The halfway mark of the season has come and gone, which means that teams far below the wild card eligibility for the playoffs (like the San Jose Sharks, who are second-to-last in their division) are going to have to rearrange their priorities.
Despite the Sharks being far outside the bounds of a realistic push for the playoffs, the messaging is clear from head coach Bob Boughner to his team, particularly his veteran players: Don’t give up.
Self-belief can be hard to come by in the face of a growing injured list and tough losses, like their recent 3-1 tilt against the Vegas Golden Knights. Still, Boughner wants his veteran core dialed in. He spoke with the leadership group yesterday.
“Win or lose, let’s make sure that we come playing with a purpose every night…You want to make sure that every night we bring it and we compete and give ourselves a chance. If we’re not good enough that night, at least you [then] feel good about going and executing the game plan and emptying the tanks,” said Boughner.
The extended NHL All-Star break proved to be a tipping point for the team. Since their return, the San Jose Sharks are 2-4-2 and have struggled with inconsistency on the ice, particularly with a lack of goal-scoring and own-zone defensive coverage, and coming into games flat-footed.
“We’re a .500 team since the break, and we were a .500 team, a little bit over .500, going into the break. We’ve been trying to get over that hump and then you run into injuries and lineup changes and things like that, and it makes it difficult. So, as much as we want to be better than .500, I think a lot of things have to go right [to get to that point],” Boughner said. “More than anything, for me – yes, we want to see results and we want to get better analytically – but it’s more about the process. And it’s coming to work every day and approaching every game where we’re trying to get better every day. And some nights whether it be injuries or the other goalie stands on his head or your power play – whether it’d be different reasons every night you lose games, but making sure we give ourselves a chance.”
It’s obvious that prior to the break, the Sharks were able to lock in and play their systems more consistently night after night, that their performance hasn’t been as dependable as of late, and injuries and exhaustion are definitely contributors.
Since Feb. 1 (9 games), #SJSharks are averaging 25.9 shots on goal per game, fewest in NHL, and their -86 shots on goal differential is 2nd-worst (Arizona -112 in 10 games). #SJSvsVGK #NHLStats #HockeyTwitter
— Darin Stephens (@SharksStats) March 2, 2022
“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. 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,” said Boughner.
Logan Couture offered further insight into what exactly the message to the veteran players has been from the coaching staff.
“We’re a run away from being close to a playoff spot. And obviously, it’s a team sport, but you need your best players to contribute on a nightly basis in this league. We need to score more, we need to slow their team’s lines, contribute more to our team, no matter who’s in the lineup or who’s out of it. I think we knew that, as a group plan, that is what we needed to do, but [Boughner] was just reinforcing that,” said Couture.
“We’d love to have all our guns back,” Boughner said, “at least give ourselves a chance and battle as hard as we can and try and get on that four or five-game run.”
It’s the same message the veterans have been receiving all year, but with time running out on the season and a looming trade deadline on Mar. 21, the message hits a little different for a team trying its best to keep their head above water.
“When we go out and play the way that we’re supposed to play, to our structure, we’re a tough team to beat, we may not win every game, but it’s going to be competitive, and we’re going to force other teams to work hard to score. Right now, we’re kind of giving up some freebies on mistakes that aren’t in our structure and how we’ve been taught to play the game or how he wants us to play the game since training camp, and those breakdowns you can’t [allow],” Couture said. “You know, it’s more mental than just your skill level, really. So [the message is] to get back to playing our structure and the way that the coaches want us to play.”
At San Jose Hockey Now…
In Other Sharks News…
Sharks Sports & Entertainment announces updates to attendance policy at SAP Center for fans. [NHL]
The San Jose Sharks’ season is in question after Reimer’s injury. [Yahoo Sports]
Alex Barabanov’s agent discusses overall harassment towards Russian-born players in the NHL. [The Mercury News]
Tomas Hertl offers an update on contract talks with the Sharks. [The Mercury News]
Around the NHL…
Russian NHL players are struggling under pressure from their home country and public perception. [The Washington Post]
Brewing trade rumors include Jake DeBrusk, Mark Giordano, and Marc-Andre Fleury. [ESPN]
Niklas Hjalmarsson and Duncan Keith return to Chicago for the Blackhawks’ Legacy Night series. [NHL]
EA Sports is set to remove Russian and Belarusian national teams from NHL 22. [RMNB]
Former Detroit Red Wing prospect Patrik Rybar gaining some buzz after incredible Olympics run [The Hockey News]
Mark Friedman adds grit to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Boston Bruins’ third line is sparking some serious offense.
Bo Byram may return sooner rather than later for the Colorado Avalanche, plus trade rumors on a possible JT Miller addition to the team.
Florida Panthers sign Finnish defenseman Petteri Lindbohm.
New York Islanders’ injury woes still affecting their under-performing team.
Five observations from another Vegas Golden Knights loss.
Philadelphia Flyers’ Travis Konecny is mired in a goal-scoring drought.
Calgary Flames are utilizing internal competition to build an on-ice identity.
Vancouver Canucks’ JT Miller confronts trade rumors.
Carter Rowney could be trade bait for the Detroit Red Wings.
Anthony Mantha opens up about his return to the Washington Capitals after a quick recovery.
Montreal Canadiens’ Jeff Petry is rumored to be on the trade block.
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