight defeat and the team had a closed door meeting, the Sharks began righting the ship – offensively, defensively, and between the pipes. In the 19 games since falling to Ottawa 6-2, San Jose has gone 14-3-2.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was asked about that loss on Saturday morning as the team prepared to play the Senators for the second and final time this season. DeBoer told the media there were many things that went into the team turning things around after that defeat back on Dec. 1.

“I think it’s a little much to say it was one meeting or one thing,” DeBoer said. “I think bottom line is, you have a good group of professionals and a talented team that wasn’t playing well and just had enough. It was like ‘rock bottom, and that’s enough.’”

DeBoer admitted, though, that he felt the group needed to hit that low point in order to really get their game in order.

“They knew how we had to play in order to have success and up until that point we weren’t prepared to fully invest in that type of game,” he said. “Sometimes you have to hit a rock bottom in order to bounce off that and get in the right direction. I think that’s what happened.”

Of course, the player who has made the most talked-about leap has been former Sens captain Erik Karlsson, who has been an unstoppable force for San Jose in that 19-game span. DeBoer acknowledged No. 65 had many adjustments to make both on and off the ice when he first came to San Jose, and that “he’s got it all figured out” now.

The adjustments the Sharks as a whole have made to their game came at the right time, too, as the teams around them in the Pacific Division began heating up. San Jose had one of their biggest successes against a division rival just on Thursday evening, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights and taking over second place in the Pacific.

DeBoer said he was happy the Sharks were playing their “do-over” game against Ottawa on the heels of the win over Vegas.

“I’m actually glad we have something like that tonight,” DeBoer said, “because you’re coming off an emotional win in Vegas and this is always a little bit of a trap game – the game after a game like that on the road. We do have that motivation there and we have to use that.”

Five takeaways from Sharks' historic win to force Game 7 vs. Vegas

Five takeaways from Sharks' historic win to force Game 7 vs. Vegas

Easter Sunday 2019 will live in the history books for San Jose’s hockey team.  The hope is that it gets eclipsed with elation from the upcoming Game 7. But as for Game 6, it was a storybook thriller in all senses.  

Here are some takeaways from a 2-1 double-overtime win, where franchise history was made on a couple of different fronts.

Jones saves the day

Martin Jones made 58 saves. That’s never been done in any Sharks game, regular or postseason. Ever. What a statement from a goalie who was put on the ropes after Games 3 and 4 in Las Vegas.  Pulled in both, and not widely favored by critics to even be the starter in Game 5.  But Pete DeBoer made the bold statement, and Jones has now responded twice. What he did the last time in San Jose is not a “one-off”, and if the series finale turns out to be a goalie battle, you have to feel good about the guy in Teal.

First-timer

Tomas Hertl’s double-overtime, short-handed, game-winner… was also the first ever in Stanley Cup Playoff history.

Again, ever.  

It had been done before in single-overtime, but never after that. It was amazing to see Hertl fed with the puck and cross center ice seeming to lose some gas. Instead, he snapped one past Marc-Andre Fleury, and just like that, became the hero for a second straight game.  He predicted a Game 7, during that interview after Game 5… and here we are.

Another first-timer

Never in history had the Sharks been down in a series 3-1, and forced a seventh game. Until now. Sure, there’s a lot of work to be done for San Jose as it relates to advancing. But the way this series has played out in regard to momentum should clearly give them all the mental edge heading into Tuesday night. Las Vegas could have escaped the first round long ago, but now after missing on two opportunities, they have to come back to California again.  

Feelin' it, stealin' it

The Sharks stole one, on Sunday. They got out-shot 59-29. They got out-drawn 56% to 44%. San Jose didn’t always start with the puck, or have the puck, and didn’t always dominate gameplay.  But they did collapse in front of Jones and support their goalie with excellent net-front presence. It’s rare that the offense has a slow night, but they did, and fortunately, it wasn’t costly.

[RELATED: Hertl's double-OT winner in Game 6 highlights breakout season]

#TwoOrFewer

#TwoOrFewer lives on. The Sharks were 34-0 this season entering Sunday in games where they allowed two goals or fewer to the opponent. In fact, both their wins in this series had been earned that way, with respective 5-2 victories. But tonight, had Las Vegas won after regulation, it would have been their first loss while allowing two or fewer… and it would have also ended their season. Instead, the trend moves on to 35-0, and the thought has to be that if San Jose can win Game 7, it will largely be predicated on their play without the puck.
 

NHL playoffs: How Sharks can, can't beat Vegas in Game 7, advance

NHL playoffs: How Sharks can, can't beat Vegas in Game 7, advance

The Sharks improbably kept their season alive Sunday with a 2-1 double-overtime win in Game 6, forcing a decisive Game 7 in their Stanley Cup playoff first-round series with the Vegas Golden Knights. 

San Jose trailed three to one after four games and looked dead in the water but now has won the last two. Martin Jones kept the Game 7 door ajar with a franchise-record 58 saves through four periods and change Sunday. With the Sharks facing a penalty kill in the second overtime, Tomas Hertl did his best Mark Messier impression to bust it wide open.

Now, the Sharks have their first-ever chance to eliminate the Golden Knights on Tuesday at SAP Center. So, here’s how San Jose can advance to the second round -- and how the 2018-19 season could end on home ice.

The Sharks can win if …

Kevin Labanc, Marcus Sorensen and Joe Thornton get on the scoresheet

Since Thornton returned from his one-game suspension in Game 6, the Sharks’ third line arguably has been their best. Although the trio has been out-shot against the Golden Knights in the last two games, they have generated more quality chances than their opposition.

Per Natural Stat Trick, San Jose controlled 59.95 percent of the expected goals and 66.67 percent of the high-danger chances with that line on the ice in Games 5 and 6. That hasn’t turned into a goal yet, but could lead to a critical one in Game 7 if they keep it up.

Just two of the Golden Knights’ bottom-six forwards (Alex Tuch and Cody Eakin) have scored a goal in this series, and 17 of 21 have come from players on Vegas’ first and second lines. Thornton, Labanc and Barclay Goodrow are the Sharks’ only bottom-six forwards to score so far, and San Jose could use a goal (or two) from someone in that group to create separation in Game 7.

Both teams have relied on their stars offensively so far, and depth contributions ultimately could push one of them through to the second round. If the Sharks’ third line continues to develop quality chances, they just might be the ones to do it.

[RELATED: Hertl's game-winner highlights breakout season]

The Sharks can’t win if …

Martin Jones relents under the Golden Knights’ pressure

Jones was at his best Sunday when the team in front of him was not. Through just over 82-and-a-half minutes of 5-on-5 play, the Sharks ceded the vast majority of puck possession.

According to Natural Stat Trick, the Golden Knights:

  • Out-attempted the Sharks, 111-63
  • Out-shot the Sharks, 56-26
  • Out-chanced the Sharks, 33-29
  • Won the high-danger chance battle, 16-11

Sunday was an extreme example of the disparities that Jones has faced during this series as a whole, with the Golden Knights edging the Sharks in every major 5-on-5 puck-possession category through six games. He stood tall in the face of said pressure in each of the last two, allowing only one full-strength goal as San Jose tried to protect narrow leads at various stages in both games.

That’s a stark turnaround, considering Jones posted an .836 5-on-5 save percentage through the series' first four games. Jones has faced a lower rate of high-danger shots and expected goals in the last two games than he did prior, but he still has seen more rubber at full strength than Marc-Andre Fleury has in the opposite crease.

The Sharks and Golden Knights have each averaged two-and-a-half power play opportunities in the last two games, compared to five and five-and-a-half, respectively, in the previous four contests. The whistles probably won’t come out much more in a decisive Game 7, and the Golden Knights have been the better 5-on-5 team.

If that continues in Game 7 and Jones falters, the Sharks’ in-series comeback will be for naught.