ST. LOUIS -- While the Sharks find themselves in the unfamiliar position of trailing a playoff series, after winning the first two games of each of the first two rounds, they’ve shown an ability to respond well after losses. That’s the biggest reason they’re in the Western Conference Final.
Against the Kings, a Game 3 overtime defeat was followed by a 3-2 win in Game 4 in which San Jose controlled play for the first two periods before hanging on in the third.
In the Nashville series the Sharks lost Games 3, 4 and 6, but in every game afterwards, they were the superior team. San Jose deserved better in Game 4 against the Predators, a triple overtime loss, and put forth its two strongest games of the postseason in Games 5 and 7.
They’ll try to even their series with St. Louis on Tuesday, after dropping Game 1 at Scottrade Center on Sunday, 2-1.
“I think this team has shown a short memory,” Joe Thornton said on Monday. “Get the last game out of your head and focus in on the next game. I think we've done that real good this postseason. We'll see if we can do it again tomorrow.”
DeBoer said: “We're confident in our group. This might take seven games. We might go down 2‑0. I'm not concerned about it. I know where our group is. I think we feel confident that however long this takes, that we have the game to come out on the other end of it.”
Getting a lead on St. Louis, now 5-0 in the playoffs when leading after two, is paramount. The Sharks were able to quickly tie Game 1 in the first period on Tomas Hertl’s score just half a minute after David Backes gave the home team a 1-0 advantage, but were never able to find a second goal after Jori Lehtera’s preventable second period marker.
Searching for the equalizer in the third period, the Sharks didn’t threaten the Blues much until late in regulation, and that was only after Martin Jones was pulled. They had just four shots on goal in the final frame before Jones was replaced by an extra attacker with two-and-a-half minutes left.
St. Louis lost just one game in regulation in the regular season when trailing after two (28-1-5). Similarly, the Sharks were 28-0-2 when leading after two and are 5-0 in the playoffs.
The positive attributes of their own game when protecting a third period lead are just what the Sharks saw from St. Louis in Game 1.
“They don’t make mistakes, they don’t really turn pucks over,” Logan Couture said. “They’re pretty simple. They get it out, their d-men block shots. They’re good at clearing the front of the net.”
While the Sharks were not overly displeased with their Game 1 performance, the Blues were much more critical of themselves. On Monday, St. Louis’ Patrik Berglund called it “maybe one of the worst [games] for us in the playoffs. We had a really hard time [exiting] the zone in our own end to get on offense.”
Coach Ken Hitchcock indicated the same, saying his team was operating at “70 percent” for Game 1.
“There's a good feeling that we won a hockey game where we were not close to our best,” Hitchcock said. “We know we've got a whole other level in us. We know we can meet that level.”
After feeling each other out in Game 1 and getting a taste of how the series will progress, DeBoer expects things to ramp up for Game 2.
“I know we're going to be better,” said the coach. “I'm sure they're going to be better next game, too.”