SAN JOSE - After winning four straight games, the Sharks’ drive for a fifth in a row appeared non-existent during what turned out to be 4-0 drubbing by the division rival Los Angeles Kings on Monday.
“Out-worked, out-hustled, out-muscled, out-committed,” Sharks coach Todd McLellan said afterward about his squad’s performance.
Despite rolling into the match-up riding a season-high four-game winning streak, the Sharks looked more like a team mired in a lengthy losing streak. Missed passes, poor clearing attempts, and bad communication were all served up in plentiful quantities in the loss.
And losing in this manner, looking like a team unwilling to engage physically, gives reason to question the team’s desire to win on a nightly basis. The Kings deserve credit for capitalizing in the manner they did, but the so-called “50-50 battles” rarely saw a Sharks skater put in equal effort to his Kings’ counterpart.
“I’m just embarrassed with our effort, it was a terrible effort… a lot of us took the night off tonight,” said Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle. “As important of a game as that is, it’s just not right.”
The Sharks at one point in the first were being out-shot 14-1, and if it weren’t for the stellar goaltending of Antti Niemi, the game could have been 3-0 Kings (or worse) after the first. As it turned out, the Sharks and Kings would remain scoreless through 40 min despite Los Angeles holding a 30-14 shot advantage.
But in the third, three goals in the first 10 minutes put the game away quickly and essentially eliminated any chance for the Sharks to steal a victory in a game that they clearly didn’t deserve to win.
Kings forward Trevor Lewis beat Niemi on a two-on-one down low at the 2:08 mark and just over a minute later, former Shark Marco Sturm beat Niemi on what was the Shark netminder’s lone mistake on the night. Sturm’s wrist shot from the outside squeaked through the five-hole on what looked to be more of an intended pass than a shot as Anze Kopitar was looking for a re-direct.
Kings’ captain Dustin Brown added his first goal of the night three minutes later and added a second (on a brilliant lob-feed from Kopitar) in what was essentially garbage time.
Even though the Kings were unable to score until the third, it was a completely one-sided game for 60 minutes.
“We laid a pretty good egg tonight,” said Ryane Clowe. And while one might point to the rust excuse as the Sharks were off for three days while the Kings had played Sunday night, Clowe was quick to say “work ethic has nothing to with days off.”
Having off nights where the puck just doesn’t bounce the right way are going to happen. As a collective unit, no team can be on their A-games every single game but the lack of effort part is majorly concerning.
When you hear Boyle reference that some of the team took the night off, it makes you wonder if Sharks do in fact have the personnel needed to win a Stanley Cup.
On paper, and on many nights throughout the last few years, it seems like they would have a team capable of going the distance. But when the main reason for a loss is a lack of effort and the top line plays arguably their worst game of the season in that loss, it looks just that much worse.
Between Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau, the Sharks have a top line that is on average 6′ 3″ and 225 pounds, but they aren’t seen imposing their will game in and game out.
It may be the most overused cliche in hockey but “your best players have to be your best players,” and too often for the Sharks, this simply isn’t the case.