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Sharks Need to Play for Each Other, Boughner…Will They?

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Credit: AP Photo/Jeff Chiu

“Maybe it’s a good thing to be embarrassed. Maybe that’s the adversity, we’ll see how guys react to it.”

That’s what Bob Boughner had to say after the San Jose Sharks were dismantled 8-0 by the Nashville Predators.

This was the second-worst shutout loss in franchise history and just the 13th time that the Sharks were beat by eight or more goals in a game.

At least it wasn’t close to the worst loss in team history: In Feb. 1993, the Calgary Flames steamrolled San Jose 13-1.

“It’s one game,” San Jose Sharks captain Logan Couture offered in the aftermath.

Except it isn’t: The Sharks have had a string of disheartening performances since they’ve returned from the All-Star break.

There was a flat 3-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 14.

There was being down 2-0 in three straight first periods from Feb. 14 to 20.

There was being held to 16 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 26.

There was getting outshot 19-4 in the opening frame against the Seattle Kraken on Feb. 27.

There was mustering just 17 shots against the Vegas Golden Knights on Mar. 1, in a game that James Reimer exited early with a lower-body injury.

Since the All-Star break, the Sharks are 2-5-2. They’ve been outscored 33-16 and outshot 323-232. San Jose has been more than doubled up on the scoresheet and outshot by almost 100 since a 12-day break that was supposed to refuel them for a playoff push.

What’s particularly disturbing about tonight’s effort?

This shellacking came on the heels of a two-day break and Boughner telling his veterans during a Thursday practice day, “Win or lose, let’s make sure that we come playing with a purpose every night.”

Couture, Boughner Still Believe Sharks Can Make a Run for Playoffs

Boughner and Couture were roasted online for their bravado here – the captain, in particular, for offering, “We’re a run away from being close to a playoff spot” – but what were they supposed to say with their backs against the wall?

Regardless, the San Jose Sharks desperately needed a response tonight – and instead, the universe (that’s what I call Roman Josi, who had four assists and a +6) blew their doors out.

“We have four of our top D out. We’ve had a goalie play 19 [of 22 games]. I mean, it’s not rocket science, right? We were a team that even when we were healthy, we were going to be battling to get into the playoffs. When we’re missing nine guys and overplaying other guys, that’s what you’re going to see,” Boughner said in the lead-up to this game. “So we’ve got to find a way and try and get guys back healthy before it’s too late, and get back to our game. We’ve just got to deal with the hand that we’re dealt.”

It’s all true: There’s an argument that the four defensemen that the Sharks are missing, Erik Karlsson, Mario Ferraro, Nikolai Knyzhov, and Jaycob Megna, make up a better top-four than their healthy top-four of Brent Burns, Jake Middleton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Nicolas Meloche. With back-up Adin Hill out, Reimer was forced to play 19 of 22 because Boughner and goaltending coach Evgeni Nabokov didn’t have confidence in the organization’s No. 3 goalies Zach Sawchenko or Alexei Melnichuk. The Sharks’ forward depth was shallow from the beginning this season.

But that said, the Sharks have to be better than this. They’re not going to make the playoffs. But they still need to play for each other…and they still need to play for their coach.

“Regardless of the score, 3-0, I thought we were actually playing a pretty competitive game,” Boughner said tonight. “We were playing pretty hard, we gave up only two [scoring] chances in the first period.”

Bob is right, by the way. Per SPORTLOGiQ, Slot Shots in All Situations were tied at two apiece in the opening frame. San Jose was down 2-0, but frankly, it was because of stoppable-looking goals allowed by a rusty Alex Stalock. In his defense, this was Stalock’s first NHL game in 575 days, after he was diagnosed with myocarditis last year.

But what happened to the Sharks after that?

“Once it got 4-0, we got away from our game,” Boughner admitted. “We just started pressing, things start going in and just snowball and you can’t stop it.”

That’s understandable tonight: Any time you’re down four, you’re going to break structure to try to score some goals.

But the challenge for Boughner is to make sure that the season doesn’t get away from him like this game did.

The odds are stacked against him: His roster is decimated by injuries. His healthy players, hard as they fought up to the All-Star break, appear to be running on fumes. The fans are sharpening their knives. The front office hasn’t helped and might be surrendering some of his better players in the next couple weeks.

The San Jose Sharks are facing adversity – but so is Boughner. How will he react?

Can he keep the team playing as a cohesive unit – forget the playoffs – and keep his job?

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