ANAHEIM – At his postgame media availability, Todd McLellan was as visibly livid as he has been all season. Less than 24 hours later, the Sharks’ head coach was still peeved after re-watching the 5-2 loss to the Kings on Saturday night on video.
“Still upset. It was the game we saw. Sometimes, you’re wrong and have a feeling on the bench, but when you go back and watch it, our guts were very accurate in what we felt and what we saw on the bench,” McLellan said, referring to himself and the team’s coaching staff.
The head coach relayed his displeasure in the form of a video session, as well as a good, old-fashioned team tongue-lashing. The latter was evident to anyone who happened to be wandering the bowels of the Honda Center shortly before the Sharks took the ice for an afternoon practice.
“I think he got it across crystal clear in the meeting we had this morning. I don’t think there was any grey areas in how he felt about the way we played, and rightfully so,” Adam Burish said.
Burish continued: “He wasn’t happy. Nobody in here is going to hang their heads or be upset that they got yelled at. We’re adults, we’re pros, and you know if you did your job or didn’t, or if you worked as hard as you could for your teammates or not. Probably, to a man, guys would say probably not. Sometimes you deserve a little ass-kicking and slap in the butt a little bit. Then you move on. Guys handled it, and guys responded in practice.”
The Sharks held a long, tough, battle-centric practice in which there was an emphasis on working hard along the boards and in front of the net. The pushing and shoving more resembled a game than a late season practice, and the sweat was profusely dripping after it was through.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic joked, “That was a normal practice, wasn’t it? Wasn’t that a normal practice out there?”
To anyone watching, it was clear that it wasn’t.
“The battle level went up, yeah. We didn’t compete the way we wanted to last night, so we’re getting ready for tomorrow night,” Vlasic said. “The battle level was really hard out there. Guys were competing, good d-zone, battle along the walls, protecting pucks, good sticks. That will carry over to tomorrow night.”
McLellan deemed it a “working practice.”
“We didn’t work too hard last night and didn’t commit ourselves, so we’ll try it in practice and we’ll see if we can convert that into a game time thing tomorrow night,” he said.
Did he like what he saw during the 60-minute skate?
“No. I’d rather see it when we’re playing against the opponents than taking it out on each other,” McLellan said. “But, the fact that we worked and committed to working was a good thing. The lesson in it is if we can transform it into an opponent, instead of ourselves.”
The Sharks are hoping that the egg they laid against the Kings was the proverbial bump-in-the-road, but the fact is that road has been rocky since the beginning of February. They still haven’t won consecutive regulation games since Jan. 26-27, and failed to build on two straight games in which the offense finally started to look dangerous again. On the road, San Jose is just 4-8-2, and has scored 17 goals in the last 12 games. Their next four games are away from HP Pavilion.
Whether or not the Sharks have the right personnel in their locker room to compete with a team like Anaheim, which is 20-3-4 and in second place in the Western Conference, is a valid concern. Regardless of the make-up of the roster, though, the effort has to be there in order to simply compete.
“When you get smoked in this league it’s not about the lack of skill or you’ve got the wrong players. It’s just because you weren’t ready to play,” Burish said. “You weren’t mentally ready and you weren’t ready to battle. We watched a lot of video today, and we watched [the Kings] out-competing us, winning battles. One guy beating two of our guys. It’s a battle thing, and it’s just mental.”
McLellan is hoping each individual Sharks player takes a good, long, hard look in the mirror on a nightly basis.
“I think you should have a report card every period. You come in and say, ‘was I effective? Did I have an impact on the game? Did I play and do the things that I needed to do?’
“Some periods the game isn’t around you, and you don’t get a chance to compete like you’d like to. But, within three periods, you better be answering yes more often than no.”