Programming note: Canucks-Sharks coverage starts Thursday night at 7 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on Comcast SportsNet California
SAN JOSE -- The Sharks’ train looked like it was about to come off the rails.
San Jose had lost four straight in regulation, including two concerning defeats at home. Columbus erased a third period deficit and scored the game-winner with 20 seconds to go on Oct. 28, while the lowly Buffalo Sabres downed the Sharks two days later.
Considering some of the offseason unease and changes to the team’s leadership structure, there was reason to believe that the downward trend was about to spiral out of control.
It didn’t happen. Last Sunday, the Sharks noisily defeated Anaheim, the best team in the league, with ease, 4-1. They have gained seven of a possible eight points in the standings with wins over Colorado and the Islanders and a shootout defeat in Minnesota. Where they go from here is still anyone’s guess, but at least they were able to handle some early adversity in the right way.
That’s a good sign.
“We were really embarrassed with the way we played. We were embarrassed that we lost to that team, knowing where they were in the standings at that point,” Marc-Edouard Vlasic said of the 2-1 loss to Buffalo. “So, to come out the next day [in Anaheim] and play the way we did -- guys wanted to get out of it, and it was a great game for everybody to come together and get out of it.”
Logan Couture said: “We faced some adversity early. … I think it helps a team. We built off of those losses and turned it into positives. We’ve played a couple good games, a good road trip and played pretty well at home against the Islanders. Hopefully we can build off of it.”
The day after their season opener, coach Todd McLellan admitted he wasn’t sure how the new rotating captaincy would work. He wanted to see how the team would handle the inevitable hurdles that an 82-game schedule provides.
He expressed come cautious optimism when asked if the Sharks turned a corner with the win against the Ducks.
“I felt after training camp that we had turned a bit of a corner as far as the leadership and equality in the locker room with guys doing the right thing,” he said. “Then it had to transfer onto the ice, and we’ve had good days and bad days, like all the teams in the league. … I feel like we’ve got a group that’s pulling the right direction.
“It doesn’t always go our way. We don’t always have success. We don’t live in an ideal world. But, our behavior and our habits have been strong team-wise.”
The 7-4-2 Sharks sit in a good spot, in the midst of their mini-break. They’ll finally get some rest from a nomadic schedule in which practice time has been rare. That could allow them to continue to build on what they’ve been able to accomplish in the last week and a half, as they get set to face rivals Vancouver, Dallas and Chicago in their next three matches.
Despite the recent success, though, the team is still looking to establish its identity, according to McLellan. Comparing wins over top teams with losses to bad ones isn’t something he’s particularly interested in.
“We need to figure out where we fit, first. Forget about where the other teams fit. What are we right now? Where do we stand? Are we an upper echelon team? Are we a playoff team? Are we squeaking in? Are we a non...we’re got to figure all of that out as a group before we start evaluating what other teams do.”
Fortunately for the Sharks, the arrow is pointing up.
“It’s only been a few games, but it’s something we can build on, definitely,” Patrick Marleau said. “We’re still trying to get that identity, and solidify it each and every night.”
Vlasic said: “We came together off that [Anaheim] win. From there, it’s been going pretty well.”