DETROIT – The Sharks had just one scheduled practice on their 10-day road trip, set to take place on Friday in Detroit prior to the fifth and final game against the Red Wings. It was canceled, though, as the coaching staff opted for rest rather than work.
The result was a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings in which the Sharks were sloppy in their own zone, were smoked in the faceoff circle, surrendered a plethora of odd-man rushes, and took eight minor penalties. They just couldn’t keep pace with a Detroit team that was playing its second game in as many nights.
San Jose looked like a club that has held just a single solitary practice since the season began on Oct. 12.
“Some breakdowns, guys not being above [the puck], some giveaways in our own end, we’re kind of leaving [the defensive zone] early,” Logan Couture said. “We just don’t seem like we’re dedicated to defense like we were at the end [of] last year.”
[KURZ: Instant Replay: Sharks blanked by Wings, end road trip with thud]
“It wasn’t very good tonight,” added Martin Jones, who lost his third in a row in goal. “Too many penalties, too many turnovers. Just wasn’t very good tonight.”
The start was actually a decent one, as the Sharks were attempting to put Thursday’s third period collapse in Pittsburgh behind them, but Detroit eventually took over. Gustav Nyquist broke the scoreless tie four minutes into the second period, and added to the Red Wings’ lead with a second marker about 11 minutes later.
On the first, Paul Martin was caught flat-footed in the offensive zone, leading to a two-on-one rush by Detroit. Nyquist abruptly stopped on the faceoff dot in front of Justin Braun, and rifled a shot though. On the second, Matt Nieto had control of the puck and was headed up the ice before he stumbled and turned it over to Ryan Sproul, who found Nyquist in the slot.
A bad line change resulted in Andreas Athanasiou powering a slap shot to Jones’ far side six minutes into the third period, giving Detroit a commanding three-goal lead.
“We were late everywhere tonight,” Pete DeBoer said. “When you’re a step behind a good team they expose you, and I think that was the story. We’ll have to go back and figure out why, and get our game back in a better place.”
“We played into their hands. They’re a transition team, a speed team, and if you’re going to play east-west and turn the puck over they’re going to make you pay for it. We talked about it, but we still fell into that trap. Obviously the penalties didn’t help, and we’re playing catch up all night.”
Among those penalties was a double minor to Joe Pavelski for spearing Steve Ott, just a few seconds after Athanasiou’s goal. The captain seemed agitated for much of the night.
Pavelski said he didn’t think he got a whole lot of Ott with his stick, but “it’s a play you don’t want to make.”
DeBoer didn’t take issue with the play which nullified what would have been a Sharks power play after a Drew Miller interference.
“Pav is a competitor. He was probably our best player tonight. He’s competing right until the final buzzer,” DeBoer said. “I don’t have a problem with that. It doesn’t bother me.”
The power play, though, is one area that the coach may need to focus on when the Sharks finally get a practice in on Monday at home. Despite being together for so many years, the top unit seems tentative with the puck and is misfiring on passes that are typically routine.
On one power play in the second period when the game was still scoreless, Pavelski was open in front of the net, but Patrick Marleau missed him on what would have been a tap-in goal. The Sharks finished 0-for-4 with a man advantage and have just one goal in a manned net this season during five-on-four play.
What has to change?
“Quite a few things,” Couture said. “We’re breaking in fine, [but] we’re too stationary, I think. I don’t know if we’re moving the puck well enough. Not attacking holes, not shooting the puck and getting it back.”
The Sharks will open up a three-game homestand on Tuesday with the Ducks. There is work to do before that.
“We’re 3-3. That’s the good news,” DeBoer said. “I think we’ve played some good hockey, but we have a lot of things we’ve got to clean up, too.”
Jones said: “Obviously it wasn’t the way we wanted to end the road trip. We’ll bounce back, and we’ve got a lot of games left.”