PITTSBURGH – The biggest reason to be optimistic of the Sharks’ chances to tie the Stanley Cup Final at one game apiece on Wednesday night is how they’ve responded to losses. That’s particularly true in the last four games, in which they are 4-0 while outscoring the opposition 20-4.
Coach Pete DeBoer has mentioned numerous times throughout the year that his veteran club is able to identify when it doesn’t play well, and quickly remedy it.
Logan Couture went into some specifics about what’s made them successful in that regard.
“The guys in here are smart enough to realize when we don’t play well,” Couture said. “If you don’t realize it, there’s video that’s shown that proves it to you so you see it with your own eyes. Guys realize that they need to be better. As a group, everyone needs to be better going forward here. I expect us to be better.”
Not allowing so many shots would be a good place to start. Pittsburgh managed 41 in Game 1, scoring three times, while the Sharks had to rely on Martin Jones to keep the game close.
San Jose allowed more than 40 shots just once in the postseason prior to Monday, the triple overtime loss to Nashville in the second round.
"The way we look at those  shots, a lot were from the outside, but a lot were also prime scoring chances,” Tommy Wingels said. “Are you OK with giving away the ones from outside? Yeah, that’s fine. But it’s the ones in that part of the slot that the goalie needs to bail you out that we’ve got to eliminate.
“It’s about our puck management, breaking out clean, playing more in the offensive zone and eliminating their O-zone time.”
The Penguins are averaging 35.4 shots in the playoffs, and have outshot their opponents in 10 straight games by an average differential of plus-12.1.
The last two teams to outshoot their opponents in 10-plus straight playoff games have gone on to win the Stanley Cup, including the 2009 Penguins and 2008 Red Wings.
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Another area for improvement for the Sharks is faceoffs. They are just 46.8 percent on draws, last among the 16 teams in the playoffs.
Couture has particularly struggled, going 98-for-225 (43.6 percent). Joel Ward is 42-for-109 (38.5 percent).
“Part of it is opponents. You play the L.A. Kings, Nashville, St. Louis, you're playing very good faceoff teams,” DeBoer said. “But it's an area that is an issue for us. You want to start with the puck as much as possible. The other team wants it, too.”
Joe Pavelski said: “If you lose a faceoff, you try to get it back, compete. It's just an area it's nice to win, [but] if you don't, it's not the end of the story.”
The Sharks were seventh in the NHL in the regular season in faceoffs at 50.7 percent.
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DeBoer took just two questions in his pregame presser. Along with touching on Matt Nieto’s return, he was asked if his team’s best players have to be better in Game 2.
“I think our whole team has to be better. That’s all those guys included,” DeBoer said.
“As a coach, when you get to this point, really throughout the playoffs, you want to put your best game out there and see if it’s good enough, and so far it has been. I think as a group we didn’t do that last game. We want to make sure we throw that at them tonight.”