SAN JOSE – Playing against a non-rival that’s struggling for victories hasn’t exactly been a good recipe for the Sharks this season, as evidenced by their combined 1-5-1 mark against Buffalo, Columbus, Florida and Carolina.
Enter the plummeting Philadelphia Flyers (8-12-3), who will bring a 1-7-1 record in their last nine games into Tuesday’s showdown with the Sharks at SAP Center.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that the more talented Sharks would jump all over a struggling club that has even more issues than they do, looking to win back-to-back games for the first time in more than a month. But, anyone who has been paying attention this season – and, the last few, really – knows that that the Sharks don’t typically bring their best game against opponents they should beat.
And they should beat the Flyers, who are essentially a one-line team with a porous defense.
“It’s weird, you look at our games throughout the season. The best games that we’ve played have been against Anaheim, LA, Tampa Bay – some of the best teams in the league,” Logan Couture said. “That’s kind of been an issue with us in here since I’ve been here, is we play up to the teams we’re playing and we play down to the teams that we’re playing.”
For the second time, the Sharks were able to halt a four-game losing streak with a win over the Ducks on Saturday. Couture led the way with two goals in the 6-4 win, while linemate Tommy Wingels posted a career-high four points (1g, 3a).
The last time San Jose won two in a row was on Oct. 26, a 4-1 victory over Anaheim followed by a 3-2 shootout win in Colorado two days later.
As for two regulation wins in a row, that’s occurred just once – the first two games of the season in Los Angeles (4-0) and the opener vs. Winnipeg (3-0).
Wingels indicated that building off of another emotional win is vital.
“There haven’t been too many moments in our games so far this season where that we can be happy with and say, ‘let’s build on this,’” Wingels said. “We’ve given ourselves an opportunity. [Tuesday] night is an opportunity for us to string two wins together, and that’s how you start a streak.”
The Sharks’ inconsistent season is a reflection of their game on most nights, as they are dominant for some stretches and look lazy and careless in others. On Saturday, San Jose raced out to a 5-1 lead and was playing its best hockey in weeks, before a lackluster six-minute stretch from the end of the second period until early in the third allowed Anaheim to get back to within a goal.
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A third period timeout by McLellan when it was 5-4 acted as a reset button, and the Sharks got back to doing the things they were doing earlier in the game closing out the much-needed victory.
Finding that consistent emotional and physical game has been an obstacle. McLellan offered up a simple motivator, as the Sharks (11-10-4) are currently two points out of a playoff spot.
“For me, it’s called the standings,” McLellan said. “We’ve been able in the past to start seasons well and get head starts and build a cushion where if you hit a rough patch, you have enough cushion to get through it and come back on the other end and still be in a position that you’re comfortable.
“We’re not in a comfortable position, and we won’t be from now until playoff time. That emotion and that carryover – I don’t think we should be motivated by the opposition. We should be motivated by what we’ve done so far, and what we need to do.”