Sure, the Sharks have to move on from the colossal disappointment of Game 5. Not dwelling on any one tilt is something head coach Todd McLellan has been preaching all series.
But the team will also have to identify those things that went wrong in Saturday’s shutout. That’s the only way to hopefully emerge victorious in Game 6 down in LA and, in turn, move on to the Western Conference Semifinals.
Was lack of focus the reason the Sharks couldn’t close out the series?
Team Teal knows all too well that the Kings are a tough team to face, yet they didn’t look prepared to fight in Saturday’s matchup.
But despite the team looking dazed for most of their last bout, Joe Pavelski insisted that San Jose is in the right frame of mind:
“We’re on right now. The switch is on. We’re in playoff mode… We knew it was going to be a tough series. We worked hard to get that (three games to none.) We’ve got to find a way to win that fourth game… Our switch is on and we want to be a lot better than we were tonight.”
So if the mentality is there, is it the chemistry that was off in Game 5?
Pavelski’s placement on offense has been a hot topic since before these playoffs started. The issue caught fire again on Saturday when Pavelski started the tilt at third line center before quickly moved back to the Thornton-Burns line.
Movement rippled through the lines for the rest of the game, including defensive shuffling after Marc-Edouard Vlasic got clocked in the head by Jarret Stoll and missed the rest of the game.
When asked post game if he had originally planned on so much mid-game mixing and matching, McLellan quickly responded:
“I don’t think you can read too much into that early switch with Pav and the rest of the group… Part of the plan went out the window about four shifts in when we were standing still, watching. There wasn’t one line combination that stayed the same throughout the first thirty minutes of the game. Trying to find legs. Trying to find pairs of players that were capable of executing. Trying to find momentum.”
Momentum eluded San Jose for almost a full 60 minutes of hockey. The Sharks were ultimately outshot by the Kings 41-30, putting a dismal six shots on goal in the opening frame next to LA’s 18 attempts and two goals.
Playing with only five defensemen after losing Vlasic 14 minutes into the game didn’t help the Sharks case either, Boyle explained:
“The problem is playing five D when you’re down 3-0. That’s where it gets a little bit difficult. You get five D when you’re up, you can keep it simple, play a certain way. But when you’re down three goals… it definitely got a little difficult.”
Truth be told, all of those elements affected Saturday’s outcome, the Sharks need to correct them well before the puck drops at Staples Center on Monday. They can’t afford a repeat performance of Game 5, Joe Thornton said:
“We were at a sink from the start, which is unacceptable this time of year.”