Three Keys For San Jose Sharks Headed Into Game 5

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SAN JOSE, CA - APRIL 18: Martin Jones #31 of the San Jose Sharks defends the net against the Edmonton Oilers in Game Four of the Western Conference First Round during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on April 18, 2017 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images)

With the San Jose Sharks and Edmonton Oilers splitting the first four games in their first round series, it’s now down to a best-of-three. The Oilers still have home ice so the Sharks will have to take at least one game on the road.

Three Keys For San Jose Sharks Headed Into Game 5

5v5 Play

The series as a whole has been very up and down for both teams. The games have rarely not been tilted towards one team or the other. Why this has happened is anyone’s guess, but the Sharks have the better depth between the two teams. They should comfort themselves knowing that if they play to the level they can they have a good chance. So far at 5v5 the Sharks have allowed just two goals; one in game one, the other in Game 3. They allowed the other three while up or down a man.

The Sharks have shuffled their lines throughout the series, but they seemed to find something that clicked in Game 4. The top line of Joe Thornton centering Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski had a good game. They didn’t play much but that line has a history of producing together. During the regular season they had at CF% of 54, while playing more than 300 minutes together. Another thing to note was Timo Meier‘s promotion to the third line. Meier had been perhaps the Sharks most consistent player in the first three games and seems to be finding another level right now. Despite not being rewarded on the scoresheet, he was promoted to play with Tomas Hertl and Melker Karlsson and had another great game. If he keeps playing like this he’ll like get some points sooner rather than later.

At 5v5 the Sharks have consistently been very good at limiting the Oilers’ chances. They’re currently allowing a very good 25 shots per game only bettered by the Ottawa Senators allowing only 24. Unfortunately the Oilers have been very good at capitalizing on every mistake the Sharks make. This was perfectly captured in Zack Kassian scoring the lone goal in game 3 on a bad turnover by David Schlemko who otherwise was having a solid night.

Martin Jones

Martin Jones finally got some goal support in Game 4. Ironically it ended up also being the game where he needed it the least. In four games so far Jones has allowed just five goals for a very solid .950 save percentage. It sounds even more impressive when one or two of the goals he has allowed were unfortunate five-hole goals that he maybe wishes he could have gotten back. He’s made some big saves along the way too and if the Sharks can pot around three goals a night, Jones will probably come out on the winning end more often than not.

Marc-Édouard Vlasic and Justin Braun

Before this series it was a well known fact that Connor McDavid would be seeing a lot of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun. That hasn’t changed. Pete DeBoer generally isn’t one to hard-match his lines, but in this case he’s been very strict about getting them on against McDavid.

It hasn’t been a great season by Vlasic and Braun’s lofty standards. Last year they gave most of the Western Conference a lesson in shutdown defense. Throughout the playoffs they made a habit of completely shutting down the oppositions top scorers and were probably the top shutdown pair in the league.

They haven’t quite replicated that this year, however. They’re still trusted to do it and have so far done quite well against McDavid. In four games so far they’ve held McDavid to one shorthanded goal in which they weren’t on the ice and a powerplay secondary assist. That’s admirable work against a guy who finished the season with 100 points. McDavid has been able to create some dangerous opportunities, but Braun and Vlassic were never expected to completely stop him. Rather the Sharks hoped they could contain him as much as possible and in that they have succeeded so far.

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