The San Jose Sharks know what they have to do going into Game Five against the Colorado Avalanche Saturday night. Yes, it’s a cliché. Yes, it’s predictable.
But it’s necessary: they have to generate more chances in front of goalie Philipp Grubauer.
The Sharks were blanked in Game Four of their second round playoff series against the Avalanche and they’ve had some time to lick their wounds and get back into game shape. Nobody wants to get knocked out 3-0 at the Pepsi Center, that disorderly den of inequities for visiting franchises, and nobody wants to give 27-year-old Grubauer a chance to sink his teeth into the series.
That’s just what happened in Game Four, though, as he turned aside 32 of 32 for a 60-minute performance that amounted to his first playoff shutout. Granted, it’s a small sample size.
But for the Avalanche, the shutout couldn’t have come at a better time and things are rolling in the right direction. Much has been made of the top line’s performance night after night, but Grubauer was the whole show in Game Four.
Of course, it’s not that surprising. Grubauer shut down the Calgary Flames in Round One with a .939 save percentage and a 1.90 goals against average.
But then he bounced into wonky Game One against the Sharks for Round Two and eyebrows were raised across Denver and rightly so. Grubauer has thus far allowed 10 San Jose goals in the series and hasn’t looked all that sharp until Game Four, until the game Colorado hopes is the series-changing endeavour to tilt things to their advantage.
So, yes, it’s up to San Jose to ensure that doesn’t happen. That starts with Game Five, with getting in Grubauer’s kitchen and clamming things up a bit.
“Like when we played against Vegas, there was always one guy in front of him and (Marc-Andre) Fleury got frustrated because he wasn’t seeing the puck,” Sharks forward Tomas Hertl said. “We have to be a little bit better and make it tougher for (Grubauer).”
There are, of course, other factors. Nathan MacKinnon scored a painstaking goal. The Sharks were awful at puck management through large stretches of Game Four. San Jose couldn’t get any reliability out of the power play, which has been a problem against the Avalanche. And MacKinnon again. Something about MacKinnon.
But at the top of the list for the Sharks in Saturday’s Game Five? Get in front of Grubauer. Make life difficult for the goaltender. Generate chances, ugly ones. The rest will, for the most part, fall into place.
(Photo credit: David Zalubowski/AP)