SAN JOSE- Talk about a 180 degree turnaround from Saturday to Tuesday. On Saturday the San Jose Sharks had just won a thrilling overtime contest over the Detroit Red Wings and were a win away from reclaiming the Pacific division lead.
They were riding a 3-0-1 stretch and looked to have put their struggling ways behind them. However, two brutal losses later, one at home against the down and out Anaheim Ducks, and another against direct playoff competition in the L.A. Kings, and the Sharks look like an endangered species.
As Sharks head coach Todd McLellan put it after the Anaheim loss, his team was “missing” players. The coach was asked what he wanted to accomplish by pulling Antti Niemi from the game in his post game presser. To which the coach responded:
“A spark. At that point we were looking for eight, nine players really, we were that short.”
With a team fighing for their playoff lives, being “short” that many players is simply inexcusable and downright unexplainable.
Even McLellan seems just as miffed to why the desperation isn’t there.
“The lack of energy and jump we had as a team was baffling” added McLellan after the Ducks loss. “When we’re supposed to be as desperate as we are apparently…I can’t figure out why we didn’t have that jump.”
At times this season the Sharks have appeared to be a committed and even keel group but when the time is now to display a sense of desperation and will to win, the “battle-ability” to borrow a term coined by Sharks analyst Drew Remenda, has not been there.
Even though the Sharks still control their own destiny, losing in the manner of which they have these past two games has to call for a big change. Does it not?
Dan Boyle, who most Sharks fans preferred to be named captain two years ago when it was given to Joe Thornton, scored one of San Jose’s two goals in the loss to the Kings. However the Stanley cup winning defenseman—who always seems to be giving his all on the ice— had the following to say after the game in L.A.:
“I’m not saying we’re not trying. I want to be clear on that. But they [The Kings] were probably trying harder.”
Again, talk about a distinct turn around from just a few nights ago. The Sharks looked to be back to the team we all envisioned them to be before the season even started. Even during the previous losing stretch where San Jose went 3-9-3, not one of those games were as poor effort wise as these past two games.
But now with their playoff lives on the line, the coaching staff is talking about missing half the team and the Stanley Cup winning defenseman says their opponent was trying harder than them?
It’s one thing when a team has issues in the middle of the regular season with poor efforts. Last year’s regular season Boyle was upset with an effort against the Kings in December and Ryane Clowe famously lashed out after a January game with the Canucks.
But being out-worked in March with a playoff spot on the line?
It’s just so inconceivable that in order for the Sharks to recover now, and somehow make the postseason, one must think a major slap in the face is the only thing that can get it done.
What does that mean? Who knows, could be a number of things: benching a starting six, giving No. 1 power play time to third and fourth line players, or calling up a rookie goaltender to start a game.
Even then, with the manner in which these last two losses have occurred, the confidence from that 3-0-1 streak has been completely shattered.
So while a drastic move could shock this team into qualifying for a playoff spot, it certainly looks now like it will be a short playoff appearance.