With the television in the locker room showing the 5-0 shellacking that was currently underway in Pittsburgh (which Tampa Bay eventually won 8-2), the steadily increasing score on the screen served as a good reminder for San Jose heading into game five.
It was something that Sharks Captain Joe Thornton was quick to point out following today's morning skate.
"Control your emotions. Play fast, play strong, play smart," Thornton said. "There's both a danger with both (playing at home or on the road). Sometimes you get too excited or you expect it's just going to happen at home. There's both sides to that coin. We need to be excited and smart tonight."
Pittsburgh isn't the only team to have its share of struggles in game five at home-- last night both Philadelphia and Anaheim lost their home games to go down 3-2 in their respective series', and Vancouver also failed to close out Chicago at home on Thursday night. It sets up a game six in Chicago where the ever questioned Canucks mental state will be put to the test, especially with Head Coach Alain Vigneault's decision to keep Roberto Luongo between the pipes.
This postseason, home ice advantage has been anything but.
As of this posting (with game five in Washington between the Capitals and Rangers currently underway) the home team has struggled immensely. Higher seeded teams have gone 10-10 at home and lower seeded teams have gone 4-12 within the cozy confines of their own barn. In other words, the home team has won a mere 38.8% of their games this postseason, a far cry from the 56% we've seen historically since the NHL Lockout.
And while this has been good for the NHL and its fans as a whole, generating excitement and an "anything can happen" mentality surrounding each game, its not necessarily a positive things for higher seeds looking to wring out any advantage they can in a series by virtue of their superior regular season numbers.
Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan sees it as a convenient teaching tool for his team, especially with the immediacy of what occurred in Pittsburgh this morning.
"I think we’re fortunate right now in watching Tampa and Pittsburgh play because it’s pretty evident that one team was ready to go and the other wasn’t. We’ll be forewarned because of somebody else’s demise and we can apply it appropriately tonight," McLellan said. "It's been the year of the comeback really, when you look at the way the games have gone. You're never out of it, you're never completely comfortable. If you slide into that zone, that 'feel good' zone here on home ice like we did in game two, you'll pay the price for it."
Furthermore, McLellan sees his team responding to that adversity based off what the team has shown him all season-- they seem to be a better club when their backs are pressed up against the wall, when they know that an advantage on paper isn't one that necessarily means an advantage on the ice.
"Our team plays much better when we're uncomfortable," McLellan continued. "I don't expect us to be overconfident, I don't expect us to feel over comfortable."
"We have to be focused and we have to be ready."