Sheary could drop to 3rd line
being able to break out of them is just about as important a skill a goal-scorer can possess.
“It’s tough,” Sheary said. “This is kind of part of the learning process for myself. I think you’ve got to learn when you’re not scoring, how to come out of that and just play your game, stick to your instincts. I think you get away from that a little bit when you’re worried about it.”
Sheary’s underlying numbers weren’t necessarily bad in the first round. He had the second-highest Corsi For per 60 (CF60) on the team, behind only Sidney Crosby, meaning the Penguins were generating offense when he was on the ice.
Sheary only had nine shots in five games, though, and just one game with more than two. He averaged 2.52 per game in the regular season.
“It’s the playoffs, it’s tight,” Crosby said. “You’re not going to get a ton of chances, anyways. Nobody’s really getting a ton of chances. It’s more about executing when you do get them, and it’s kind of always about the next play, next shift. You can’t get caught up in too much of that. He’s a hard worker and he generates a lot. He’s going to continue to get chances.”
Crosby would know. He played more 5-on-5 minutes with Sheary this season than any other player on the roster.
But at the end of Game 5, they found themselves separated, with Patric Hornqvist moved into Sheary’s spot on Crosby’s left side and Sheary on the third line alongside Nick Bonino and Scott Wilson.
“It’s something different,” Sheary said. “Some people might see it as a demotion, but I think it’s just a new opportunity.”
Coach Mike Sullivan said Sunday he believed Sheary was still playing good hockey, even if the puck wasn’t ending up in the back of the net. Sheary did have some bright spots in the series, too, notably his hustle play to set up Crosby’s opening goal in Game 2.
“His game is built on speed and tenacity and second effort, a quick stick,” Sullivan said. “That’s his game. That’s how he established himself in this league, and his playmaking comes off of all that. As long as his focus is there, then Conor’s going to be fine.”
Sullivan’s message for Sheary heading into round two this week was to not be too hard on himself, and just try to enjoy playing at this time of year.
“I think he’s a proud kid,” Sullivan said. “I think he has a high expectation of himself, and sometimes as coaches we’ve got to help them through that process by trying to take a little bit of pressure off of them. Just having him embrace that process and enjoy that experience.”
Sheary, too, seems ready to turn the page on the first round and start anew in the second round this week.
“I think coming into the next game, I’m just going to have the same approach I’ve had every game, just hopefully it comes out with a better results,” he said. “I think maybe a new series will be a fresh start for me.”