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Sharks Not Skilled Enough, Not Smart Enough Right Now



Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

The San Jose Sharks keep finding new ways to lose.

From giving up game-winning goals with less than two minutes left (Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning) to surrendering two shorthanded goals in 2:08 to the same penalty killer (Chicago Blackhawks) to blowing a one-goal lead with 1:38 left (Florida Panthers) to blowing a two-goal lead with 4:02 left (last night), it feels like the 3-8-3 Sharks are descending different levels of losing every night.

It’s different kinds of losing, but what’s consistent for the Sharks is a lack of what head coach David Quinn calls situational awareness, knowing the situation on the ice, time on the clock, and who’s on the ice.

Smart or not smart hockey.

Underscoring that is how many games — four — that the Sharks have lost or given up the game-tying goal in the last two minutes of the contest.

They’ve given up a non-empty net goal in the last two minutes of a period nine times this season. Turnabout hasn’t been fair play either: The Sharks have only scored three such goals this year.

But that’s an aside, just one of many problems plaguing the 3-8-3 Sharks. It’s one thing for San Jose to give up the tying Adam Henrique goal when the Ducks have pulled the goalie. They’ve got an extra guy, somebody’s going to be open.

It’s another thing to be in that position because you’re not playing smart hockey and you’re just giving away goals.

At the end of a Sharks power play, up 4-2, Quinn sensibly ices a more defensive group, save for Erik Karlsson – Matt Nieto, Steven Lorentz, Oskar Lindblom, Jaycob Megna, and Karlsson.

This is San Jose’s fourth line, with defensive specialist Nieto filling in for Jonah Gadjovich. Megna and Karlsson, of course, are a regular defensive pairing.

It’s a logical protect-the-lead group. But…

“We just make a saucer pass from the corner to a guy in the middle of the blueline and they go on a breakaway,” Quinn lamented of Lorentz’s pass to Mason McTavish coming out of the box.

“We need to be a little bit more wary about time on the clock, especially on the power play,” Kevin Labanc remarked. “It’s just a free breakaway, we’re up 4-2, so we don’t really need any goals.”

And look, you want guys to try to make plays. By and large, Lorentz had a good game, his line, like the rest of the Sharks, were on top of the puck all night.

But there’s also a time to put your gun back in your holster.

It comes down to this: The San Jose Sharks, we know and they know, are not a highly-skilled team. So bully for them for outchancing the Ducks 22-11 in Slot Shots in All Situations, per SPORTLOGiQ.

But to paraphrase Rick Pitino, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau circa 2012 aren’t walking through the door. San Jose’s ability to finish, or lack thereof, is what it is. They’re not going to outskill the opposition consistently over 82 games.

But can they outwork and outsmart them? Two out of three isn’t bad, but the Sharks are only hitting the work ethic mark with any consistency.

You’re not going to win a lot of games if you’re less skilled and smart than your opponents.

“It’s learning, and sometimes, you’ve got to learn and feel this type of pain before you actually stop playing that way,” Quinn reminded us.

But he may as well have been talking to his team in the locker room at that moment.

It’s not just Lorentz: His failed saucer pass is a microcosm of this Sharks roster right now, not skilled enough, not smart enough.

They can fix one of those two problems right now. Can they, before it’s too late?

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