Prior to reaching the Stanley Cup Final, San Jose Sharks captain Joe Pavelski had 22 points in 18 playoff games.
Since the series started he’s had exactly zero points in two games. He’s totaled 8 shot attempts in the entire series. Yes, it’s only been two games, but something is happening.
Could it be a matter of something the Pittsburgh Penguins are doing right or something the Sharks aren’t doing?
“I think it’s a little combination of both,” said Sharks coach Pete Deboer on a conference call Thursday. “I think they’ve done a good job of taking away our time and space, particularly of our better players. I think everyone tries to do that to the other team. So I think you have to give them some credit for that.
“I also think there’s some things we can do better as a group. We’ll regroup here, have a good practice [Friday], try and get fixed.”
With the Sharks coming home to San Jose, they will get the benefit of last change.
Deboer didn’t outright confirm he’s going to match lines; however, there is a high probability that he will attempt to do so in order to get Pavelski away from Kris Letang and Brian Dumoulin. The Penguins defenseman have haunted Pavelski’s dreams since the series started.
“As far as matchups go, it’s always nice to have the last change,” said Deboer. “There’s always some certain matchups you’re looking to get.”
This isn’t limited to being suffocated by the opposing defense. Deboer needs Pavelski to return to form as the best faceoff guy on the team.
After averaging a 55 percent faceoff percentage in the regular season, Pavelski averaged a 51 percent in the first three rounds of the playoffs. In the small sample size of two games of the Stanley Cup Final, he’s down to 47 percent.
We can read everyone’s mind by now, and no, it’s not because of Sidney Crosby. (When posed the question on Couture’s comments about Crosby being a cheater on the dot, DeBoer said flatly, “I’m not weighing in on that.”)
Head to head against Sid, Pavelski is 5 for 9 in two games with all faceoffs coming in the defensive or neutral zones only. He fares even better against Nick Bonino going 6 for 10. Where he struggles is against crusty old veteran Matt Cullen.
Cullen appears be Mike Sullivan’s choice of center to go up against Pavelski. On offensive zone draws against Cullen, Pavelski has won 3 of 8; neutral zone isn’t much better at 1 of 4.
Matchups will help get Pavelski on the ice at the right time, but as Deboer said, “Regardless of the matchups, guys have to get the job done when they’re on the ice.”
That’s not only Pavelski, but Joe Thornton, too. Like Pavelski, Jumbo Joe is also point-less through two games.
For now, though, DeBoer is opting for a realistic yet positive message to his charges, “People are going to want to tell you how well Pittsburgh is playing, how poorly you’re playing, how you have no chance to win.
“We need to tune all that out, make sure we’re ready for Game 3. That’s the only thing that matters right now.
“I think we got better and we have to keep building our game. Our Game 2 was better than our Game 1. I’m sure 3 is going to be better than 1 and 2 were.”