Coming into this series, I admired Pete DeBoer's stubbornness. He told reporters prior on the eve of Game 1:
“We're not changing anything from what got us here,” DeBoer said, emphatically. “Regardless of who we're playing or the schedule, what point in the season we're at, we're going to play the same way we've played the entire year and the entire playoffs.”
As a fan, that level of confidence in the gameplan is what you want to hear from the head coach. But if the first two games of the series are any indication, that confidence may have been misplaced.
After game 1, a game in which the Sharks were dominated at even strength, DeBoer didn't make any changes to the lineup. It was more of the same for the first two periods of game 2, despite inserting Matt Nieto into the lineup for Dainius Zubrus, and bumping Melker Karlsson to the fourth line.
DeBoer held off on playing the trump card he played against Los Angeles until the third period, when he moved Patrick Marleau to center the third line, and Joel Ward to Logan Couture's wing on the second line.
While the Sharks didn't dominate the third, the changes made an impact, controlling possession by a slight edge, as the new-look second line was on the ice for Justin Braun's game-tying goal. But the changes didn't result in an overtime win, as the Sharks find themselves down 2-0 as the series shifts back to the SAP Center tomorrow.
Now, as the Sharks are facing a two-game hole, it's fair to question whether or not these changes came too late in game 2. But if the Sharks are going to get back in this series, DeBoer must embrace making changes to the lineup.
Inserting Nieto into the lineup was a start to counter the Penguins' speed, just as moving Marleau to the third line center position is a strong step to counter the Penguins' depth. In order to get back in the series, DeBoer needs to go further.
As Jake touched on earlier, it's time to send Roman Polak to the press box, and for Dylan DeMelo to play this postseason. Dillon and Polak have been pinned in their own end for the entire series. regardless of opponent. DeMelo may be undersized an inexperienced, but he represents a better chance for the Sharks to beat the Penguins' aggressive forecheck.
DeBoer stuck to the plan that got the Sharks to the Cup Final in the first two games of this series, but may have stuck to that plan for too long. Now, with the Sharks facing a pivotal game 3, it's time for DeBoer to deviate from that plan.
It may have gotten them here, but based on games 1 and 2, it may not get them much farther.