The San Jose Sharks played just their seventh game at home on the 2014-15 NHL season Saturday, Nov. 22. A second consecutive shootout loss leaves them with just two wins in the building they will play nine of the next 11.
The Arizona Coyotes also became the fourth team in the two bottom spots of its division to win in its only game in San Jose thus far in the 2014-15 NHL season. Eastern Conference teams the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres all swept the season series.
The shootout losses are a bit different. The Sharks were the better team for most of both games, and victims of opportunistic teams taking advantage of mistakes. They had edges in almost every event summary statistic: 47-30 in faceoffs and 19-12 in takeaways while only having three more of the game’s many giveaways (25-22), leading to 43-25 edge in shots and 91-48 in attempts and still a 27-19 advantage in hits.
The Coyotes just managed a goal in the first six-plus minutes when they were able to keep pace, tied up sticks better at key moments and took advantage of a few times the hosts were unable to clear the puck multiple times in the same shift. That first goal was one of those cases, but at least it was on a penalty kill: Mikkel Boedker retrieved what was clearly either a missed or blocked shot (despite the official play-by-play summary) and flung the puck back toward the net where Shane Doan backhanded it to Antoine Vermette for the point-blank one-timer shot that he did not get all of, perhaps making it tougher for Antti Niemi to stop.
On the second Arizona goal, Lauri Korpikoski was able to get the puck into the zone and to Boedker for an odd-man rush, who passed it back to a pinching David Schlemko to kick to his skate and fire past Niemi through traffic. When the guests went on another power play early in the second, things looked grim for the home fans.
However, Barclay Goodrow chipped the puck past the point and was able to get to it first and slide a pass through the one defender to teammate Tommy Wingels for San Jose’s first shorthanded goal of the 2014-15 NHL season 4:11 into the middle frame. What had been a close game through 24 minutes became lopsided over the final 36 minutes: 36-21 faceoffs, 33-16 shots, 63-31 attempts and 17-8 in hits.
Wingels was asked about breaking his own scoring drought, mentioning that he should be able to not have long droughts without a goal. He also broke a shorthanded drought for the team, saying “our penalty kill gave one up earlier in the game so the fact that we could get one back was important for us.”
Goodrow made the play happen, and said it was good to be able to contribute on special teams. He took no credit for planning the takeaway-turned-breakaway one-timer opportunity: “I was just trying to get the puck out, to be honest, and I got lucky and it kind of settled in behind him and I was able to win a foot race and Tommy made a great shot after that.”
The Sharks then failed to score again on their second power play, but Matt Nieto was able to regain possession in the neutral zone seconds later and chip the puck ahead. Tyler Kennedy gathered it, entered the zone and attacked on the right wing, with Devan Dubnyk leaving a juicy rebound on the shot for Andrew Desjardins to clean up.
That score held up until intermission, but the Coyotes scored in the first minute of the third. Tomas Hertl’s giveaway in the defensive zone was pushed deeper by Tobias Rieder and grabbed by Sam Gagner, whose backhand was punched back through Niemi by Doan. This lead they held for under seven minutes, but Michael Stone’s penalty changed that.
This San Jose power play would convert within 40 seconds. After a frustrating night of having shooting angles taken away by the time it took to gather, wind up on a shot or reposition, Logan Couture threw the puck to the point from deep in the zone and became a Brent Burns one-timer blast Joe Pavelski could redirect home.
Nevertheless, the Sharks lost again in the shootout without putting one in net. They are falling in the 2014-15 NHL season standings and have to right the ship while they are at home.
Mistakes are more common with fatigue and a lack of practice time, particularly with young players and recent arrival Brenden Dillon that need more time to get familiar with the system and their teammates. The brutal start to the 2014-15 NHL season has more or less ended now, with just two games this week—both at home, where the team will have stayed for over two weeks before the next road game.
Joe Pavelski showed his enthusiasm for being at home in the post-game interview: “It’s going to be awesome. We love playing the game. Ask anyone, we’ll want to play every day, but sometimes it’s nice to be sat down a little bit and get the rest and recovery, and get out of the time changes and yeah, a little bit of practice. Hopefully the mind gets clear and when we’re in the positions to make the plays we’ve got to make them.”
Wingels also weighed in about being home: “At home, it’s more comfortable, you get some more practice time here, we have our home fans and in our next game we have to find a way to win.” However, head coach Todd McLellan was not willing to take a wait-and-see approach because of the brutal early 2014-15 NHL season schedule:
I think we can gauge now where we are without that practice time. The details of the game—the preciseness if you will—sometimes go away without practice, but the passion and will to do it the right way were at times a little bit flat and that concerns me. That doesn’t get affected with practice time.
McLellan did a great job of laying out the problem and encapsulating the team’s attitude that the results are not acceptable:
Lapses that cost us, and on the other end if you get three you should be able to win a game. A lot of shots on goal, a lot of attempts, faceoffs were good but in the end we weren’t detailed enough with the puck in certain moments of the game and they get enough to win. …We got tremendous energy from our third and fourth lines…on a night when some of our top players didn’t have the energy and didn’t have the details. We’ve won six of the last 18 games. That’s not a record that puts you in the playoffs.
It was a position his should-be captain Pavelski independently voiced: “To have the record we do at home is not acceptable. You can’t really make excuses…gotta find a way to win at home, especially if you’re not going to clean up on the road, you gotta clean up at home.”
Nevertheless, getting a point while playing better than the opponent is at least something. Considering their adversity, any objective review must give them credit for that as much as blame for not getting two.