After two suspect performances, the Sharks need to ramp up their effort ahead of Game 4 tomorrow night.
The San Jose Sharks were rolling as they hit the ice at Bridgestone Arena for Game 3 of their Western Conference semifinals series against the Nashville Predators. They had won six of their first seven postseason contests and were undefeated on the road.
After taking a 1-0 lead into the dressing room after the first period, it looked like team teal was in a great position to keep their mojo going. However, a determined Nashville side wouldn’t let that happen. The Predators would score four unanswered goals, capitalizing on some sloppy play from the Sharks as they took Game 3 with a 4-1 victory.
Now that we have a series on our hands again, San Jose will need to bounce back before tomorrow’s Game 4 matchup where Nashville will look to even up this series.
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For the Sharks, they need to be a lot cleaner and crisper in many aspects of their game. Uncharacteristically, team teal struggled with the man advantage going 0-for-4 with only four shots on goal. That’s not what we’re used to seeing from this power play which has been so dynamic throughout this postseason.
Within the forward ranks, San Jose’s top line has to be better. The trio of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl hasn’t found the kind of time or space that they did against the Kings. While Thornton’s perfect pass helped set up the game-winner from Pavelski in Game 2, the Sharks need more zone time and chances generated from their top line.
Also, Joonas Donskoi will look to respond after a very poor Game 3 performance. Donskoi had been great for team teal over the last three games, but his high-sticking penalty led to James Neal’s tying goal and his turnover at his own blue line led to Shea Weber’s game-winning blast.
It’s easy to forget, with how good he’s been, that Donskoi is only a rookie, but look for him to bounce back after being demoted to the fourth line in last night’s game. San Jose will want to re-establish the chemistry the second line had during games one and two.
Furthermore, the Sharks need to be much sharper exiting their zone and getting through the middle of the ice. San Jose is turning too many pucks over which is only feeding the Nashville attack. If the Sharks don’t clean up this area, they’ll be in for another dog fight as you can’t allow this Predators team to come at you in waves with the way they can defend.
In between the pipes, Martin Jones was good, but needs to make an adjustment with where the Predators shooters are attacking. Four of Nashville’s last six goals in this series, including three of the four last night, all went high and to the glove side on Jones. While Jones is taking away everything on the lower-half of the net, he must be better in protecting the top half as the Predators will surely continue to attack a weakness.
Overall, San Jose is still in a good spot despite not coming close to playing their best game. That’s a good and bad thing: good in the sense that the Sharks have found ways to win and still hole a two games-to-one series lead, but bad in the sense that they can’t expect to beat this Predators team if they continue this trend.
This Sharks team has been a resilient group all season long, and it’s time to display that resiliency once more by having the whole team buy-in and ready to work for a full 60-minutes, if not longer, tomorrow night.