SAN JOSE –- Prior to their Western Conference Final series with St. Louis, coach Pete DeBoer seemingly went out of his way to remind the media –- and everyone else –- that the Blues were among the more penalized teams in the regular season.
The underlying message was that he wanted the series called tightly, due to the Sharks’ lethal power play, which finished third in the regular season and was even better through the first two rounds.
In the Stanley Cup Final against Pittsburgh, that power play has yet to get going. Tomas Hertl scored in Game 1, but that’s been it. The Sharks are just 1-for-10 overall with a man advantage, and the top unit has yet to put one in.
What does it have to do better?
“Score. Finish. We’ve had a couple looks,” Joe Pavelski said. “It could be better.”
Getting more chances would certainly help. The Sharks are getting an average of just two power plays-per-game in the Final, down from an average of 3.35 in the regular season and 3.5 through the first three rounds.
“I think we haven't had as many opportunities as we have some other series,” DeBoer said. “You don't get in that rhythm when you go long stretches without [a power play], and then get one. It's hard to get in that mindset.”
Pavelski said: “It’s just about being ready to execute on that first one. You’re not usually getting three, four, five a night here where you can work your way through it.”
Pittsburgh’s Matt Cullen credited his team for staying out of the box.
“For us, a big part of it is we've been pretty disciplined,” he said. “We haven't given them a lot of opportunities on the power play. Any power play in the league, if you give them enough opportunities, they're going to score.”
Both the Sharks’ coach and the captain, though, indicated that the referees are letting the two teams play. The Penguins have had only 11 power play chances themselves, scoring twice. Still, San Jose hasn’t played in the offensive zone nearly enough in the series at even strength, and that would be a good place to start if they want to draw penalties.
“We've got to attack more holes, find a way to draw some more penalties to get in our rhythm,” DeBoer said.
Returning home could provide the opportunity to do just that. In Game 4, even though they lost, the Sharks outshot Pittsburgh, 24-20. In the other four games of the series, the Penguins have outshot the Sharks by a combined 159-96.
Replicating that defensive effort could lead to more offense, and maybe a few more power play chances, too. DeBoer noted on Sunday morning that the Sharks played their best game in terms of limiting the Penguins’ powerful offense in that 3-1 loss.
“I thought we did a great job [in Game 4] of denying them funneling those pucks to the net,” DeBoer said.
“We've got to get back to that. We have to help [Martin Jones] out. Even if those aren't quality shots, it creates action in our net, it creates some chaos. That's what they're looking to do. We've got to put a stop to that.”