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Quick Thoughts: Hope in Sharks’ 7-3 Loss?

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Credit: NBCS Bay Area

“It was just one of those nights for us.”

That’s what Bob Boughner offered after the San Jose Sharks were overwhelmed by the Colorado Avalanche 7-3.

We’ll see: A couple avalanche-sized concerns for the Sharks, even before tonight, were the volume of off-the-rush chances and odd-man rushes that they’ve been giving up.

Going into Ball Arena, per SPORTLOGiQ, San Jose was worst in the league in Even Strength Shot Attempts From the Slot (Off the Rush) Against, 30th in Odd-Man Rushes Against.

The Sharks, essentially, have been bleeding scoring chances in transition all year, and this was before playing Nathan MacKinnon and the speedy Avs.

Perhaps we can attribute some of this to the rust from a 10-month layoff: Under Boughner last season, San Jose was 27th in ES Shot Attempts From the Slot (Off the Rush) Against, but 10th in Odd-Man Rushes Against.

Safe to say, the Sharks did not improve their numbers in these categories tonight.

“These games, you gotta look at it, you got to make the corrections, you got to make the adjustments,” Boughner said, “and you gotta throw them away and forget about ’em.”

Will the Sharks be able to forget or will these issues dog them all year?

For what it’s worth, it wasn’t an entirely forgettable night for the San Jose Sharks: Some of their young, unproven forwards continued to display legitimate promise.

Work in Progress

The San Jose Sharks’ forward group continues to be a work in progress. But at least it’s actual progress.

Ryan Donato, Dylan Gambrell, and Noah Gregor all showed flashes of being able to help the team this year in elevated roles tonight.

If you can believe it, San Jose actually held a lead in this contest.

Donato keeps demonstrating soft hands and racking up scoring chances — per Natural Stat Trick, he leads the Sharks with 14.38 Scoring Chances and is second on the team with 5.3 High-Danger Corsi For Per 60.

Linemate Logan Couture is sold: “He’s been great all year. I don’t think he’s had a bad game.

“Ryan is the type of player that any organization wants. He works extremely hard. He cares. He’ll do anything to help our team.

“He battles on pucks, for a guy who’s not overly big. Goes to the dirty areas. Sees the ice well.

“I’ve enjoyed playing with him.”

The question is, can Donato keep his scoring and chance rate up? If he can, score one for Doug Wilson — who acquired the 24-year-old winger for a third-round pick in October — and for the Sharks’ shallow forward depth.

Granted, this was a garbage time goal by Gregor — San Jose was down 5-1 — but there are a couple things that I liked here.

First, Gambrell. From my observation, the 24-year-old is a different player this season, insofar as he appears to have added muscle and isn’t being knocked off the puck as easily as he was last year. This, along with his speed and hockey smarts, has made him into what looks like a bona fide NHL forward, as opposed to a fringe big leaguer.

But how much offensive upside does Gambrell have? It’s one thing to be fast, reasonably strong, and smart defensively — that’s a nice fourth-line center. But add some consistent offense, and you suddenly have a very valuable top-nine two-way threat.

In this clip, I liked Gambrell’s confidence and ability to execute with four Avs around him. At least three Colorado sticks reach for the puck, but the 2016 second-round pick is unfazed and finds his man.

All this jibes with another Couture observation.

“I was skating with Gamby before camp. We were just playing 3-on-3. He showed an added gear and some more confidence in those pre-camp scrimmages,” Couture said last week. “He maybe didn’t have the camp he wanted. But he’s explosive through the middle of the ice.”

This must be a record, finding three bright spots in a 7-3 loss.

I’ll keep it simple with Gregor: That was a confident move he uncorked on Philipp Grubauer. And that in itself is encouraging from a sophomore who’s one of the few bottom-six Sharks forwards with real scoring potential.

That’s three forwards — along with rookie John Leonard, who had a tough game — who might be able to turn an obviously shallow San Jose Sharks’ forward group into a surprisingly deep collection.

It’s a reach, for sure, but better some hope than none. After all, there are still 49 games to go in the regular season.

Notes

If you want to break the San Jose Sharks’ 56-game season into eight seven-game playoff series, it looks like the 3-4-0 Sharks dropped the first round.

How dominant were the Avs through two periods? This is just wild:

If you can believe it, there actually was a moment in the second period — San Jose fell behind 7-2 in the middle frame — where the Sharks had a chance to turn the game around.

17 seconds into the period, before all the carnage, Brandon Saad took a slashing penalty. What followed was nothing short of a disaster for San Jose.

Did I mention that Valeri Nichushkin netted a short-handed goal off a Leonard turnover on this San Jose power play? Colorado never looked back and Boughner won’t want to either.

“It took the wind out of our sails. Just lack of execution. We entered the zone fine. We set up fine. Just blew off our stick, blew up twice,” the unhappy coach shared. “They gotta make a difference at important points of the game. We’re going to have to look at that and possibly make some changes, because it’s just not good enough.”

Does that mean a Leonard scratch? Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns split up? We’ll see on Thursday.

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Alicia

Thanks for finding bright spots Sheng because I surely was struggling to. This was a highly embarrassing game with almost no defense. If we can avoid another performance like this I am willing to consider it “just one of those nights”, but it doesn’t give me confidence that Boughner defined it that way. I wasn’t the biggest fan of hiring Boughner as the regular coach for this season, but being an optimist, I was willing to go all in on his vision. When he added Madden and Thompson, my confidence level of that vision increased ten fold. My one big… Read more »

Alicia

Just one more thought: when I was watching the post game interviews, I thought that EK65 sounded a lot he did over the years in Ottawa when having to face the media after a loss. I felt bad for him.

Alaskan_ice

Colorado is a strong team. There are few weaknesses.
There are some things to build on, then move past this. Games such as this happen. The Sharks may do it to a team this season. The next game will be the tell. How do we really stack up against the Avalanche?? Will our best players play their best?? We need not wait long.

Go Sharks!!

Alicia

You are absolutely right that the next game will be the tell. I love my team win or lose.

barife

Sharks are a bad team. It’s time we’re honest about it. The sooner we do that, the sooner the (necessary) rebuild can begin.

[…] The San Jose Sharks got pasted 7-3 by the Colorado Avalanche. But Sheng Peng writes — believe it or not — there are some positives building in the Shark Tank (San Jose Hockey Now) […]

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