Foiling Pittsburgh's shots blockade will be one crucial task for the Sharks in Stanley Cup Final Game 4.
After losing the possession battle by a wide margin in Games 1 and 2, the San Jose Sharks finally got the better of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 3, attempting 79 shots to 76 for the Pens.
Still, Pittsburgh managed to get more pucks on net, 42 to San Jose's 26, after blocking 38 attempts, including 12 by Sharks defenseman Brent Burns alone.
The Pens are able to do that because they're fast, committed and exceptionally smart. It's that ability to read and react to the play as it develops that is buying them the split second they need to get a stick or a leg in front of so many shot attempts.
Ahead of Monday's Game 4, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer emphasized the importance of beating the blockade and getting more of those shots through to the net.
"I think the way Pittsburgh plays, every opportunity they get, they're fronting [our shooters], looking to knock pucks down," he said. "As opposed to getting involved in boxing you out, they're looking to knock them down and go the other way.
"We've got to get [out shots] by that wall of blockers some way, somehow, either with high tips or using the boards or going around them or going through them. The ones that have got through, we scored on some of them, [like] Justin Braun's goal [in Game 2].
"We're going to keep shooting. We have some plans in place to try and get around that. But it's definitely been an issue, and a credit to them for [the] job they've done so far on that."
DeBoer touched on several other issues after his team's morning skate. Here are the highlights:
On the importance of scoring first for the first time in the series
"Yeah, we'd like the lead. The game plan isn't not to play with the lead. We're trying.
"I think early in the playoffs, it was a huge part. I think the L.A. series, we had the lead almost every game, maybe other than one. It's a big part. The scores show that. The team that scores first usually wins. We get it. We've got to find a way to get it going. It's not like this has been an issue throughout the playoffs. I think we've actually been pretty good at getting the first goal throughout the playoffs. But for some reason we haven't started well here in the three games. We've got to do that. I'd like to be in that position. I think the game changes at that point."
On hockey smarts and replacing the injured Tomas Hertl
"We've talked about it all year. Not only when you shorten your bench, when Tomas Hertl goes down, you've got somebody that you can put on the wing with Joe [Pavelski] and [Joe Thornton]. They're not going to look at you like, 'What are we doing here?' They're comfortable. They feel that there's not going to be a significant drop-off [with the replacement].
"That's rare to have that type. This guy [Melker Karlsson] was playing on our third or fourth line, he can jump up and do that. There's other options there to do that, which is nice. I think that shows you the depth. I think more importantly it shows the IQ of our group.
"Good players just want to play with smart players. Maybe they're not the biggest guy on their wing, the fastest guy, but you have to be able to think the game. I think the depth of our lineup, we have some good hockey IQ down there."