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.
PITTSBURGH -- It was exactly six years ago when Craig Berube was staring down the black hole of elimination in the Stanley Cup Final.
Berube, an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers, remembers doing things on the day before Game 6 of the 2010 Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks that would take the players' minds off of the fact that they were facing elimination.
"Maybe make some adjustments, focus on that," Berube said. "Get the players thinking that this could work, maybe they can get some more opportunities to score this way. That's always a good idea, just to get them focused on something else."
It almost worked. The Flyers got Game 6 into overtime before Patrick Kane scored to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win.
Now the challenge of getting a team to focus on anything but elimination falls to San Jose Sharks coach Peter DeBoer and his assistants, Steve Spott and Bob Boughner.
They have to prepare their team for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports). It doesn't pay to bring up the fact that they're facing elimination, down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series. It's not like they'd be telling the players something they don't already know.
"I don't think you worry about it," Berube said. "You just talk to your team and prepare them as best you can. They're facing elimination, but they just have to win one game. That's what they're going to focus on, just win one game. They know that they've got to win and they're going to just keep competing, keep working. I'm sure in their mind a break here and a break there and they can win the game."
Getting a break early would certainly be beneficial to San Jose's cause, especially considering the Sharks haven't held a lead yet in the series. Their lone win came in Game 3, a 3-2 victory on Joonas Donskoi's goal in overtime.
"They haven't had the lead once yet in this series, so that would be a start," Berube said. "That would be big and it would go a long way. I think they're a better team with the lead. They can do their thing then, check and really smother teams. But it's hard to do that when you don't have the lead and you're down a goal or two all the time. You're thinking the other way, that you've got to score, which you do. The pressure goes up. It'll change their mindset a little bit if they get the lead, and that would definitely be important."
Berube said he thinks the Sharks' chances of getting a lead would increase if they try to generate chances off the rush, as they did in the third period of Game 4, when their defensemen, specifically Brent Burns, started to join the rush more in order to create offense.
The Sharks were trailing 2-0 at the time, but Berube doesn't think they were getting chances off the rush because the Penguins were sitting back and protecting a lead. He instead thinks the Sharks made a conscious decision to get some speed going in their game and he felt it worked.
They had 12 shots in the third period, the same amount they had in the first two periods.
"Their forecheck really has been eliminated because the Penguins have done a great job of shutting it down and breaking the puck out, breaking them up, but in the third period I thought their attack was better," Berube said. "They carried the puck in rather than dumping it in. They made some plays off the rush. They could have had a couple goals. [Matt] Murray made a couple good saves. I think that could be a focus for them, trying to score off the rush a little bit more."
If they do, Berube expects the Penguins to be there to try to shut it down. He doesn't think the magnitude of the game, of the moment, with the potential for the Stanley Cup to be in the building, is going to paralyze Pittsburgh. Quite the opposite, in fact.
"I think that they're going to just focus on keep playing the way they have been and being aggressive," Berube said. "They're going to come out skating and they're going to go at it hard. I don't see that changing. I think they're going to be real aggressive and real hungry, just like they have been."
When asked if he thinks the Penguins need to make any adjustments based on the Sharks' game plan in the third period of Game 4, Berube couldn't think of any.
"They're pretty tight," he said. "I think they've done a good job in all areas of the game. I'm not seeing a whole lot of holes in their game right now."