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Sharks place faith in Peter DeBoer to punch Cup Final ticket

SAN JOSE, Calif.  – The San Jose Sharks have a high amount of faith that coach Peter DeBoer will put them in the right spots in Game 6 against the St. Louis Blues. 

DeBoer is one of the better coaches in the NHL as far as preparing his team for situations where they can eliminate their opponent. In his career, DeBoer is 5-1 in closeout situations.

If there’s a secret to why, DeBoer and the Sharks both aren’t giving any reasoning in advance of Wednesday’s game at SAP Center where the team can book their first trip to the Stanley Cup Final. San Jose is up 3-2 in the Western Conference Final. 

“I think it's just the consistency and the message,” DeBoer said. “We don't change anything. We don't change our meeting times or our message, make any kind of radical system changes or lineup changes based on the fact that we've got to win one more or we're facing elimination.” 

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Former Sharks coach Todd McLellan was a good closer in his own right, helping the team to two Western Conference Final appearances. But ultimately DeBoer has helped this group develop a stronger finishing punch. For him a lot of this was developed in his run to the 2012 Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils. 

Before he got to San Jose, the Sharks were 0-for-5 in their prior chances to move onto the next round in the postseason. Four of those opportunities came in the 2014 first-round against the Los Angeles Kings and one came in 2013 against LA.

In Game 5 of the first-round against Los Angeles, the Sharks had a chance to beat those same Kings and raced out to a 3-0 first period lead. But by the end of the second period, LA tied the game up at 3-3 and it appeared the Sharks had no answer for the Kings’ desperation.

During the intermission of that game, DeBoer came into the locker room and gave a speech to calm the team down. He reminded them that no matter the blown lead, they were still in a good spot – up 3-1 and tied going into the third period on the road.

The Sharks won the game and gave a lot of credit to DeBoer’s touch. In order for teams to be successful a group has to buy into the message and they’ve all gone all-in on DeBoer. 

“We all think he’s the man,” Sharks forward Joe Thornton said. “We all want to play well for him and I think this group has taken directions very well this year. Hopefully we can do it again tonight for him.”

This has been a bit of s different challenge for DeBoer only because the Sharks’ veterans have struggled to get to this point in their careers. Thornton and Patrick Marleau are both 36 years old and have never been this close to making a Cup Final. Part of the challenge is keeping them on an even-keel.

“From playing, having those experienced guys in the dressing room is important,” DeBoer said. “I think the fact that the guys have gone through negative experiences is important because they appreciate the opportunities I think a little bit more when they get a little bit older and have maybe got not where they want to go.”

Thornton was asked a few times about being near a Cup Final and he kept his words simple.

“I’ve said this numerous times. I think this team has done a good job of taking things day by day and shift by shift,” he said. “We just have to continue that tonight.”

But really a coach can only do so much this time of year. Especially at this stage of the playoffs, games or so close that sometimes it comes down to just one play that can turn the entire fortunes of a game. 

Still as long as there’s faith in DeBoer the Sharks have confidence and that they'll be able to handle everything the Blues throw at them in order to limit mistakes. 

“He doesn’t go on the ice and play. It’s up to us players to go out there and play,” forward Logan Couture said. “He does what he can behind the bench and video preparation but it’s up to us to go out there and try to win a game.”

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Josh Cooper is an editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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