Two weeks ago, I wondered if the San Jose Sharks really believed in the defense-first game that head coach Bob Boughner wanted them to play.
A three-game winning streak and back-to-back hard-fought losses to Eastern powers New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins are showing that the Sharks do indeed believe. They’ve given up just 11 goals in the last five contests, and save for a couple periods in Buffalo, have mostly outplayed their opposition. Per SPORTLOGiQ, they’ve enjoyed an 80-56 Slot Shots on Net advantage in this stretch.
“We’re sticking to what we need, which is focusing on playing well and playing to our identity,” Mario Ferraro said after San Jose dropped a 2-1 OT decision to Pittsburgh. “I believe that the goals will come as long as we stick to our structure, stick to our game plan.”
The Sharks dominated the first two periods last night, piling on 28 shots to the Penguins’ 12. But they could only muster a one-all deadlock. Then in OT, Jake Guentzel delivered the deathblow.
But the San Jose Sharks have the right mind-set and game heading into a make-or-break stretch of games to end the month: Tampa Bay-Washington-Florida-Carolina-Tampa Bay.
Of course, before that, they have to take care of business against Los Angeles and Seattle.
“We just played two real good hockey teams. We not only held our own, but I thought we were better in a lot of categories,” Boughner offered. “That’s what we got to take out of tonight.”
“We’re playing a great game right now,” Adin Hill said. “The results will come.”
Hill may as well have been talking about snake-bitten Noah Gregor, who led all skaters with seven shots and was the fourth-most used Sharks forward behind Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, and Timo Meier at 18:27.
I've loved Gregor's game tonight
— Sheng Peng (@Sheng_Peng) January 16, 2022
That might be a wild thing to say about a top-nine winger with just one goal in 23 games. But what’s impressed me about Gregor since his call-up on Nov. 20 is how much his details have improved since last season. As long as he’s getting his chances, I don’t care about the third-year pro’s offense — I believe that will come in time.
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