At least when they lost to Buffalo, there were some positives to be gleaned.
The Sharks can’t say that after being thoroughly outplayed by the Florida Panthers, who, like the Sabres, don’t look anything like a playoff team. Florida took advantage of the Sharks’ first period sloppiness and malaise and never looked back in a 4-1 win on Tuesday night at BB&T Center.
In a personality trait that’s seemed to follow this team for some time now, the Sharks played down to their competition and it cost them in the end. Prior to Tuesday’s result in Florida, a 2-1 home loss to the lowly Sabres on Oct. 25 stood out as the most disappointing of the team’s defeats.
In that one, though, the Sharks held the Sabres to just 15 shots on goal, and very few scoring chances. Defensively, it was a decent performance.
There were no such positives on Tuesday.
“First of all, we didn’t execute at all. We didn’t put two passes together,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Any time we did win battles for the puck and had an opportunity to get up ice, we maybe made the first one but sure didn’t make the second one. So, didn’t have the puck a lot.
“Our defensive zone coverage and awareness on the first couple goals hurt us a lot. Just never established any type of energy in the game, any type of consistent attack. We spent more time defending, and a lot of it was our own doing, because we didn’t manage the puck well.”
On Sunday in Chicago, McLellan commented after the game his team “lacked catalysts – guys that were going to settle the game down and make us play the right way” in a poor opening frame.
It was a telling quote, considering the Sharks’ new leadership structure and lack of a captain has led to concerns about how the new philosophy will play out.
The Sharks were able to respond against Chicago in the second and third periods, when it looked like they were going to get run out of the United Center. Still, they were unable to build off of it against the Panthers despite talking things over in the morning.
“I’m actually disappointed because I thought we had a really good meeting this morning. We discussed some things about how we wanted to play and things we wanted to do,” McLellan said.
Perhaps it’s a good thing that the Sharks will now go into Tampa Bay on Thursday, and face one of the top teams in the league in the 11-3-2 Lightning. After all, they were able to respond from the loss to the Sabres and play their best game so far this season the following day, a 4-1 win in Anaheim.
Maybe they can regroup and beat the Lightning, and start to build in the right direction again. Or, maybe they’ll continue to show up only when they feel threatened, and suffer a few more embarrassing losses along the way to wherever it is they’re going.