Sharks vs. Blues: What San Jose must improve on in game two
The Sharks played well on Sunday, but here's where they can pick things up.
San Jose lost game one of the Western Conference Finals, just like they did in the last three WCF game ones they played in. I already wrote about why the Sharks should feel good about their effort despite the result, so let's dive into the areas the Sharks need to be better if they want to win this series.
The Sharks need more from Logan Couture
After thoroughly dominating the Nashville Predators in the second round of the playoffs, Couture played below his high standards in game one. At even strength he finished with a -5 corsi differential (nine for, 14 against) and he looked uncomfortable at times while trying to set up shop in the offensive end of the ice.
While the Sharks did well to adjust to the frantic pressure the Blues pushed against them in spurts, Couture never quite found his groove. I don't expect he'll have the same problem on Tuesday. He took two shots on goal and also committed the penalty that the Blues used to open the scoring.
Brent Burns turned the puck over too much
Let's start with the good news: Burns played a great game one overall and sweating the individual mistakes made by a single player does not make for good analysis (which is why you see it so much on NBC Sports!) Burns' contributions on the offensive end of the ice vastly outweigh any careless miscue he makes on the defensive end. I don't know what the formula is, but a few Burns' slap shots probably make up for one ill-advised belly slide.
The bad news is that Burns didn't take care of the puck as well as he needs to while in the Sharks' defensive end. I can live with Burns bombing forward and gambling while the Sharks are on offense, but careless giveaways that lead to scoring chances in the defensive end can't be a part of his game. His miscues didn't cost the Sharks a goal, but he played with fire on Sunday night.
Roll three lines when down a goal late
I know, the fourth line only played about eight minutes last night, but a couple of those minutes came late in the game when the Sharks desperately needed a goal. The fourth line played very well against Nashville and against the Kings, but the primary usage of the line needs to be defensive.
Dainius Zubrus and Nick Spaling don't draw into the lineup because of their slick mits and killer wrist shots so I don't know why DeBoer sent them out there with four minutes to go while down a tally. It's a very small thing, but the Sharks need to shorten the bench when chasing a goal against a Blues team that loves to suck the air out of a game when they have a lead.
(A great way to avoid this is to not trail late, so let's do that instead!)
Win more battles in front of the net
One of the Sharks best scoring chances of the night came on a Marc-Edouard Vlasic shot (I know!) that hit the post and bounced out in front of Elliott. Patrick Marleau charged in to try to pick up the rebound and slide it home but was tied up effectively and kept out of the scoring area. There were virtually no Sharks in the crease when a point shot was taken, which is odd given how adept the team is at tipping and deflecting pucks put on net from that area.
The Blues did a great job keeping the Sharks out of the crease on that particular play and did well in this area for most of the night. Getting into those areas is absolutely one of those things analysts make out to be much, much easier than it is, but if the Sharks can succeed in this facet of the game I like their chances the rest of the way.