For additional insight into the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Craig Berube to break down the action. Berube will be checking in throughout the series.
Berube, 50, was coach of the Philadelphia Flyers from 2013-15. He was a Flyers assistant for six seasons prior to being promoted to coach Oct. 7, 2013. The Flyers were 75-58-28 under Berube. They made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and lost to the Rangers in the first round in 2014.
SAN JOSE -- Breakouts are the key for the San Jose Sharks to have success against the Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice and make this Stanley Cup Final a long series.
Former Philadelphia Flyers coach Craig Berube said he feels the Sharks were too stretched out as a five-man unit when they were trying break out of the defensive zone in Game 2, a 2-1 overtime loss. It created problems for them that they need to fix in Game 3 at SAP Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
"I thought that their defense was making long plays all game," Berube said. "It seemed like they didn't have good support in close. They fired it up to the red line a lot of times, but there was a Penguins player on them and it kind of got broken up, so the puck possession was not very good coming out of their own end. They need closer puck support."
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 01: Brent Burns #88 of the San Jose Sharks in action against Tom Kuhnhackl #34 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game Two of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Consol Energy Center on June 1, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
If the Sharks tighten the gap between the forwards and defensemen on their breakouts, Berube said it should allow them to come out of the zone with more speed. He also said he thinks the Sharks defensemen, particularly Brent Burns, need to be up into the attack more than they have been in the series.
"And so now when they have to dump it in, they can have some speed onto the puck," Berube said. "They can get there quicker so they can move the puck quicker and get some better zone time. They were smothered in Game 2. They didn't have any time to do anything. As soon as they got the puck, there was a Penguins player or two on them."
More speed onto pucks in the offensive zone should, in theory, give the Sharks a chance to sustain possession and generate more shots on goal. They have been outshot 71-48 in the series and Pittsburgh has a 109-98 edge in 5-on-5 shot attempts, according to war-on-ice.com.
"Getting the puck quicker with some speed, moving the puck quicker, getting it up, going side to side, behind the goal line, getting it up top to the defense; all of that will create some space and allow for cleaner plays and give them the chance to get some shots through to create some chaos in front of the net," Berube said. "The Penguins have been right on them. They have had no time to do anything. That's hard to deal with. You've got to find space and create space for yourself."
The chaos part is also key for the Sharks, because Berube doesn't feel they have tested Penguins goalie Matt Murray enough. They need to come out firing in Game 3, he said.
"That's going to go a long way in this game, just pressure and pucks to the net and getting some traffic there, getting some second and third opportunities," Berube said. "Don't be denied on your second and third opportunities. Compete around the net and see what happens. Dig in. Dig down. Get a lot more greasy and quicker. They have to find a way."
To do it, though, the Sharks have to be cleaner coming out of their own end. Their breakouts could make or break them in Game 3, which means they could make or break them in the Stanley Cup Final.
"That's the key," Berube said. "They need to create some solid breakouts and get some speed going, get their 'D' involved in the rush. That's so important."
by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer