SAN JOSE – With key players out of the lineup during their recent slump, the Sharks have needed others to step up in their absence.
San Jose has been without lead goal-scorer Joe Pavelski for its last four losses, as well as elite defenseman Erik Karlsson and standout rookie blue-liner Radim Simek for the entirety of its six-game losing streak. First-line center Logan Couture has battled the flu, and the proximity to the playoffs means others are probably dealing with undisclosed bumps and bruises.
While those three injured players are hard to replace, the Sharks have still needed those spaces filled and have the manpower to do so. Though there have been sparks of greatness – Evander Kane and Tomas Hertl leading a late charge in Monday’s loss to the Detroit Red Wings, the fourth line drawing penalties in consecutive games – coach Peter DeBoer candidly called for more after the Sharks’ sixth straight defeat.
“I don’t know if there’s a complacency about where we’re sitting in the standings or what, but we’ve got to get out of it,” he said. “We didn’t have enough participants for 60 minutes.”
The Sharks are banged up, there’s no question about that. Missing a big puzzle pieces like Pavelski and Karlsson can affect any team.
But the Sharks have been outscored 26-14, gone 3-for-22 on the power play, and allowed two short-handed goals in this 0-5-1 stretch. On Monday alone, San Jose’s turnovers lead to two breakaway goals and one short-handed tally.
With these mistakes happening deep into a losing skid, it’s clear the Sharks need to tighten up on multiple fronts, on both sides of the puck.
DeBoer wouldn’t call out any players by name – that really isn’t his style – but he made it clear he doesn’t think some of them are currently seizing their opportunities. And once the regular season is in the rearview mirror and the playoffs begin, those chances might not be there anymore.
“Some guys are dropping opportunities,” DeBoer said. “We’re making decisions on who can help us in the playoffs and who can’t. There’s ice time that guys are getting now that isn’t going to be there in a week or two.”
San Jose now has just six games left in the regular season. That concludes a tough back-to-back coming up at home this weekend against the Vegas Golden Knights and Calgary Flames, who the Sharks are still sandwiched between in the Pacific Division standings.
Vegas looks like San Jose’s likeliest opponent in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Despite dropping their last two contests, the Golden Knights proved last week they’ll give the Sharks a very difficult time in the first round.
As San Jose gets players back healthy and tries to figure out just how to get back to its winning ways, the coaching staff is also going to want to see more players step up.
“Some of these auditions, guys better take advantage of them,” DeBoer said. “Because they don’t go on forever.”