Dan Boyle made himself perfectly clear about the San Jose Sharks' mindset headed into Game 6 versus the Los Angeles Kings.
"No," he said, even before he had been asked a single question. "We don't want to go down 4-2."
That's that veteran wisdom speaking. History tells us that the four-game hole is an insurmountable deficit. No team in NHL history has ever come back from it.
If the Sharks hope to force a seventh and deciding game, the plan is simple: play a whole lot better than they did in Game 5, when they were outshot 29-24 and dished out 24 hits to LA's series-high 51.
But the key isn't to match LA's physicality. It's to stop enabling it with sluggish play, according to Todd McLellan, who seemed far more concerned with bringing LA's hit totals down than bringing San Jose's up.
"It's a lot easier to hit a slow moving target,” McLellan said. “It doesn't matter what sport you're in. We didn't execute very well, we didn't handle pucks, we were slow, and that plays right into their hands. We expect to be better in those areas tonight, and then we'll take our chances from there.”
Joe Pavelski said: “We weren’t on top of our game. We weren’t fast enough. We weren’t good enough with the puck down there – a lot of things put you in position like that. … They came out definitely stronger, more physical, but we weren’t quick enough and didn’t create enough on the forecheck to counter that.”
“We weren’t on top of our game," Joe Pavelski said, echoing McLellan's thoughts. We weren’t fast enough. We weren’t good enough with the puck down there – a lot of things put you in position like that. They came out definitely stronger, more physical, but we weren’t quick enough and didn’t create enough on the forecheck to counter that.
In other words, one gets the sense that the Sharks don't mind being outhit again in Game 6. But it has to be on their terms. It has to be because the Kings are chasing the puck, throwing the type of hits you throw after you arrive to it a second too late. Outhit is fine. Outhit and outshot is not.
So, on Saturday, the Sharks worked on their transition game, on pushing the pace, on being faster and more elusive. Expect to see evidence of this in Game 6.
Expect to see Adam Burish, too. The Sharks' winger returns to the fourth line, where he'll center Bracken Kearns and Andrew Desjardins.
“Unless something changes, unless I eat some bad chicken,” he joked, “I’ll be good to go.”
The series shifts back to the HP Pavilion for Game 6, which is good news for the Sharks, who have been great at home. They're 4-0 with the fans on their side this postseason, and they've staved off elimination at home in four consecutive postseason games.