SAN JOSE – They should have been hungrier, trying to end a three-game losing streak in what was one of just a handful of home games early in the season.
They should have been more focused, but a pair of misplays in the second period by top scorers Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture, and five missed shots from Joe Pavelski – including a great look late in regulation from the slot – revealed that the top players weren’t on their games.
And although the Sharks won 67 percent of the game’s faceoffs, and generated 76 shot attempts to 38 from Buffalo, this was a 2-1 loss that San Jose should have won and won easily, had it been just a little more ready from the start in what was a rare afternoon match at SAP Center.
Although no game has ever been won on paper, the talent gap between the Sharks (4-4-3) and lowly Sabres (2-7-0) is significant.
“If you look at their record, obviously it’s embarrassing that we lost, but they play well,” Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. “Just by looking at their record, 1-7, we shouldn’t have lost this game. But, they’re a hard-working team and they play a good system, and we were too late on waking up in the third.”
The Sharks’ focus after allowing 14 goals in their previous three games before Saturday – all regulation defeats – was defense. They were better from that standpoint against Buffalo, but this was also a team that had scored just one goal in its previous four games combined. The Sabres entered Saturday averaging just one goal per game through their first eight.
Perhaps the Sharks can be delighted that they didn’t allow many scoring chances against the Sabres, but let’s be real – that should be expected against an offensively inept team that won’t come anywhere close to making the playoffs in April, regardless of what’s gone on with the Sharks in the past week.
Was the team too focused on playing defense, rather than generating at the other end?
“Perhaps a little bit tentative, not wanting to err coming into our end, but we have a lot of experience in our locker room,” Todd McLellan said. “Guys should be able to find the happy medium, and make sure the foot’s on the gas pedal going the other way.”
“I think when you give up two goals you should win every game,” said Tommy Wingels, one of the few Sharks that can say he had a good game. “We’ve got to find a way to get more pucks to their net and find the second chances, because you can’t win in this league scoring one goal.”
Once they got down 2-0 on third period goals from Cody Hodgson and Nick Deslauriers, the Sharks did pick up their attack. They finished with 16 shots on goal in the frame - including Brent Burns' goal - to just six from Buffalo, and Wingels, Mirco Mueller, Burns and Pavelski all had great chances to deposit the equalizer.
It never came, though, and the Sharks are now mired in a four-game losing streak that brings with it some real concerns about the direction this team is headed.
For now, those questions are only external, according to Vlasic.
“No, there’s nothing wrong with the Sharks,” Vlasic said. “At one point in the year teams will lose three or four in a row. You don’t want to, but it will happen.”
Couture struck a different tone.
“We shouldn’t lose a game like that,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to figure out right now. I think everyone on our team needs to look in the mirror.”