SAN JOSE – It’s rare that an NHL team gets a two-day break this late in the regular season. It’s even more atypical when you’re a team like the Sharks, who have won just three of their last 11 games.
But after playing 13 games in 24 days since the All-Star break, culminating with Saturday’s Stadium Series tilt with the Kings, coach Todd McLellan decided that letting his players rest and relax on Sunday and Monday was the right move. The Sharks resume their season on Thursday at home against Detroit.
“I think our team was mentally fatigued and physically fatigued,” McLellan said. “Physically because of the number of games, mentally because we haven’t had a lot of success and everybody is trying to find ways to solve those problems. But, now we’ve been able to rest in both areas.”
Patrick Marleau said: “I think it will help. Definitely we were going through a lot of games there where things weren’t going our way. It’s a good opportunity for us to step back and recoup and get focused for the last games we have.”
Tuesday morning began with a team meeting that ran a little longer than usual. The Epix camera crew has departed, so already there was a little bit of a different feel behind closed doors. (“That was nice, wasn’t it?” said McLellan, who never really warmed to the idea of having a television crew in places generally reserved for team personnel.)
The meeting was also different in that it wasn’t just McLellan or members of the coaching staff standing in the front of the room barking out strategies or diagramming X’s and O’s on a white board.
There was plenty of back-and-forth.
“It was a participatory meeting,” McLellan said. “A lot of times the coach stands up there and says ‘skate here, do this, do that.’ We talked about situations. We got some feedback from the players. I felt good leaving there that everybody was involved and contributed.”
Tuesday’s focus was on offense, while Wednesday will be more about the defensive aspects of the game. It’s fair to say that the Sharks need to improve upon just about every facet of their game as the losses have continued to mount and they’ve fallen out of playoff position.
There are 21 games remaining in the regular season, and the Sharks have their work cut out for them if they’re going to make an 11th straight postseason appearance. They sit in 10th place in the West, one point behind eighth place Minnesota, which has two games in hand.
“We’ve been trying to get it going. We’ve played some hard games,” Joe Pavelski said. “[If] can continue to push like that and clean a few areas up, I think a few games will take care of themselves. But, it’s got to be a big commitment, and we’ve got to do a lot of little things just a little bit better.”
Scott Hannan said: “We’re going over what we need do consistently to win. We’re not going to win every game, but we’ve got to win our fair share. We know that, and that’s the plan going out.”
The upcoming stretch is particularly significant. San Jose will play seven of its next eight games at SAP Center, where it has lost five straight. The home losing streak stands at six overall (0-4-2), including the disappointing 2-1 loss at Levi’s Stadium.
Ten of the Sharks’ final 13 games are on the road, so improving on their piddling 14-12-5 home record is essential over the next two-and-a-half weeks.
“We have not been successful at home. The last [six] games have not produced the results that we’ve needed,” McLellan said. This is an essential group of games against some very good teams. When you throw that 10 of 13 in the mix, it makes it even more magnified.”
“It’s go time,” Pavelski said. “It’s got to happen now.”