SAN JOSE — Joel Ward can’t say for sure why the San Jose Sharks have been so much better at home during the playoffs.
“I really don’t know, to be honest,” the veteran forward said today after practice. “We just started clicking. I think the crowd’s just more into it maybe. I don’t really know.”
It doesn’t really matter why. The fact is, the Sharks are 7-2 at SAP Center in the postseason. This after going 18-20-3 during the regular season, the worst home record of all 16 playoff teams, worse than even non-qualifiers like Edmonton, New Jersey, and Carolina.
Down 2-0 to the Penguins, the Sharks could use a boost.
“I think the fans have been waiting a long time to have a Stanley Cup Final in our building,” said longtime San Jose forward Patrick Marleau. “It’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be adrenaline-pumping. Everyone’s going to be pumped up for the game, for sure.”
Of course, it can’t just be the crowd that helps turn the tide in this series. The Sharks need to help themselves with better execution. At practice, they did a number of drills that emphasized breaking the puck out under pressure, something they struggled with in Pittsburgh.
It wasn’t just practice for the defensemen, either. The forwards also need to be part of mitigating the Penguins’ speed and aggressiveness.
“The support on the breakouts is big,” said captain Joe Pavelski. “We need to get back to doing that a little bit more. The d-men looks up and they’re coming down on him, we gotta be in a spot to be open and ready for the puck.”
Once again, the Sharks insisted the first two losses came down to a lack of execution on their part. They weren’t particularly interested in singing the Penguins’ praises.
“I think we’ve made a few mistakes and opened up a few things for them,” said Ward. “We’ve played against some pretty quick teams. They are a quick team. I think there’s more onus on us to do our deed and make the right plays.”