SAN JOSE, Calif. — Pete DeBoer heard all the doubts about the San Jose Sharks before he became the team's head coach last summer.
"'They can't get it done. There's not enough character. There's not enough leadership,'" DeBoer said, listing various criticisms of the club following practice on Saturday. "That's what people think and it's so far off-base. There's just no substance to that at all."
DeBoer believes any doubts about the Sharks character have been put to rest this spring, though his team will need a historic comeback and every bit of resiliency and perseverance to rally for the Stanley Cup.
San Jose hosts Game 6 at SAP Center on Sunday night with the Pittsburgh Penguins leading the series 3-2.
The 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs are the only team in NHL history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in the Stanley Cup final. Only three teams have ever come back to win the Cup after dropping the first two games on the road, with two such instances occurring in the last seven years, including the 2009 Penguins.
"Other than possibly playing a Game 7, (Sunday) is going to be probably the most exciting game I've played all year," said Sharks defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. "An opportunity to win Game 6 at home in the Stanley Cup finals, we're looking forward to it."
The Sharks are coming off a nervous 4-2 win over Pittsburgh in Game 5, one that saw them badly outplayed for long stretches, victory preserved only by a solid performance by Martin Jones, who made 44 saves.
If any team understands how quickly a series can turn, it's the Sharks, who had a 3-0 series unravel against the Los Angeles Kings in 2014.
Paul Martin was a Penguin in 2014 when their 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers slipped away in a seven-game second round defeat. Now on the San Jose side, Martin said every player handles momentum swings differently, whether in a game or a series. Some players are bothered by the pressure, others handle it well, he said.
"I think the team that won (the last game) has to take some kind of positive feeling from that win and try to build off that," Martin said. "And as a team that loses you either can dwell or feel low or in trouble or you put it behind you (and) you focus on that next one."
The Sharks have faced elimination twice in the playoffs and won both times, including Thursday's victory in Pittsburgh and a Game 7 win over Nashville in the second round.
Doing it once more will require a much better all-around performance in Game 6.
While they raced to their first lead of the series in Game 5, surging in front 2-0, San Jose was increasingly overwhelmed by Pittsburgh's speedy attack, saved only by Jones, who was a perfect 31-for-31 on shots over the final 40 minutes.
San Jose generated few scoring chances and only 14 shots, in the second and third period and were outshot 46-22 overall.
The club did play maybe its best game of the series at home in Game 4, yielding just 20 shots in a 3-1 loss. It was only their third defeat in 11 games in San Jose during the playoffs.
"We played 'em pretty good at home last time we were home," Martin said. "We played a better defensive game as far as giving up shots or opportunities. So I think for us to get that momentum to continue, (we) hopefully get that first goal or get a solid energy game early. (Those) will be big keys for us."
Pittsburgh scored first in the first four games of the series and indeed the Sharks will need another fast start in Game 6. DeBoer said he won't be giving any grand speeches for the occasion.
"There's no speech I'm going to give Patty Marleau that's going to make him understand the situation and play harder," DeBoer said of the 18-year veteran. "I think that's for movies and Sunday football for sure, when you're playing 11 or 12 games a year. When we're on our 105th game I'm just trying to get our game on the right track, get them out there with as much energy as possible and get our execution in the right place."
T-shirts for sale at the Sharks practice facility were emblazoned with the slogan: We want Stanley in San Jose.
The Sharks will need to make history for that to happen.