NHL: Flattened by the Carolina Hurricanes, the San Jose Sharks tried to regroup and get ready for the Boston Bruins
SAN JOSE – The San Jose Sharks huddled together on the ice for a few minutes near the end of Wednesday’s practice. There was no grand, fiery speech, at least not from a few dozen feet away, and it ended after a few moments with the group sharing a small laugh.
After practice, players were hesitant to discuss the meeting. Perhaps the theme was to remain united despite the Sharks’ 0-2-1 start, one year after they started the season with five straight regulation-time losses.
“When you lose a few games, you have to come together,” Sharks goalie Kaapo Kahkonen explained. “You can’t hold each other responsible. You are not permitted to point fingers.”
Kahkonen will start the Sharks’ season-opening four-game homestand against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night, and the skaters in front of him must cut down on the number of shots their goaltender has to face.
In losses to the Colorado Avalanche and Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday and Tuesday, the Sharks allowed a total of 94 shots. Before the start of the third period on Tuesday, the team’s media relations department announced that Mackenzie Blackwood had stopped more shots in two games to start a season than any other Sharks goalie in franchise history.
That’s impressive for Blackwood, but it’s not exactly a source of pride for the rest of the teal-clad crew.
Coach David Quinn certainly expressed his disappointment, saying after San Jose’s 6-3 loss to Carolina, in which the Sharks broke down and allowed four unanswered goals in the third period, that “we’ve just got to be harder to play against, and tonight wasn’t good enough.” It’s far too soft and slow.”
Wednesday’s practice, which focused more on forechecking and battle level, attempted to address those issues before they became bad habits.
“No forecheck has been established.” “Our offensive zone play has been poor,” Quinn said on Wednesday. “We just haven’t given our defensemen enough opportunities to create gaps.”
“I understand the level of competition we’ve had, but neither I nor the players can do anything about it.” However, they can get to the places they need to go as quickly as possible in order to play through people. We start looking for a puck the moment we touch someone, and then we lose battles that shouldn’t be lost.”
With Erik Karlsson and Timo Meier out of the lineup, the Sharks have little chance of competing on a nightly basis if they are unwilling to move their feet, win battles, and be more physical. If the Sharks want to improve on last season’s 22-44-16 record, which was the fourth-worst in team history in terms of points percentage, those items must be non-negotiable.
“We were turning the puck over far too often in the neutral zone.” We didn’t even set up a forecheck. “We weren’t at all physical,” Sharks forward Luke Kunin said. “There was a lot of forechecking in practice, a lot of getting flesh and body first, and that’s kind of got to be our identity.”
‘If we don’t have that, we won’t be able to create much in the (offensive) zone.”
Forwards getting in the way of opposing forecheckers would also relieve some of the pressure on defensemen during breakout attempts. Kunin and Quinn both agreed that in the attacking zone, there must be predictability in what each skater does to avoid guys freelancing.
“A forecheck is all about three guys fighting to be F1,” he said. “Because once that happens, the three-man forecheck turns into a five-man forecheck.” because the (defensemen) can maintain contact with the forwards.
“When one guy goes and F2 and F3 look at each other and hesitate, there’s simply too much space between people, and that’s what’s been happening.” We haven’t had that five-man gap where everyone is skating to gap in order to maintain zone time.”
LABANC IN: Move forward Kevin Labanc stated that he is ready to play after being scratched for the first three games, and he will get his chance against the Bruins. Quinn stated that he has been impressed with Labanc’s recent practices, and it appears that the winger will start on a line with Thomas Bordeleau and Filip Zadina.
“If he hadn’t been practicing that way he had, he wouldn’t have been in the lineup today, so he’s put himself in a good position,” Quinn said when asked about Labanc. “This is an established NHLer who will be a major contributor this year as well.” “I’m hoping for the best, pun intended.”
DEFENSIVE SWITCH: On Wednesday morning, the Sharks reassigned defenseman Henry Thrun to the Barracuda. This opens up a roster spot for Nikita Okhotiuk, who started the season on the injured non-roster list and is eligible to play Wednesday and make his Sharks debut, according to Quinn. Quinn also stated that Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Ty Emberson are available to play.
Okhotiuk was acquired from the New Jersey Devils as part of the Timo Meier trade. He hasn’t played in an NHL game since Jan. 26, and his last AHL game was on Feb. 11. He underwent core muscle surgery on April 3.
SIMEK PRACTICES: Sharks defenseman Radim Simek practiced with the team on Wednesday and is recovering from a lower-body injury, but there is no timetable for his return. Simek was hurt in a preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks on September 27 when he blocked a shot.
“It was one blocked shot and then it took longer (to heal) than I expected,” Simek was quoted as saying. “It was my first time with this injury.” I was disappointed because I had spent the entire summer preparing for training camp and this season. “It (messed up) everything with one stupid shot.”