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Not Hard to Figure Out What’s Wrong with Sharks

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Credit: Hockey Shots/Dean Tait

What’s wrong with the San Jose Sharks isn’t that hard to figure out.

A menagerie of mistakes was on obvious display in the Sharks’ 2-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes. The game wasn’t as close as the score: Per SPORTLOGiQ, after an evenly-played first period, San Jose was outchanced 9-4 Slot Shots in All Situations, outshot 27-12.

The Sharks themselves pointed to three clear areas of concern after the game, though there’s a larger problem at play.

Puck Battles

“I just thought they won a lot of battles and won a lot of foot races towards pucks,” San Jose Sharks head coach David Quinn said.

I was tough on Erik Karlsson (65) in my Game Notes, criticizing his ability to handle the equally-smallish Sebastian Aho (20) in front. David Pollak’s observation that Aho re-directed the game-winner with his skate is meaningful though, as it means that Karlsson’s error wasn’t as egregious as on first glance.

Burns Returns, Canes Grind Sharks Down 2-1

However, an NHL scout who I spoke with still wasn’t impressed with Karlsson’s effort here.

“[Karlsson] played it right at first, because he was on the inside,” the scout noted, before adding, “[Karlsson] can’t completely box him out, but he needs to move his feet to force Aho to go into a different direction. It’s just not urgent enough and it should be late in the game.”

Aho’s stick or skate, Karlsson started with inside position, and ended up on the outside. As the scout noted, Karlsson can’t just step in front of Aho and interfere with him, but he also can’t allow such a direct line to the dangerous middle of the ice.

As Quinn noted, the Sharks were getting beat to the danger areas all night, so it wasn’t just Karlsson. Upgraded battle was supposed to be one of GM Mike Grier’s improvements of this team, but it wasn’t on display last night.

Neutral Zone Turnovers

“We have to be stronger, especially in the neutral zone,” Tomas Hertl offered.

Quinn said it twice: “Our decision-making through the neutral zone, the turnovers just really fueled their offense.”

He added: “We shot ourselves in the foot an awful lot coming through the neutral zone, making plays when plays weren’t there.”

It’s not just this Kevin Labanc (62) turnover either, I noted a couple other instances of San Jose NZ turnovers which led to odd-man rushes the other way in my Game Notes.

Credit to Andrei Svechnikov (37) for the pickpocket, but Labanc’s got to have awareness of the backchecker, no ifs and buts.

The San Jose Sharks could’ve gone into the second intermission with the lead, but instead, they gave the Canes a gift.

Power Play

After a promising opening night on the power play and scoring a PP goal in their second game, the Sharks went backwards against the Canes.

In 8:56 of power play time, the Sharks were able just to scare up one Slot Shot. Just in contrast, on opening night in Prague, San Jose had seven Slot Shots in 6:04 on the PP.

One Sign of Change, One Sign of Same ‘Ol Sharks

Basically, the San Jose Sharks power play had just one shot from a dangerous scoring area in five PPs.

In fairness, Carolina had the best PK in the league last year, and Nashville was a little below-average.

But it’s fair to say that the Sharks power play failed the test against the NHL’s top kill.

There’s nothing positive to write about here: Entries and execution were sloppy, one-on-one puck battles were lost, and the skill-deficient second PP unit was a momentum killer last night. The ask of the second unit isn’t to score a lot of goals, I think, but at least possess the puck, get some chances, keep the plate warm for the top group.

Anyway, like I said, it’s easy to figure out what’s wrong with the Sharks, when matched against the Stanley Cup-contending Canes: They’re just not good.

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