SAN JOSE – Step one for the Sharks after losing games one and two of the Stanley Cup Final in Pittsburgh was spending more time in their offensive zone. That box was checked on Saturday in a 3-2 overtime win in Game 3, in which San Jose had 79 shot attempts to the Penguins’ 76.
Step two, though, is now finding a way to get more of those shots to actually make it through to goaltender Matt Murray. San Jose had a total of 38 of its attempts blocked by the Penguins on Saturday, so despite out-attempting Pittsburgh, the Sharks were actually outshot for the game by a significant margin, 42-26.
Considering the 22-year-old rookie Murray suddenly looks vulnerable, allowing stoppable shots by Justin Braun and Joel Ward to get through, that may be particularly essential as the series progresses.
“They make a commitment to block. We've got to keep shooting,” coach Pete DeBoer said on Sunday. “I think there's no bad shots for us. Even if it gets blocked, a lot of times we can recover it. We're going to keep our shooting mentality and keep firing.”
Joe Pavelski said: “Thirty eight blocks, yeah, that’s good – we’ve got the puck. It seems like we’re probably getting it back off those and re-attacking again. You try to get more shots on net. If they’re doing a good job in the lanes you maybe look off a little bit, or just try to get open as a forward and shoot quicker. … We’ll keep trying to get it there.”
Pavelski, in particular, has had trouble getting shots through. Still the NHL’s leading goal scorer in the playoffs with 13, the Sharks captain has just four shots through three games. He has yet to find the scoresheet.
After opting to pass despite some clean looks at the net over the first few games – including a prime chance from about 10 feet away in Game 3 on a delayed Penguins penalty in the second period – Pavelski admitted he has to change his mentality.
“I’ve passed on a few shots recently that maybe I haven’t earlier,” he said. “Get back to a shooting mindset a little bit.”
For the series, the Penguins have 113 shots on goal to the Sharks’ 74. They’ve outshot their opponent in 12 straight playoff games, continually trying to get as much rubber on Martin Jones as possible.
While the discrepancy is a sizable one, it’s not overly concerning to DeBoer in regards to either shots for or shots against.
“You do have to look at quality versus quantity,” he said. “I don't think it's as easy as looking at the shot clock and saying you're getting dominated because they've got 40 shots and you've got 26. I don't think the game is that simple. They get pucks to the net. We can probably do a better job of limiting that, getting in some more lanes.
“But does the fact that they have 30 more shots in the series bother me? Not as much as it bothers you guys.”
Jones agreed with his coach.
“That's kind of just the way they play,” he said. “They throw pucks from all angles. We're not too worried about the shot clock."