Throughout the Sharks’ deep playoff run, coach Pete DeBoer has avoided making any huge modifications to his lines or lineup. It’s worked so far, as San Jose is 4-1 after losses in the postseason, with the lone defeat coming in triple overtime against Nashville in a game that many would argue it deserved better.
Despite getting smoked on Saturday at home, 6-3, expect DeBoer to stick with what’s gotten him and his club to Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.
“You know what, we've played some really good hockey in the last two or three weeks,” DeBoer told reporters on Sunday. “I think we can fix it without having to take those type of measures.”
“Those things are always in play. We'll sleep on it, and make some decisions tomorrow.”
One option that wasn’t ruled out by DeBoer is Matt Nieto, who has been sidelined since May 9 with an upper body injury. While Nieto isn’t necessarily a game-breaker, with one goal and three points in 11 games, he could add some speed to the Sharks’ bottom six. The 23-year-old is “getting better,” according to DeBoer.
On Saturday, the Blues’ fourth line of Kyle Brodziak, Magnus Paajarvi and Dmitrij Jaskin was arguably its most effective trio, with Brodziak potting a pair. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock didn’t even have Paajarvi and Jaskin in the lineup until Game 3.
While Hitchcock has more tools in the shed when it comes to swapping guys in and out of the lineup –- Sharks healthy scratches Nikolay Goldobin, Micheal Haley and Barclay Goodrow probably aren’t NHL-playoff ready –- it may be DeBoer’s turn to make some sort of adjustment.
And in the third period of Game 4, he was trying. With the game essentially already decided, the coach put Chris Tierney, Melker Karlsson and Tommy Wingels together, and that line had some juice. Tierney and Karlsson each scored goals, making the final score more respectable.
If Nieto isn’t ready, could DeBoer go back to that look, which included another line of Nick Spaling, Joel Ward and Dainius Zubrus?
“We were shuffling the deck trying to get something going,” DeBoer said. “I don't know if that's something we'll continue with.”
In other words, DeBoer and the Sharks are likely banking on having another positive response following a decisive loss. Their best game of the playoffs so far, a 5-0 demolishing of the Predators in Game 7 of the second round, came three nights after they lost at Bridgestone Arena in Game 6, 4-3, in a game that wasn’t nearly as close as the score would indicate.
They recognize the problems they ran into on Saturday, and they are repairable, such as matching the Blues’ intensity and desperation in a series that is still very much up for grabs.
“After the game we realized we could have been better, could have been a lot harder, in areas we could have been cleaner, we didn't execute,” Joe Pavelski said. “The support wasn't there. We just got caught on the wrong side of the puck.
“You can't have that this time of the year. They were prepared to lay pucks in, be a little bit harder. We definitely have to get back and fix that.”
Logan Couture said: “We know in our room we didn't play well at all last night. We made a lot of mistakes that we haven't been making throughout these playoffs. But Game 5 is a new opportunity for us.”