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Sharks Overcome Defensive Shortcomings with Smarts, Goaltending



Credit: AP Photo/Josie Lepe

It wasn’t a textbook win for the San Jose Sharks.

“I don’t think we were great defensively tonight,” head coach Bob Boughner acknowledged after the Sharks topped the Calgary Flames 5-3.

Calgary outshot San Jose 43-27, and per SPORTLOGiQ, also had more Slot Shots 17-13.

In fact, two of the Flames’ goals were carbon copies of each other: Three Sharks trying to outnumber the visitors beneath the goal line, then breakdowns that leave a Calgary forward all by himself.

Even Calgary’s official Twitter account was making fun of San Jose’s defensive structure:

This was not the formula for success for the San Jose Sharks, but most importantly, they persevered.

“I was proud of the team because we went through a little bit of a roller coaster there in that Columbus game. We responded with an effort and there was some urgency and compete,” Boughner said. “Good things happen when you compete that hard. Special teams took over and Hiller made some saves.”

It’s Not That the Sharks Lost — It’s How They Lost

Logan Couture gave a lot of credit to Adin Hill for stealing another win against the Pacific Division-leading Flames on Tuesday.

“Made some huge saves, especially in that third. They seemed like they had a bunch of zone time there,” Couture said of Hill, who’s stopped 77 of 81 Calgary shots this year. “They’re circling around the outside and they like to shoot for tips and screens in front and Hiller battled to see it.”

Obviously, Tomas Hertl’s hat trick also carried the San Jose Sharks. Hertl was on a five-game pointless streak before scoring against Columbus on Sunday, but he really put his slump in the rear view window on Tuesday.

“Tonight, it looked like he had 20-30 pounds lifted off,” Couture said, of the importance of Sunday’s goal for Hertl. “Every player in this league goes through ups and downs. When he’s hot, man, he’s so good and so important for our team.”

Beyond Hill and Hertl, a couple heads-up plays, both from Alexander Barabanov, stood out.

It didn’t end up being crucial, but Hertl (48) showed a sound awareness to clear out Mikael Backlund’s broken stick. The halves could’ve proven to be an impediment to the puck movement on the power play.

It’s also a good pass from Barabanov (94) through Elias Lindholm (28) to Hertl — and also sound awareness by the Russian winger to see Backlund (11) scurrying off the ice, thus exploiting a brief two-man advantage.

Barabanov’s cleverness also proved instrumental in Hertl’s game-winner.

It looked to me that Barabanov was aiming for Dan Vladar’s pad — he wasn’t trying to score, he was hoping for a rebound to Hertl.

Hertl couldn’t quite confirm his linemate’s intentions: “He just tried putting it on the net so we can crash it and get the rebound and it worked.”

Regardless, this San Jose Sharks victory goes to show you — if you got the goaltending, it just takes a couple smart plays to win a game.

The Sharks look to improve their overall team game on Thursday against another division leader, the Minnesota Wild.

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