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

The Mercury News - - Front Page - By Paul Gackle pgackle@ba­yare­anews­group.com

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.

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