McLellan: We made strides but we weren't at our best
During their five-game losing streak, the Sharks have lost three games via shootout and one in overtime. (USATSI)
CALGARY – When does a five-game losing streak not feel like a five-game losing streak?
When you’ve gotten points in four of the five games, such as the San Jose Sharks have, that’s as good a place as any to start. The Sharks have now gone more than two weeks since their last win on Oct. 27 in Ottawa, but have lost in regulation just once – the only thoroughly convincing defeat of the five-game streak, last Thursday to Vancouver.
Furthermore, a case can be made that the Sharks deserved a pair of overtime victories. Had the NHL’s goal review process not suffered a serious breakdown on Nov. 5 against Buffalo, and had Patrick Marleau’s overtime goal been allowed to stand on Sunday in Winnipeg, there would be no futile streak to speak of. And, if anyone other than Logan Couture could actually convert on a shootout…well, you get the point.
Still, it’s all about putting points in the bank, to borrow a phrase commonly uttered by head coach Todd McLellan.
Joe Pavelski said: “Part of it is a little frustrating. You think you should win one, that [Tommy] Wingels goal (that should have counted against the Sabres) just doesn’t get reviewed, for whatever reason. There have been a few little things like that, that could have broken this up a little bit.
“But, we’ve probably played good enough to win a few of those games, and probably not good enough to win. That’s the way everything has fallen so far, and we’ve got to snap out of it and find ways to win.”
McLellan, on his way into a team meeting on Monday, had to pause and think about the nature of the losing streak himself thanks to a question from his brother, who was at the team’s afternoon practice at the Saddledome. The Sharks play the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.
“He said, ‘if you had [won all three of the shootouts], would you be having the same meeting?’ We thought about that for a second and came in and talked to the coaches, and the answer is probably yes,” McLellan said. “Some of the stuff we have to clean up is prior to the shootouts. It would be nice to finish it off in that situation, but can we prevent it from getting to that situation? The answer is yes.”
The Sharks have actually led in all five games of the streak, including two third period advantages surrendered. They have scored first in four of the five games, and led after the first period in three of them.
But, it’s been mistakes in the defensive zone that have preventing the Sharks from maintaining those leads and keeping pace with some of the other teams in the loaded Pacific Division.
“I’m not worried about the forecheck right now. I’m not worried about the offensive zone. I’m concerned about coming out [of our defensive zone] clean, and making the right plays at the right time,” McLellan said.
Pavelski echoed his coach.
“We haven’t been as clean,” he said. “A lot of our mistakes have come when we’ve had the puck in situations where we just don’t need to make that play, or make that mistake, and it ends up in our net. That’s what we’re fighting right now.”
The recent lull has seen the Sharks allow 3.60 goals-per game in the last five, after they had surrendered just 1.58 per game through their first 12. Instead of giving up 24.5 shots per game, they have surrendered 33.8.
“We had a feeling that it couldn’t be like that for 82 games, but we wouldn’t like [the losing streak] to last this long,” Couture said. “It feels like forever since we last won a game.”
Couture went through a laundry list of problems that the Sharks’ are experiencing after an almost perfect first dozen games, including poor breakouts, too many shots allowed, and not enough offensive zone time.
And, don’t suggest to Couture that the losing streak might not be as bad as it sounds.
“I think we’ll come out of it, it does feel like you’re in the middle of a losing streak, though. … We need to find a way to win a game somehow. Hopefully, we can start [Tuesday].”