VANCOUVER – The condensed Sharks schedule has resumed, with a vengeance.
Saturday’s game in Vancouver started a stretch of 22 games over the final 43 days of the regular season for San Jose. The remaining slate features 16 games in the month of March alone, and five back-to-back sets. A game against Calgary at home on April 8 is the finale.
It’s going to be a brutal grind.
Fortunately, the Sharks feel that their bye week came at the right time, as they had five days off with no practice from Monday through Friday, when they boarded an afternoon charter for British Columbia. They had dropped six of eight headed into it, and fatigue was undoubtedly a factor.
Prior to the break, the general feeling was that the Sharks felt privileged with the timing of the bye week. Joe Pavelski was even more emphatic about that notion on Saturday morning, when the complete team reconvened for the first time at Rogers Arena.
“It came at a great time. Everyone’s excited for a break when we get it,” Pavelski said. “Obviously it’s a long season, and you get to go do something you want for a few days, it makes it pretty nice.”
Joe Thornton said: “It was just nice to relax and enjoy ourselves.”
The Sharks have essentially had a break in each of the last three months, as the league shut down for Christmas for three days in late December, and the All-Star break came at the end of January. Some teams had their bye weeks as early as the beginning of January, which doesn’t make much sense.
“I thought our breaks were pretty well scheduled – Christmas, All-Star, and then this,” Chris Tierney said. “It was all about a month apart. Hopefully, that pays off.”
It’s been well documented that a number of the Sharks’ veteran players have seen a drop in production, after the club played all the way until June last season in getting to its first-ever Stanley Cup Final. Thornton, Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joel Ward, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Paul Martin all had some ups-and-downs throughout the first 60 games.
Although the Sharks have maintained first place in the Pacific Division, a commendable achievement to be sure, some guys just looked like they needed some time off.
They got it, and now they can turn their attention as a group to finishing the regular season strong and going into the postseason in prime playing shape.
Really, that’s all that matters.
“We’ve got a big home stretch coming down the end here,  games to finish off strong to put ourselves in a good position going into the postseason,” Ward said. “We’re excited about the capabilities of what we have going.”
Thornton said: “We’ve got a lot of games here in a short period of time, so hopefully we all got our rest and get ready for the stretch run.”