San Jose’s top players will have to be at their best for the Sharks to advance to the Western Conference Finals.
Following their Game 5 victory at the SAP Center on Saturday night, Logan Couture talked about how the team’s big guns are supposed to step up, lead the way and score big goals for the San Jose Sharks.
He was spot on in his assessment that team teal will only go as far as their best players will take them. Unfortunately, after coming through with a big performance in Game 5, San Jose’s leaders were held in check for most of the night as the Nashville Predators took the game to the Sharks after Roman Josi’s goal late in the first period.
From that moment on, team teal’s offensive stalwarts were held in check as San Jose could muster just nine shots on goal in the second, third and overtime periods. Their inability to create any sort of sustained momentum was a big reason why there will be a Game 7 tomorrow night.
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For the Sharks, it all starts with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski who must be on top of their games for the home team to have a shot. In Game 5, they were fantastic, but in Game 6, not so much. It was probably the worst game of the playoffs for Thornton who didn’t appear to have the jump in his legs.
Their line, along with Tomas Hertl, had just three shots on goal in Game 6. They must be better and spend more time in the Nashville zone.
It should come as no surprise that all six of Pavelski’s points, three goals and three assists, have come in the three Sharks wins, while he’s been held scoreless in all three losses.
Also, the newly formed second line of Couture, Patrick Marleau and Joonas Donskoi have to step their game up as well. After combining for two goals and three assists and really setting the tone from the puck drop in Game 5, they were ineffective for long stretches of play in Game 6.
While Couture found the back of the net on the power play, they created very few chances the rest of the night.
Marleau is at his best when he’s skating and using his speed to create havoc for the opposition. Couture has been the Sharks best forward in this series with five goals and three assists. They’ve got to be able to control more of the puck tomorrow night and apply pressure on the Nashville defense.
Speaking of defense, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic have to be engaged and limit the potent trio that makes up the Predators top line. Burns has been good again with two goals and five assists in nearly 28 minutes of ice time in this series, while Vlasic has recorded an assist in each of the last four games to go along with a plus-four rating in more than 24 minutes of ice time.
Both will be relied upon heavily by Peter DeBoer as the Sharks will ride their top two blue liners for most of the night.
Throughout this entire season, San Jose’s mantra has been that this is a different team looking to forge their own identity. They won’t let their failures of the past dictate the present, which is one reason why they were able to get past the Kings in round one.
They have another opportunity to change the narrative in Game 7 tomorrow night, and the leaders will have to be the ones who pave the way into the next round for the Sharks.