David Quinn was a lot happier with the San Jose Sharks’ performance on Wednesday night, as opposed to how they played Tuesday.
“That was our best preseason game so far. We were on our toes, we were taking away time and space,” the San Jose Sharks bench boss said about the 4-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. “I liked the way we played. I liked our intentions. It’s something to build on.”
Despite the score, the Sharks almost doubled the Ducks in shots, 48-26. But Lukas Dostal outdueled Russian import Georgi Romanov, who was playing his first NHL game.
Quinn’s comments last night were in stark contrast to what he said about Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to Anaheim.
“I thought a bunch of our forwards were just okay. We’re just gonna have [to have] way more of a desire to get on the inside. It got better as the game went on, but we were a little too soft offensively,” he said. “That was a problem for us last year. It’s something that we’ve got to have in our game. You can’t create offense in this league if you’re not willing to pay a price to get on the inside.”
Quinn seemed happy with his entire team last night, but I’m going to focus on younger players, still trying to establish themselves in the NHL, like Henry Thrun, Danil Gushchin, and Filip Zadina.
But it’s worth noting, Quinn singled out veterans Givani Smith, Justin Bailey, Matt Benning, Jacob MacDonald, and Kyle Burroughs for praise too.
Let’s start with the waiver-exempt Thrun, who’s really making a strong case for himself the break camp with the San Jose Sharks, despite the logjam on defense.
He led both teams with 25:19 in ice-time, and while he was hung with a -3, I’m not sure you can point to a breakdown in those instances that you would blame on Thrun. He was on the ice for the Pavel Mintyukov goal (seeing-eye shot from point), Brett Leason goal (Thrun was left on a 2-on-1 island down low), and a long shot from Brock McGinn that Romanov would likely want back.
Quinn doubled down on comments that Thrun had made earlier in camp about improving his skating – then added more details about the 22-year-old defenseman’s gains.
“Spent a lot of time working on his stick positioning, skating backwards, his agility and mobility, and you can see it in his game,” Quinn said. “A bit stronger.”
Quinn honed in on Thrun’s stick positioning.
“I really thought that he needed to learn how to use a stick to play this game,” he said.
All this has made Thrun a better all-around defenseman, and that includes his offense.
It so happens, with the Erik Karlsson trade, that the San Jose Sharks have a gaping need for a power play quarterback. And while Thrun, I’m sure by his own admission, will never replicate Karlsson’s productivity, he’s been getting a regular look on the power play in camp and during his two pre-season appearances.
The results have been there so far too, as Thrun has netted a power play goal and assist so far. He also added a primary assist on a Tomas Hertl goal as the power play was expiring on Sunday. And besides that, the puck has been humming, for the most part, with Thrun at the point on the power play.
Though obvious caveats, it’s pre-season, and of course, Thrun isn’t the driver of offensive success a la Karlsson. But beyond not hurting the Sharks on the PP, Thrun has actually helped it so far.
“Our power play felt like it should have scored more than one goal. I liked a lot of his decisions. I thought his deception was good. He did a good job,” Quinn said.
We’ll see if a hard summer of work pays off in the regular season for Thrun. So far, so good.
“When you work on those things and your game improves in those areas, your puck play improves. Because when you have it, you just feel a surge of confidence,” Quinn said. “And he just looks like a much more confident player.”
Danil Gushchin was a prospect who really needed a strong camp showing after, in my opinion, just okay Rookie Faceoff and camp performances. Gushchin looked particularly comfortable on the power play – he was around the puck a ton – and Anaheim Ducks color commentator Emerson Etem was particularly impressed with the winger’s performance.
Quinn didn’t disagree that Gushchin needed this: “I thought it was his best game from the rookie tournament to the game previously played. I thought he took a big step forward.”
Finally, a quick note on Zadina, who has impressed in this camp beyond the offensive end – he’s hungry on the puck and beating real NHL’ers like Adam Henrique to it. Love this play, from the opening shift:
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