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Sharks Locker Room: Despite Loss, Cooley Can’t Stop Smiling About Achieving Dream

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CHICAGO – There’s no doubt, the San Jose Sharks fanbase needs to be reenergized.

For the fifth straight year, the Sharks will miss the playoffs. For the second straight season, they’ll be the only team drawing less than 80 percent capacity at home.

And as tonight’s opponent, the Chicago Blackhawks, just showed, what simpler shot in the arm for a struggling franchise than to get the No. 1 pick?

I couldn’t help but think that as the Sharks jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the Blackhawks, off goals from Ryan Carpenter and Klim Kostin. San Jose and Chicago are vying for the best Draft lottery odds once again.

Of course, presumed 2024 first-overall pick Macklin Celebrini is no Connor Bedard, selected first in the 2023 Draft.

Generational talent Bedard, more than anybody, is responsible for taking the Hawks from 83.7 percent capacity at United Center in 2022-23 to 95.3 this season.

On the ice, ex-Jr. Shark Devin Cooley, making his NHL debut, was standing on his head, and the Sharks had a 2-1 lead midway into the third period.

This wasn’t good for the Draft lottery, but the Los Gatos native, just the second Jr. Shark, after defenseman Matt Tennyson, to play for the Sharks, deserved the win.

That is, until the Sharks showed up, surrendering three straight goals in 1:23, en route to a 5-2 loss.

“It’s our fault. I feel pretty bad for him,” Kostin said of Cooley. “I think he kept us in the game.”

Chicago is now four points ahead of San Jose, the worst team in the NHL. If that holds, the Sharks will have a 25.5 percent at winning the first-overall pick.

Celebrini is no Bedard, but he’s marquee-worthy prospect in his own right, and like Cooley, has a special local connection, playing for the Jr. Sharks in 2019-20. So Celebrini has a chance to be the first Jr. Sharks forward to play for the Sharks.

His father Rick is also a Golden State Warriors physiotherapist.

Getting the No. 1 pick isn’t the only way to reenergize a market.

But Sharks fans, still reeling from trading franchise icon Tomas Hertl to the Vegas Golden Knights last week, need hope, and fast.

So in many respects, this was a perfect loss. Local hero Cooley handled himself well. Young talent Kostin continues to take advantage of the opportunity afforded on a last-place team. Sharks still lose.

After the game, Kostin was effusive with his praise of Cooley and Mikael Granlund, Cooley couldn’t stop smiling, and Quinn talked about what went wrong tonight.

Klim Kostin

Kostin, on how San Jose Sharks let Cooley down:

He was really good the whole game. It’s our fault. I feel pretty bad for him. We’re gonna try to do our best for him next time. I think he kept us in the game.

Devin Cooley

Cooley, on his “I’m in the NHL” moment tonight:

Before the game was probably the most nerve-wracking for me. It was trying to calm myself down. Try to get the nerves under control. I tried like every single mind technique that I’ve used over the years to get myself to relax. That was the hardest part.

Then, as soon as I stepped on the ice, it was like OK, go time. I felt really good. Felt comfortable. Didn’t even think about being in the NHL or the crowd or anything, just focused on the puck and doing my job.

Cooley, on his performance tonight:

Man, that one, that stings.

We were so close.

I wasn’t happy with the first one. I thought I sometimes reach and extend when I could just shift. I read it perfectly. I knew what was going to happen. If I [could] just shift my body over, hits me right in the chest. I reached, got a piece of it.

Then two tough bounces. That was disappointing. Another, that was a screen.

We’re gonna go over video soon and figure out how I can improve and make those four saves and do a better job.

Cooley, on what his teammates said to him after the game:

Yeah, a few guys shook my hand and said great job and said I got some swagger out there and stuff. They were positive, they were really nice.

Cooley, on his biggest takeaway from tonight:

Just, I can do it. I think that’s the biggest thing.

I’ve worked 21 years to get to this point and achieved my dream. And now I’ve achieved my dream of making the NHL, that dream is going to shift over into the next dream.

Maybe it’s playing 10 games or 100 games or signing a certain contract or whatever. I’m not sure what that is yet.

But tonight just showed that I’m comfortable at this level and I can play at this level.

Cooley, on his family being here:

We had 16 people here. It was an expensive weekend, that’s for sure. Especially being in Chicago, but it was so worth it.

David Quinn

Quinn, on Cooley’s performance:

I thought he played well, made some big saves early.

I feel bad that we weren’t able to bring it to the finish line for him because I thought he deserved it.

Quinn, on what he said during the timeout:

Just get back to [it]. Let’s not get rattled. We got plenty of time here. Let’s go back and have our next best shift. Let’s not hang our heads here. Let’s play hockey here.

Quinn, on Henry Thrun’s game:

That was a tough night for our D corps in general. Some decision-making wasn’t what it needed to be. We made too many long passes instead of making simple plays and it really got us in trouble.

Quinn, on Kostin’s fit with the top line:

Protects the puck well, got skill, he’s got an edge to him.

He did a good job with that line.

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