This series hasn't been great for the Sharks possession-wise. Through the first six games of the series, San Jose's even strength, score-adjusted corsi for percentage (ESCF% in this piece) is 49.92. That number took a serious hit after game six as the Predators led in ESCF 67.401 to 44.498, by far the most lopsided game of the series.
The Sharks played quite well in the first period of game six but after jumping ahead 2-0 they allowed the Predators back into the game. That puts it too simply, as Nashville may have adjusted its own game to work back into the contest, but the possession chart tells a pretty damning story about San Jose's game plan.
This chart, which you've already seen if you read this morning's post, shows the fenwick numbers over the course of the game. The Predators put on a late push in the first and more or less took off from there. They tied the game early in the second and then absolutely ramped up the pressure from there — San Jose was lucky to escape the second with the game tied.
You already know most of this if you watched the game (or read either of our recaps). What's most striking about the poor possession play is who played poorly. A quick look at hockeystats.ca's corsi table will give you the answer about the Sharks three worst even-strength players: Joe Thornton (-19), Tomas Hertl (-18) and Joe Pavelski (-17).
Thornton's -19 mark is, according to War On Ice, his worst in the 11 years we have corsi data for. He didn't just play poorly, he played the worst game of his San Jose career. If there's something encouraging to take from this, it's that the Sharks managed to stay in the game despite their top line getting absolutely shelled. The potential glass-half-empty takeaway is that if the Predators have figured out a way to handle the Thornton line, the Sharks are in big trouble.
The advantage of home-ice is the ability to make the last change, something that can be particularly useful if you're looking to deal with a particularly pesky opposing player. Peter Laviolette used this to his advantage on Monday night and it'll be up to Peter DeBoer to do the same on Thursday in San Jose. Looking at the individual 5v5 matchups, we'll see who it was that victimized that top line so thoroughly.
You can read a how-to on the above chart here, but the gist of it is that more red is good for the Sharks and the bigger the box the more ice-time shared between players. The darkness of the box shows the density of shots when the two players were on the ice.
Roman Josi and Shea Weber appear to be hard-matched against that top line all night long. That makes a lot of sense — using your best defenders to take the opponent's best forwards out of the game is...right, kind of the game plan. If there's a positive to be taken from this, it's that it opens up ice for the other nine forwards on the Sharks who don't have to square off against Weber and Josi.
That James Neal line also played spectacularly against the Thornton line, albeit in much less ice time (obviously) than Weber and Josi. Most of the credit like goes to the Predators' top defensive pairing, but the Neal line has been good all series long and continued that trend on Monday.
It'll be interesting to see what DeBoer does matchup-wise on Thursday. With the last change he can try to keep the Thornton line away from that top pairing, instead asking the second or third line to handle that burden so Jumbo and company can get the offense going. That might work, but if the Sharks are going to win this series they're going to need Thornton and company to play a whole lot better — no matter who they share the ice with.