For Veteran Sharks, the Benefits of Rest Far Outweigh Potential For Rust
SAN JOSE — Head coach Peter DeBoer insisted the Sharks would be ready to go come playoffs as his team struggled to stay sharp during the last week of the regular season.
His prediction proved to be as accurate as a Joe Pavelski one timer to the top shelf.
The Sharks brought their best effort to Los Angeles as they opened their first-round series with the Kings, leaving town with a commanding 2-0 series lead, purging all the bad habits that slipped into their game as they played meaningless hockey for nearly two weeks.
The veteran team’s ability to ramp things up and focus when it counts is a key reason why DeBoer isn’t worried about his squad accumulating rust while it waits for its second round Stanley Cup playoff series to kick off this weekend.
“Nobody prepares like these guys do,” DeBoer said. “It’s part of the reason we’ve been able to take the approach we have with them. You’re never worried about them getting soft or losing that edge because they don’t allow themselves to do that.”
After wrapping up their first-round series with the Kings on Friday, the Sharks received two days off over the weekend to hit the reset button before diving back into the heavy lifting at practice on Monday.
The Sharks skated for nearly an hour, their first off-day practice since April 13. With the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators set to play Game 6 of their best-of-seven game series Monday night, the Sharks will use their practice time to stay sharp as they await their second-round opponent.
Like DeBoer, Pavelski suggested the benefits of getting rest this week far outweigh the potential for rust.
“You get your rest when you can, you welcome it,” Pavelski said. “That’s why you work hard, you work to end a series.”
“It doesn’t matter if you have two days off or five days, you take that rest when you get it.”
Throughout the season, the Sharks have shown a knack for being able to put forth their best game when it counts, a reflection of the team’s veteran leadership.
In early March, the Sharks lost consecutive home games to the woeful Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers and New Jersey Devils before bouncing back and putting together one of their best performances of the season when the Washington Capitals came to town on March 12, a game the team viewed as a litmus test against the Eastern Conference’s top squad.
The Capitals game wasn’t an isolated incident. The Sharks showed a tendency to elevate their game against top squads throughout the second half, racking up a 12-4-1 record against playoff teams after Jan. 9.
The team’s ability to stay sharp despite a reduced practice schedule this season is another indication that this week’s layoff shouldn’t be a factor when the puck drops on Game 1 of the second round.
DeBoer saw the benefits of additional rest when he coached veterans like Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Scott Gomez in New Jersey last year and he brought the approach to San Jose this year. With less practice, the Sharks have maintained a sharp game while playing with more energy.
“It’s getting to the game as fresh as possible and with as few injuries as possible,” DeBoer said after the Sharks morning practice on April 22.
Forward Logan Couture said additional rest should benefit the Sharks in round two, especially when they’ll be facing an opponent in the Ducks or Predators who will be coming off a long series.
“I’ve been on both ends. I’ve had some time off and I’ve also gone from a Game 7 right into the next series,” he said. “That’s tough. It’s tough when you only have one day off between a series. You don’t get that time to rest, so I’ve enjoyed the couple days. We’re going to get some good practice in and be ready to go.”
“It’s always tough to ramp it up, but I think we know what’s at stake, so I think we’ll be fine.”
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