David Quinn nodded five times without saying a word when I asked him if the San Jose Sharks took the Anaheim Ducks too lightly in the first period on Tuesday night.
“[Two] and six,” Quinn finally offered, “probably had something to do with it.”
Quinn, of course, was referring to the Ducks’ 2-6-1 record going into the contest. It’s now 3-6-1, of course, after Anaheim edged San Jose 6-5 in the shootout. With that loss, the 3-8-1 Sharks actually dropped to second-to-last place in the Pacific Division behind the Ducks.
At practice the next day, I was about to ask Quinn the obvious follow-up, when he interjected for me: “Who the hell are we to take anybody for granted?”
Captain Logan Couture echoed the same sentiment: “Our records are pretty similar. I don’t think we’re in a position to take anyone lightly.”
For the record, Couture did not think that the Sharks took the Ducks lightly in an opening frame where they got outshot 17-10 and surrendered easy goals. And Quinn allowed for that possibility too.
“I just didn’t think we executed,” Couture said. “We played pretty loose.”
“We weren’t sharp. I thought leading up, our details in our D-zone were pretty good,” Matt Benning shared. “And tonight, we left bodies open.”
Whatever the reason for the San Jose Sharks’ loose first period, it was a disappointing statement from a team that needs to buckle down and win some games.
It also, perhaps, speaks to a larger mental hurdle that the Sharks have yet to clear.
Look, we know the San Jose Sharks are facing a talent deficit. They know it.
“It’s nice to score five goals, but at same time, we let in five as well. For this group, I don’t think it’s been what we’re about, how we’re going to win most games moving forward,” first-time hat trick scorer Erik Karlsson acknowledged.
And that’s okay. Winning teams have had less talent than these San Jose Sharks.
But the Sharks have battled more than a lack of talent this season.
Just two weeks ago, we were talking about a “fragile” group that was hanging their heads after goals allowed. They didn’t appear to believe in each other.
Now, we might be talking about a 3-8-1 team – not an 8-3-1 group – taking opponents for granted.
“It’s frustrating, but it was a one-off, and hopefully, we learned our lesson,” Quinn said.
Quinn has 70 games – or probably less, depending on when GM Mike Grier starts breaking apart the team – to mold the San Jose Sharks into something more than what we expect. The early returns, obviously, haven’t been impressive.
But on the whole, there are actually some promising signs. Benning mentioned the Sharks’ previously-strong defensive zone details. He wasn’t just flapping his lips.
Even after Tuesday night, per Natural Stat Trick, San Jose is 12th in the NHL in High-Danger Attempts Against Per 60 at 5-on-5. In contrast, the 2019-22 Sharks were 25th in this key defensive category.
The point is: People think of teams as ready-made mentally going into the season. Like you’re a strong group psychologically because you have X player and Y player. And that makes sense, especially when we’re talking about a group comprised of many veterans like the Sharks.
But the way that Quinn has talked about San Jose this year, on and off the ice, he obviously sees it as a process. And it probably is. So can the San Jose Sharks be better in November than they were in October?
They were 3-8-0 in October, and November got off on the wrong foot. But from a surprisingly stout team defense to Karlsson’s scoring tear, there are some blocks for Quinn to build with. Can he put the Sharks together before they’re broken apart?
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