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Sharks Turn It On When They Need To

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Credit: AP Photo/Tony Avelar

It’s been a while since the San Jose Sharks have entered a game as favorites.

Think about it: Their last five games have been against Cup contenders like the Carolina Hurricanes, Washington Capitals, St. Louis Blues, Minnesota Wild, and Colorado Avalanche. They played short-handed in the six contests before that as the likes of Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier were in COVID protocol.

So how would the Sharks approach the visiting 4-11-1 Ottawa Senators?

“I didn’t like our first period at all,” Bob Boughner lamented. “They won more battles than us. They were more hungry in the first period.”

Nick Bonino agreed: “First period, we lost a lot of battles.”

Honestly, it looked like the San Jose Sharks were playing down to the competition.

Karlsson (65) rotates slowly on Josh Norris (9).

Karlsson is the easy target because of the goal given up, but it wasn’t just him. Here, Nick Paul (21) gets position too easily on Timo Meier (28).

This lack of urgency was apparent in the stats: Per Natural Stat Trick, Ottawa had a 4-1 High-Danger Chances edge in the opening frame. Defensively, there were just too many free sticks in the slot: According to SPORTLOGiQ, the Sens had an 8-6 Slot Shots on Net advantage.

“We made that message very loud and clear between the first and second and we had some response, which was good to see,” Boughner shared.

A good team can turn it on against a bad team – and to their credit, that’s what the San Jose Sharks did after a flat first period, en route to a 6-3 victory. Bonino snapped an 18-game pointless streak with a goal and Meier notched a goal and two assists.

The Sharks literally gave the Sens nothing in the slot in the third period: San Jose had a 3-0 Slot Shots on Net edge in the final frame.

“We knew we had to collapse and really just be inside in our net more,” Boughner offered.

Here’s an example:

Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) is on top of Paul and Connor Brown (28) is surrounded by Sharks when the puck squirts to him.

And speaking of urgency, here’s Karlsson closing out his former team defensively.

“We had to just get the urgency and the compete up,” Boughner said. “We did, we figured it out.”

So have we figured out if the San Jose Sharks are good? They just might be: They were solid defensively against Metropolitan Division leaders Carolina and Washington. They were able to turn it on when it counted most against cellar-dweller Ottawa.

San Jose is 10-8-1 and on the cusp of the playoffs – they’re tied with Colorado and Nashville for the second wild card – a pleasant surprise, considering their tough, road-heavy schedule and COVID challenges.

The Sharks face another stiff test in Toronto on Friday before embarking on another long road trip. After the last game of the trip, Dec. 5 at Columbus, San Jose doesn’t leave California for the rest of the month – they’ve got nine home games and one road contest in Anaheim. Will they be able to rack up the points then?

“Looking forward to getting to that three-week span in December where we play a lot of home games and our schedule lightens up a bit,” Boughner said. “That’s still the focus here, getting to that spot and being in a playoff spot or just around a playoff spot. Being able to take advantage of the better schedule.”

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