SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ victory in Game 6 on Sunday fit a winning formula they put into play during the regular season: Allow two goals or fewer, and you’ll win the game. That’s something that has proven to be true through the first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights, as San Jose has allowed two or fewer goals in all three of its wins.
But despite that, the Sharks' last two games have showcased some troubling statistics. Namely, they've allowed a lot of shots to get through to goaltender Martin Jones.
Sure, Jones has been on his A-game the last two contests, and San Jose has done a better job of taking the center of the ice away from Vegas. But the Sharks still have room for improvement with the a decisive Game 7 at SAP Center on Tuesday. One of those things is, without a doubt, limiting the number of opportunities Vegas’ offense gets.
“We have to spend less time in our d-zone,” winger Evander Kane said Monday. “Be a little quicker to close and get out of the zone quicker. I think that will help cut down on some shots, and obviously we want to spend a little more time on the attack as well.”
Vegas has outshot San Jose in consecutive games. The Knights held a 32-29 edge in Game 5, then a massive 59-29 advantage in Game 6. They also created 19 high-danger chances compared to 12 for the Sharks, according to Natural Stat Trick.
All of this happened even though San Jose’s defense has been pushing Vegas’ forwards out to the edges when they try to generate anything off of a rush. But, there’s no denying San Jose will want to bridge that gap in quality -- whether or not that also happens on the shot clock.
“I thought there was a lot of perimeter stuff, but we’re still allowing those pucks to get to the net,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “So we’ve got to shut that down.”
Above all, limiting Vegas’ chances gives Jones the support he needs. After being pulled twice in three straight Sharks losses, their beleaguered starter has been absolutely nails, especially in the Game 6 win. San Jose center Logan Couture said Jones “was probably the reason we won that game.” Keeping the Knights – who will extra hungry after dropping two straight games – from getting any kind of a jump on Jones will be huge.
So how do the Sharks make that happen? Spending more time out their own zone, according to DeBoer.
"In order to do that, we have to forecheck better,” he said. “We have to play in the other team’s end more. I thought were a little disjointed offensively and excepted the game a little bit too much last night during some periods.”
That effort, however, doesn't start in the offensive zone. The Sharks, according to Couture, have to be more effective exiting their own zone.
“I think we can forecheck better. Break out better," he said. "We can’t spend so much time in our own end and give up 59 shots again.”
San Jose is all too aware of how momentum can shift back and forth in a crucial Game 7 situation. But the Sharks are more than up to facing that challenge.
“Things are going to happen, there are going to be swings throughout the game,” Couture said. “They’re fun games to play in. You relish it and enjoy it. This is what hockey is all about. That’s why it’s a fun sport to play.”