Obviously the Sharks are going to have to beat Los Angeles in a 7th game on Tuesday night if they’re to advance to the NHL’s Conference Final round. But in order to get to game 7 they first have to win game 6 on Sunday. And therein lies the dilemma. How can you possibly put that out of your mind if you’re a player heading into game 6? How do you place all of your focus on the task at hand?
For the Sharks, in my view, it all comes down to learning from past experiences in this post season and in this series. In the first round against Vancouver the Sharks never seemed to get ahead of themselves. Even heading into what turned out to be the deciding Game 4 they were focused shift-to-shift, period-to-period. In Game 2 of this series against the Kings the Sharks lost their focus late in the third period and suffered a gut wrenching loss. In game 4 they played one of their best playoff periods ever in the first but then had to hang on for dear life at the end of the game. And in game 5 they weren’t focused enough on the power play opportunities that they earned and in the end it cost them dearly.
The game 6 lead up for the Sharks is cliché filled. “It’s do or die”. “Their backs are against the wall”. “There’s no tomorrow.”
The bottom line is focus and learning from past mistakes. If the Sharks can replicate their first period in Game 4 and carry it through three periods, they’ll be fine. If they can stay within the moment, within the shift and focus on the good things they’ve done to get them this far, they’ll prevail and there will be a game 7.
But make no mistake. Los Angeles played their best game of the series in Game 5. They seized the opportunity to put the Sharks on the brink of elimination. The Kings are the defending champions. They are not to be taken lightly. Championship teams don’t usually let a challenger up off the mat. Game 6 will be the Sharks biggest challenge of this amazing roller coaster of a season.