Down 0-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final, the San Jose Sharks are counting on the comforts of home to spark a momentum swing.
As the Stanley Cup Final moves to Northern California for the first time, it's fitting that both the San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins are looking to catch a wave.
"This is going to be a series of momentum," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said ahead of Saturday's pivotal Game 3. "We're going to have it for a little bit; they're going to have it for a little bit. I think it's whoever can carry it for more [that will come out on top]."
The old trope of playing 60-minute hockey? That's out the window. When two teams this talented clash, each is going to control stretches of play over the course of a game. How they respond when things are going their way, and when they aren't, will decide the outcome.
"I think when you look at the way the game is being played, there's momentum swings on both sides," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "These are two pretty good hockey teams going at it. There are times when we have momentum and territory and zone time. When San Jose makes a push—they have good players, they're a good team—they're going to try to do the same. That's really the way I see it. That's the way the first two games have played out.
"My main goal here is to make sure we get through those momentum swings without getting hurt," he said. "I think our guys have done a really good job in that regard."
The Penguins have been more efficient to this point. It got them two wins at home. Now it's up to the Sharks to adapt by making more out of less.
"It's not going to look like maybe some of the series in the past where we've dominated for long stretches," DeBoer said. "They're a very good hockey team. They're not going to allow you to do that. We've got to be comfortable [with less control]. We can't get frustrated by that."
Frustration hasn't been a problem at home for San Jose. After going 18-20-3 during the regular season at SAP Center, the Sharks have made the most of their barn in the playoffs, going 7-2 against the Los Angeles Kings, Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. They're looking forward to building on that in Game 3.
"Last change, home crowd, sleeping in your own bed. I think all those things are important in the playoffs," DeBoer said.
"Obviously we're not coming home under the best circumstances, but we also know we're a tough out. We're going to be a tough team to beat at home. In Pittsburgh ... the home crowd definitely made it a tough environment for us on the road. We want to return the favor."
DeBoer emphasized the need to get more out of his top players in Game 3. Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski were pointless in Pittsburgh and generated just six shots between them. They were chasing the play, not dictating it.
The best way to get them more involved? Give them more time on the power play.
Coming into the Final, San Jose's prowess with the man advantage was viewed as a series-changing weapon. The Pens have done a brilliant job neutralizing it. Not with their penalty kill, but by staying out of the box. Pittsburgh has been charged with just four minors through the first two games.
"For me, it always boils down to the details of the game," Sullivan said. "Making sure we play in between the whistles and we don't put ourselves in a position where we have to take a stick infraction because maybe we overstay a shift and we're tired."
DeBoer sees only one way to address that.
"I think we've got to have the puck more," he said. "I think we've got to attack a little bit more. I think there are penalties out there, I do believe that. I think there even has been in the first couple games.
"It seems like the players are going to get an opportunity to play here. Unless it's blatant, you're not going to get [the call]. So we've got to make sure that we're attacking holes and making it so there's no choice [for the officials] but to call them."
Special teams have a way of swinging the momentum. And those are waves both teams will be looking to catch.