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Sharks Locker Room: Quinn Looking at Standings, Shares How Eklund’s Game Has Grown

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William Eklund keeps scoring game-winners for the San Jose Sharks.

Eklund notched his fourth game-winner of the season, tied for second in the NHL, in a 2-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets. Remarkably, that’s four GWGs for the now 9-17-3 Sharks.

Justin Bailey started the scoring for San Jose.

But if you listen to San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn, it’s other parts of Eklund’s game that have really grown this season.

“He’s understanding that there’s an awful lot to [being] a really good NHL hockey player and he’s adding a lot to his game in a short period of time,” Quinn said of his 21-year-old wunderkind. “His D-zone has been better, his tracking has been better, his play away from the puck has gotten better. Those are the things that are gonna allow him to be a really good player at this level.”

These are signs that Eklund is not just developing into a productive NHL player, but more importantly, into a winning NHL player.

“Zetterlund’s in the same situation. Those guys, they’re great kids, very coachable,” Quinn said. “They just don’t want to get points, they want to be winners.”

Eklund and Zetterlund weren’t perfect against the Jets, but both played winning hockey beyond the scoresheet. Eklund, in particular, was disruptive on the forecheck.

That helped the Sharks get out to a 12-1 shots advantage in the first six minutes of the game. While San Jose couldn’t keep that pace up, they played a pretty solid game at Even Strength, down 29-27 shots, but up 15-14 Slot Shots and 10-9 High-Danger Chances.

It’s not just the goaltending that’s getting San Jose by anymore, though Mackenzie Blackwood was excellent with 36 saves.

Two weeks ago in New Jersey, it felt like the Sharks realized that they could score with their six-goal outburst on Dec. 1. Over the last three games, it feels like the Sharks are starting to defend at a competent level for longer stretches of time. And they’ve received solid goaltending all season.

They’re now 9-7-2 after their 0-10-1 start, and somehow, in my best Jim Mora voice, just seven points out of a playoff spot.

“For the first four weeks, I never looked at NHL.com,” Quinn quipped. “I’m starting to peek a little bit. I’m not going to lie.”

William Eklund

Eklund, on Brian Wiseman telling him this morning to shoot it if it comes to him on the power play:

I want to add that to my game even more.

So to get that into that position and great pass by Granny there, I want to be able to score.

Eklund, on his overall game:

I thought it was a good game for me. Obviously, those two penalties were stupid by me, but it’s helped me learn how to not do that. Overall, I think our line did a good job, had a couple of good chances and probably should have even more.

Mackenzie Blackwood

Blackwood, on his skate blade coming off in the middle of play:

Anything’s better than continuing to play without a blade. Heads-up play by their goalie to stop that icing. The only thing I could think is if you could somehow pass the puck back to me for the whistle.

Justin Bailey

Bailey, on if he’s pinching himself over his much-awaited NHL success:

I think for me, I’m kind of doing the things that I know I can do well. That’s skate. I’m skating hard on the forecheck. I’m skating hard on the backcheck.

I’ve had success in the minors, scoring and putting up points, but coming up here, [I’m] trying to do all those little things.

As far as pinching myself, I feel like I’ve worked really hard for this moment, the situation that I’m in. It’s my ninth year and it’s something where younger me would probably be worried about points and call-ups and worried about all this. For me, I’m living in the moment and taking it day-by-day.

Bailey, on his skills and hard work finally translating to NHL success:

It’s obviously a good feeling. It’s the moment that I worked for last summer. This summer.

But at the same time, I try not to get too high, not too low. Try to keep an even-keel and just continue to do the things that I’ve been doing that’s been [helping] myself and helping this team win games.

David Quinn

Quinn, on Henry Thrun taking an icing when Blackwood broke his blade:

He’s already heard about it. Harvard guys should never do something like that. (laughs) We could have gotten the whistle in a different fashion.

Quinn, on Eklund’s growth this season:

He’s come a long way in a lot of areas.

I think we’re asking young players to be mature beyond the years when you’re put in our situation and he’s understanding that there’s an awful lot to [being] a really good NHL hockey player and he’s adding a lot to his game in a short period of time.

His D-zone has been better, his tracking has been better, his play away from the puck has gotten better. Those are the things that are gonna allow him to be a really good player at this level.

Zetterlund’s in the same situation. Those guys, they’re great kids, very coachable. They want to be good. They just don’t want to get points, they want to be winners. They’re certainly trending in that direction.

Quinn, on the work that Eklund has put into his one-timer:

Yeah, he’s worked at it. A bunch of people have helped him. I know Mike Ricci has worked with him. He’s spent a lot of time working on it. When you’re going to play that flank, you better be ready to take a one-timer.

Quinn, on Mikael Granlund’s impact on the San Jose Sharks:

He brings so much to the table.

I know what you see on the ice. He’s playing outstanding hockey for us.

But what he does away from the rink with our young players and his leadership and his professionalism, that’s getting harder and harder to find in this league.

 

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