SAN JOSE -– The Sharks were sitting on just nine shots on goal late in the second period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday in Pittsburgh, trailing 1-0 in a game that felt much more lopsided than the score.
It was evident that coach Pete DeBoer was going to have to change something at the intermission to try and get his team skating again. They were stuck in neutral.
What he did was predictable, including bumping Joel Ward up to the Logan Couture line with Joonas Donskoi, while Patrick Marleau went back to the third line center role that he spent much of the second half of the season in, with Matt Nieto and Melker Karlsson. The Sharks got going at that point, eventually tying the game on Justin Braun’s goal, and outshooting Pittsburgh 9-6 in the final fame before Conor Sheary’s overtime heroics.
The Sharks, like the Penguins, didn’t skate on Thursday on what was a travel day for both. Whether DeBoer sticks with those lines for Game 3 on Saturday is uncertain, but he’s weighing it.
“I haven't decided if we're going to start where we ended last game,” DeBoer said on a conference call. “I liked the response we got in the third period. I thought we were better. It gave us a little bit of a jolt. One of the combinations (the Couture line) found a way to get a goal. I thought the other combinations started to look a little more dangerous.
“I'm going to take [Friday], a practice day, and we'll come up with some answers.”
Clearly, the Sharks are having trouble matching up against the Penguins. Marleau, who hadn’t played as the third line center since Game 4 of the second round, played a key role in the Kings first round series presenting speed problems for Los Angeles’ bottom lines and defense pairs.
The Penguins had been doing just that, particularly against the Sharks' third line and third defense pair through much of the first five periods against the Sharks, until DeBoer’s move.
“Pittsburgh presents some matchup issues for everybody they’ve played,” DeBoer said. “When you have [Evgeni] Malkin, [Sidney] Crosby and [Phil] Kessel on three different lines, that presents matchup issues.
“Regardless of the matchups, guys have to get the job done when they're on the ice.”
Being at home now DeBoer will get the last change, so perhaps that can aid in his dealing with the Penguins’ better forward depth. San Jose is 7-2 at SAP Center in the postseason.
But maybe more than that is the atmosphere will surely be a raucous one for the first-ever Stanley Cup Final game in San Jose.
“It's very meaningful to the people here,” DeBoer said. “I think I saw the emotion after we won the Western Conference [on May 25] and the days following that before we left for Pittsburgh. It's important to the people here.
“Obviously we're not coming home under the best circumstances, but we also know we're a tough out, we're going to be a tough team to beat at home. Pittsburgh showed you that. … I think them being at home, the home crowd, definitely made it a tough environment for us on the road. We want to do the same to them. Return the favor.”