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If Sharks Want to Take Next Step, They’ll Need to Add Scoring



Credit: AP Photo/John Munson

NEW YORK – If the San Jose Sharks want to take the next step, they’ll need to add some scoring.

They were shut out 1-0 by the New York Rangers on Friday, the third time that they’ve been shut out this season. They’re tied for the NHL lead in this ignominious category, along with the Arizona Coyotes, Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, Ottawa Senators, Philadelphia Flyers, and Winnipeg Jets.

That’s not company that you want to keep.

On the other hand, going into the season, the Sharks knew to some degree that fewer goals scored would be the price of a stronger team defense.

“The coaching staff brought it to us in camp, a new system in the defensive zone that we’re going to play. They said you may have to give up some offense at times to play that tight defensively. But it’s going to help us win hockey games,” Logan Couture said. “And every single guy in that room has bought into that. It shows. We’re five-tight in the D-zone. One guy makes a mistake, guys are there to back it up. It’s been good so far.”

And it has been good so far – before last night’s loss, the San Jose Sharks had won the first three games of this five-game road trip, and they’re a surprising 13-10-1, good for fourth in the Pacific Division. They’re in the thick of it, and the root cause is their team defense.

Why Sharks Have Bought into Boughner’s Defense-First Approach

But no doubt, it’s been a grind.

“Yeah, it seems like everyday,” Couture said, smiling. “I was just talking to [ex-teammate] Barclay Goodrow. I said every game is 1-0, 2-1, 3-2. We enjoy the one-goal games.”

However, being able to breathe can’t be overrated.

And there is a proven NHL scorer in the San Jose Sharks system who’s currently toiling in the AHL: For the purposes of this article, let’s just call him “He Who Must Not Be Named.”

Taking a sober view of things, Evander Kane’s on-the-ice talents are what any NHL team needs: He can skate, he can shoot, he can hit, and he can score.

But even if you’re able to get past the myriad of off-the-ice issues – a number which are of Kane’s own creation and very serious, I must add – there’s also a legitimate question of whether or not the winger will “buy in” on the ice, at least the way that Couture is talking about.

Is Kane going to be okay with sacrificing offense for defense? Grinding out games with a slim margin for error group?

There’s reason to believe he won’t be: Putting it kindly, Kane has never been considered a team player in any of his NHL stops.

So when I say the San Jose Sharks need scoring – it’s not as simple as sprinkling some individual talent on top.

There was, however, one very promising development last night that should help San Jose if they continue to struggle to score.

If you’re not going to score, you better get good goaltending. That’s what the San Jose Sharks received from Adin Hill, who stopped 26 of 27 Rangers shots.

“He was our best player, there’s no doubt,” Bob Boughner said. “Nice to see him back with some confidence and playing big in the net.”

Hill has stopped 66 of the last 68 shots that he’s faced, a very positive sign for a Sharks squad that has been carried by James Reimer this season. Reimer, however, hasn’t been a No. 1 starter for years, so Hill will probably have to take on more of the load soon.

Now is as good a time as any: San Jose can make some noise in the West if they can get some dueling banjos going between the pipes. And as Couture suggested – the defensive stage has been set.

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