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Quick Thoughts: Sharks Lose Control…But Not How You Think

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Credit: Sheng Peng

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — A good team figures it out.

Training camp, 700 miles away from San Jose. Being off for 10 months. Starting the season with 14 of 16 games on the road. Not getting last change.

A good team figures it out.

Up 3-1 going into the third period. Your top centermen Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, both in the penalty box for…fighting? How to both stand up for yourself and win games.

A good team figures it out.

Remove the excuses, the reasons, or as Doug Wilson called them, “the realities” – the 11-13-3 San Jose Sharks are not a good team.

Losing Control

The San Jose Sharks wouldn’t admit that they lost control of themselves in a third period where they blew a 3-1 lead, got into two fights, and were whistled for a too many men on the ice and an offensive zone stick infraction.

But it sure looked and sounded like it.

Both Couture and Hertl said eerily similar things.

“So much happened in that period,” Couture said, “I can’t even recall what happened in order.”

Hertl echoed his captain: “It was so quick. I don’t even know what happened.”

There’s a fine line, of course, between playing with some fire in your belly and playing with fire.

Somewhere last night, the Sharks crossed that line.

The Next Wave

That might be best exemplified by Kevin Labanc’s trip of William Carrier with seven minutes left, seconds after Ryan Reaves had tipped in the go-ahead goal, giving Vegas a 4-3 lead.

Even the San Jose Sharks head coach was hard pressed to defend that one: “You don’t need to dive and go for a puck there when it’s 150 feet away from your net. It’s not a good decision.”

And that’s my point about losing control.

It’s good that Hertl stood up for Meier and fought Mark Stone, that Couture stood up for Labanc and fought Jonathan Marchessault. Teammates standing up for each other, after legal or illegal hits, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when everybody’s seeing red, that’s also the moment when everybody also has to tap the brakes.

Labanc did not tap the brakes, and Alec Martinez scored on the ensuing power play to give the Golden Knights a 5-3 lead with five minutes to go.

After captain Couture and alternate captain Hertl, the 25-year-old Labanc represents the next wave of San Jose Sharks leadership. He’s not a rookie anymore, he’s a fifth-year veteran who needs to be more mature. Hopefully, this is a teaching moment for him.

Speaking of that next wave of leadership, 24-year-old Timo Meier also has to be better in this department. With San Jose up 3-1, it was Meier who jumped on the ice before Labanc got off for a too many men on the ice penalty.

“They didn’t have much going on for the first six, seven minutes of the [third] period. But we had a horrible, horrible too many men call,” Boughner noted. “We had six guys on the ice and the two players who were supposed to change for each other, were next to each other on the ice. For me, that’s the difference in the game. We gave them momentum.”

Cody Glass and Vegas certainly took advantage, striking quickly on the PP to make it 3-2.

Of course, Meier’s gaffe wasn’t an emotional one – but like Labanc, he’s a fifth-year veteran, and needs to show better leadership by example there. These are significant unforced errors, no two ways about it.

As brilliant as both Meier and Labanc have been recently – Meier has 12 points in his last nine games, and was instrumental in Matt Nieto’s goal last night, while Labanc has 13 points in his last 14 – both still need to completely step into being true leaders of this team.

Hate it or love it, you can argue that Hertl and Couture’s fights were necessary – the Golden Knights have been taking liberties against the Sharks all season. There’s no doubt that both leaders were doing what they felt was necessary to send a message to their bitter rivals.

But what’s Labanc and Meier’s excuse?

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david barnard

funny, when i played football, everyone knew who the toughest guys on the field were w/o the need for post whistle fighting. the only messages needing to be sent were the hard hits during the course of play. i just completely disagree with this aspect of “hockey culture”. it was pretty amusing to watch/listen to the HC/studio commentators/players all contradict themselves about those fighting penalties. every one of them acknowledged it was “a deciding factor” for the loss, yet every one of them also said it was important for “team culture” to have done so. you read many fan comments… Read more »

timorous me

I can see both sides of it in this case. I’m usually anti-fighting, though that’s typically the more “staged” type of fights that Gabriel will engage in. I think the fact is that these guys on Vegas would never bother to fight him, so in this case at least you have skill players from both sides going off, and the fights were in the heat of the moment responses. The main thing about these fights and the “culture change” or whatever you want to call it is that it’s in large part a reaction to last year’s team and what… Read more »

david barnard

i get what you’re saying, but i think by finishing your checks and playing hard between the whistles does enough. this extracurricular BS just feeds into teams like the Knights, and as we saw fueled their comeback win. i certainly didn’t feel inspired-as a fan-watching. all i could think of was both Sharks top centers were off the ice for fighting majors, no center depth to replace them, and also hoping those 2 didn’t hurt themselves. anyway, in a hopeless season i guess some fans get giddy over seeing Hertl fight for the first time.

Zeke

Its been said of others, including Burns. Labanc is the sort of player who keeps both teams in the game.

[…] Leonard – to some degree, Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc are examples of younger forwards who have earned more rope after mistakes – but Leonard isn’t quite there yet either. Hence, […]

[…] one way: After their Mar. 17 loss to Vegas, I wrote about how San Jose lost control during that game. I’ve also written many times about the Sharks’ penchant for giving up goals […]

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