SAN JOSE -– Despite recording their lowest shot total of the playoffs, and second lowest of the season, the Sharks were able to find a way to get past the St. Louis Blues in Thursday’s Game 3.
There isn’t much not to like about San Jose’s game at present, as they’ve recorded consecutive shutouts to take a two-games-to-one lead on St. Louis in the Western Conference Final. But coach Pete DeBoer focused on the Sharks’ diminished shot total as one area that can improve in time for Saturday’s Game 4.
“The one thing I think we didn't do well tonight was shoot the puck,” DeBoer said on Thursday night. “We had a lot of odd-man attacks, a lot of two-on-ones, looks early in the game because they were pressing up. We just didn't hit the net, didn't shoot, passed up some shots. I think that's an area we can do a better job of.”
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The Sharks survived an early push from St. Louis in the first half of the first period, and didn’t record their first shot on goal until there was 11:23 to go in the opening frame.
Prior to that, though, there were some missed shots –- including Tomas Hertl’s wrister on a two-on-one that sailed well high of the net, and another good look a few minutes later by Joel Ward that missed everything.
By the time the game was over, the Sharks had a combined 31 shot attempts that either missed the net or were blocked by St. Louis. Only 16 were on goal, their lowest total since getting 14 at Detroit on Nov. 13.
“Opportunities are scarce this time of year,” Tommy Wingels said. “Very rarely do you get many Grade-A scoring chances. Last night we missed the net on a lot of those opportunities. … There were areas that we thought we could improve on to create more scoring chances, and create more pucks at the net. We’ve talked about, watched video, and we feel we can generate more shots, absolutely.”
Couture, who had one shot on goal and two misses, agreed.
“When we’re in the zone, shoot the puck. That’s what we’re good at,” he said. “We got away from that last night, myself, a couple times I had chances. I didn’t shoot the puck. Put the puck on net, it’s never a bad play.”
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While their 16 shots ended up being enough, as three of them got past Brian Elliott on Thursday, there’s some uncertainty as to which goalie the Sharks will be shooting on in Game 4. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock left the door open for a change after pulling Elliott in the third period of Game 3, the second time he’s given Elliott the hook in the last five games.
The Sharks are prepared for either Elliott or Jake Allen, according to DeBoer.
“[Goalie coach] Johan Hedberg has a report on both goalies,” DeBoer said. “Both excellent goalies. It's pick your poison. We'll deal with whoever they throw in net. Just have to concentrate on our game.”
Couture said he expects Elliott to return for Game 4.
“I don’t think they will [start Allen],” Couture said. “I think Elliott has gotten them here and he’s a very good goaltender, but Allen is a good goalie, as well. It would be a different challenge. We’ll see what happens.”