Peter DeBoer shook up his lineup ahead of Game 5 and it proved to be the right call as the Sharks blitzed the Predators.
Through the first nine games of this playoff campaign, head coach Peter DeBoer has decided to ice the same lineup for the San Jose Sharks. However, following their marathon loss in Game 4, he decided to alter his lineup before the biggest game of the Sharks season to date.
Boy, did it pay off for team teal in Game 5.
San Jose looked reinvigorated as they absolutely dominated Nashville from the drop of the puck as they took Game 5 with a convincing 5-1 victory. Leading the way for the Sharks was the newly constructed line of Patrick Marleau, Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi.
DeBoer decided to move Marleau up from the third-line center role to the wing alongside Couture and Donskoi, and he responded with his best game of the entire playoffs. DeBoer decided to start his new line and from the opening puck drop, they dictated the pace for this San Jose team.
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Marleau was using his speed to create havoc, while Couture and Donskoi continued to be the best forwards for the Sharks in this series. The newly formed trio combined for two goals, three assists, seven shots and a plus-three rating, including getting team teal on the board first off a beautiful feed from Donskoi to Marleau for his third of the playoffs.
The goal was obviously a big one for the Sharks who were all over the Predators in the first period. Cashing in on that pressure was great to see after letting so many opportunities go by the wayside throughout the overtime sessions in Game 4.
Then, with San Jose leading 2-1 after 20 minutes, Donskoi would hit Couture for a back-breaking goal just 35 seconds into the second period as the Sharks wouldn’t look back from there. Marleau was flying in Game 5 as he looked very comfortable back on the wing.
Reuniting Marleau and Couture together was a great move as Couture has been all around the puck this entire series, leading the Sharks with four goals and seven points, so adding Marleau on his wing to get him going worked out brilliantly.
To be fair, San Jose’s top line of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl were also great in helping the Sharks thoroughly dominate Nashville. Pavelski was phenomenal with two more goals, including the game-winner just 1:41 after Mike Fisher had tied the game. Thornton’s pass to set up that goal was one very few people in this league could make and he added two more assists to his name.
Now, the Marleau move wasn’t the only one DeBoer made as he inserted veteran Dainius Zubrus on to the fourth line for Tommy Wingels. While Zubrus didn’t factor on the score sheet, it was clear to see how fresh Zubrus was. He used his 6-foot-5 frame to get in the forecheck and throw his weight around.
In more than 11 minutes of ice time, Zubrus was second on the team with six hits as he provided the physical presence the Sharks were looking for.
The moves in Game 5 were the first signs of adjustments from DeBoer and they came at just the right time for this San Jose team. They needed a little boost to their lineup following the crushing loss in Game 4, and the moves paid immediate dividends.
The Sharks were the aggressor in Game 5 and responded with their best game of this series. They will look to carry the momentum from Saturday night with them to Music City as they look to close out this Predators team and advance to the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2011.