Couture, Sharks know faceoffs have little to do with 2-0 series hole - InfoNews

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Couture, Sharks know faceoffs have little to do with 2-0 series hole

June 03, 2016 - 2:35 PM

SAN JOSE, Calif. - There are bigger reasons than Sidney Crosby's faceoff tactics for the San Jose Sharks' current predicament, and Logan Couture knows it.

Couture made headlines after Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final when he called out Pittsburgh's star captain for getting away with underhanded tactics in the faceoff circle. But Couture looking inward for answers a day before the Sharks were set to host a Cup final game for the first time.

"You want to start with the puck, but that's not the main reason why we've lost Games 1 and 2," the forward said after a Friday practice.

Indeed, it's been the Sharks inability to generate scoring chances that has them in a 2-0 hole heading into Saturday's Game 3.

The Sharks rolled over the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference final by scoring plenty, led up front by the reliable duo of Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. That same top-line combination is point-less through the first two games of the Stanley Cup final.

Pavelski, second to only Alex Ovechkin in goals over the past three NHL seasons, registered only one shot in more than 22 minutes in Game 2 and two shots in a quiet Game 1.

San Jose has scored just three goals in the series while being outshot 71-48.

"You can't pass up shots right now because we're not getting as many as we would probably like," Pavelski said. "But when we get them you've got to make them count and you've got to make them pay."

Setting up the club's lone goal in a Game 2 overtime defeat, Couture said the Penguins were effectively swarming his club when they were on offence, crowding the Sharks and then winning races and battles to loose pucks.

He said the Penguins' defencemen "on paper don't look as good as some other teams" but were effective no less.

"I think they've done a good job of taking away our time and space, particularly of our better players," Sharks coach Pete DeBoer concurred hours after Wednesday's 2-1 loss.

San Jose's top line, headlined by Thornton and Pavelski, has actually been effective in keeping the puck through two games, but not in creating scoring chances.

The Sharks as a team have mustered 48 per cent of even-strength shot attempts through two games.

"That's them and us as well," Couture said of not translating possession into scoring opportunities. "I think that's them being physical and using their sticks well, being in good spots. And that's us probably not moving our feet as well and not moving the puck quick enough. It's a mixture of both."

Couture made one such play to help tie Game 2, controlling the puck in the Penguins zone before finding Justin Braun, who tied the score at one with less than five minutes left in regulation.

More effective stints in the offensive zone would likely lead to more power-plays for the post-season's top unit, one that scored once in Game 1.

The Sharks have drawn only three power-play opportunities in the first two games after coming up with 21 chances in six games against St. Louis.

DeBoer believes his team needs the puck more and should attack holes in the defence "so there's no choice but (for the referees) to call them."

A more energetic start in front of what should be a raucous atmosphere at SAP Center would also help the Sharks. San Jose, in midst of their first Stanley Cup final appearance, has been outshot 26-10 in first periods so far this series, failing to score in either Games 1 or 2.

If not for goaltender Martin Jones, terrific in keeping the score close, the Sharks may not have had even a chance to win the first two games, one solved late in regulation, the other in overtime.

As for the faceoff debate, Couture said that Crosby won the faceoff clean on the play that led to Conor Sheary's Game 2 overtime winner, adding that every centre cheats to win draws.

"(Thornton) tries to cheat. I try to cheat. It's what centremen do," he said.

Both the Sharks and their head coach tried to be optimistic ahead of Game 3, pointing to improvement in each game. Defence of home-ice, players also noted, could tilt the series back toward even.

Still, as DeBoer said, "It's Game 3 and we don't want to be a in 3-0 hole."

"This isn't over 'til the other team wins four games," DeBoer added. "We're not reading a lot into where we're sitting right now. We've got to take care of business here at home."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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