SAN JOSE – Injuries are inevitable during any deep Stanley Cup playoff run. Typically, a NHL team needs to have at least two or three spare defensemen and forwards around ready to compete at a moment’s notice in what could be a make-or-break contest.
That’s what makes the Sharks’ recent performances on the defensive side of the puck so encouraging.
Despite losing Marc-Edouard Vlasic with a lower body injury for the past three games, the Sharks have continued to play a structured, responsible game. It earned them wins over the Rangers and Coyotes, and kept them in a tough 1-0 loss to the Blues on Tuesday.
The Sharks have given up just two goals against in the past three games, while outshooting their opponents a combined 125-75 without their best defensive blueliner.
Goalie Martin Jones hasn’t seen much of a change in the defensive effort in front of him, which also includes the forwards, since Vlasic suffered a lower body injury on March 17.
“It’s been more than three games, if you want to go back before [Vlasic] got hurt. We’ve been great for the last couple months,” Jones said. “It’s really made my job and [James Reimer’s] job easy. We’ve been playing great defensively, and scoring some key goals here.”
On Tuesday, the Blues were sitting on just eight shots on goal with about five minutes to go in the second period in what was still a scoreless tie at the time.
This was an offense that came in on a roll, too. St. Louis entered the game having scored at least three goals in eight of its last nine games, and 35 total, for an average of 3.89 over that stretch.
Jones likes a lot of action, but he was fine with the lull.
“Early in the game they had some zone time, and then there was a big gap there kind of halfway through the first to halfway though the second,” Jones said. “I’ve dealt with it before. The way we’ve been playing lately we’ve had stretches like that, which is a good thing.”
The only goal San Jose surrendered was a combination of one small miscue combined with an unfortunate bounce. Robbi Fabbri’s shot on a two-on-one nicked Dylan DeMelo’s stick before creeping over Jones’ nearside shoulder midway through the third.
The primary reason the Sharks lost, though, was their offense couldn’t find a way to beat Brian Elliott. Defensively, they’ll take that kind of performance any day of the week, even in the postseason.
“It didn’t feel like they had a whole lot all night,” Pavelski said. “They get a chance and find a way to sneak one in. We had a few of those chances, we had to find a way to get one there for Joner.”
Justin Braun said: “It was a tight-checking game on both sides. It was the one shot that made the difference in the game. Overall, I think defensively as a group we did a good job.”