Sharks fall to 8-6-3 after 4-0 loss to the Blues.
DeBoer, players criticize defensive effort after back-to-back losses in Dallas, St. Louis
ST. LOUIS >> Pete DeBoer often uses colorful language to describe games in which the Sharks have put forth the type of performance they threw out on the ice in St. Louis on Friday.
He’s called his team’s mostlopsided losses “eggs” and “clunkers,” telling reporters to “burn the tape.”
On Friday, he spoke in more sober terms about the Sharks
back-to-back losses to the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues.
“Yesterday, we were reckless, but we had energy. Today, we were reckless without energy,” the Sharks coach said in a flatlined tone. “We’ve got a lot to fix after these last couple of games.”
Here’s what we learned as the Blues (6-5-3) handed the Sharks (8-6-3) a 4-0 loss in St. Louis:
1. COUTURE CALLS THE SHARKS
DEFENSIVE FOUNDATION “HORRIBLE” >> After DeBoer knocked down a question about the Sharks defensive woes in his pregame presser and captain Joe Pavelski downplayed the issue after the game, Logan Couture refused to sidestep the problem.
He took Pavelski’s characterization of the Sharks twogame trip as a “small bump in the road” and put his own twist on it.
“It’s definitely a bump,” the Sharks alternate captain said. “I wouldn’t say it’s little. That’s my opinion.”
Couture acknowledged that the Sharks are having major issues on the defensive side of the puck. In his eyes, the holes in the Sharks defensive foundation explain why the team entered play Friday ranked last in the NHL in save percentage (88.99 percent).
After defensive lapses led to three Stars goals Thursday, the Blues managed to exploit four more Sharks mistakes Friday.
No one stepped into a lane to block Alex Pietrangelo’s goal in the first, giving him time to cradle the puck and fire it into the upper shelf. Ryan O’Reilly got left alone at the side of the net in the second. Jaden Schwartz took advantage of an exhausted fourth line later in the period after the Sharks defensive zone coverage failed and Alexander Steen slipped behind the defense on a rush play in the third.
According to Natural Stattrick, the Sharks gave up 10 high-danger scoring chances Friday after coughing up 14 Thursday night.
“It’s been horrible,” Couture said. “It’s not just the D-Men, it’s forwards. It’s not good. It’s not good enough for an American League level. It’s ugly.”
Evander Kane said the Sharks defensive struggles can be whittled down to one problem: The team
isn’t playing tough. The Sharks’ unwillingness to block shots, their net-front presence and loose defensive zone coverage seem to confirm Kane’s take.
“It’s just being harder,” Kane said. “We’re too much, one hand on the stick and reaching. We’ve got to get into our checks a little bit harder, all five guys in the D-Zone.”
DeBoer agreed. “Too many soft goals around our net. Too many soft plays with the puck that led to chances.”
2. IT’S WAY TOO EARLY TO PANIC >> As bad as things have looked the past couple of nights, it’s way too early to panic.
Keep in mind, the Sharks are still just two points out of first place in the Pacific Division. They’re producing tons of offense, outshooting opponents in 14 of 17 games. They’re ranked second in shots per game (36.5), third in shot differential (248) and third in Corsi percentage (58.04 percent).
If this is rock bottom, it’s a pretty soft bottom.
It’s hard to believe that the team’s inconsistency isn’t linked somewhat to the addition of Erik Karlsson, two rookie centers
and Joe Thornton’s reintegration into the lineup. Through 17 games, DeBoer continues to shuffle things up on a near-nightly basis, looking for a formula that works. He’s still mixing and matching on the blue line, moving Thornton around and trying to find the right body to replace Chris Tierney at third line center.
At this point, the Sharks are still a team that’s trying to find its jam.
“It sure looks like it on some nights,” DeBoer said. “Some other nights it looks like we’ve got it figured out. It’s consistency in our game and having that composure to not beat ourselves. We’re not there yet.”
3. TIM HEED MAKES HIS 201819 DEBUT >> Heed made his season debut Friday, drawing in for Joakim Ryan, who spent the last two periods of Thursday’s game stapled to the bench after getting exposed on the Stars opening goal. DeBoer made the change for the same reason that he scratched Antti Suomela last Saturday: his compete level was dipping.
Ryan ranks last among Sharks defensemen in time on ice, logging 10:47 per night over 16 games.
“Like all young guys, sometimes you need to take a step back. It was his time,” DeBoer said.
Heed skated for 13:01 in his season debut, recording a shot on goal after spending the first 16 games in the press box. The Swedish defensemen certainly held his own on a Sharks blue line that’s struggling after working hard in practice to stay sharp.
“It’s tough. It’s frustrating,” Heed said. “But you’ve just got to stay positive, work hard and stay ready. It’s only yourself who’s going to lose if you’re negative.”
The Sharks’ Timo Meier takes a puck to the shoulder in the third period of Friday’s 4-0loss to the Blues in St. Louis.
The Blues’ Alexander Steen slips the puck past Sharks goalie Aaron Dell in the third period Friday night.