Sure, bad starts happen. It’s no secret, though, that for the Sharks bad starts happen too often. What’s worse is that in recent contests Team Teal has constantly been the team playing from behind.
So after an up-and-down end to October, the San Jose entered the new month with a chance get off on the right track.
A great way to do that? By getting off to a good start against subpar teams. Such was the case headed into a homestand against not-so-stellar competition, starting with Tuesday night’s tilt with the league-worst Columbus Blue Jackets.
What the Sharks didn’t need was another bad start, which put them behind and inevitably put them in the loss column, 5-2.
“We’ve got to fix that start,” DeBoer said. “I thought from the second period on we were the better team, did a lot of good stuff. But you can’t dig a hole in this league and expect to climb out of it.”
The rough start was capped by the Sharks racking up two penalties early in the opening period. The second go-round on the kill end with San Jose surrendering a power play goal to Brandon Saad that took an ugly skip over Martin Jones’ block.
“I thought we would be better in the first period than we were,” DeBoer reflected on the early dance to the box. “Took two penalties right off the bat. Got on our heels. Took us a while to recover.”
“We were sitting on our heels early,” Joe Pavelski said, acknowledging that this wasn’t the first time the team had gotten behind early. “It’s got to change. We’ve got to break this mold where we’re getting scored on first.”
Pavelski provided the only scoring for the Sharks, who scored two game-tying goals. The first came during the first frame when he redirected Justin Braun’s laser shot past Sergei Bobrovsky. The second occurred after the Blue Jackets had grabbed a 2-1 lead, when the captain snagged a nice feed from linemate Joonas Donskoi to knot the game at 2-2.
But while his top line looked good, the rest of the offense had trouble finding rhythm. Even with the rest of the offense trying to create chances late in the game, it wasn’t enough.
The lack of scoring in turn gave no cushion to Jones, who gave up four goals in the first two stanzas. The first two arguably came on bad bounces — the second bounced up high into the net past his right ear — but the third and fourth came within less than a minute of each other.
“(We) played a fragile team, gave up an early goal, a couple soft ones in the second,” Jones said afterward. “We need to be better, everyone needs to be better. I thought we got out-worked tonight.”
Alex Stalock replaced him between the pipes in for the third frame and was on point. He was unfortunately pulled for an extra skater late in the final frame, allowing Matt Calvert to putt an empty-netter for Columbus’s fifth goal on the evening.
San Jose has a quick turnaround, with the Florida Panthers in town on Thursday. Florida isn’t a much better club than Columbus, and will be visiting San Jose on the tail end of a back-to-back. But if Tuesday’s game taught them anything, it’s that even a slow start can be dangerous against a “fragile” team.
DeBoer concluded: “We can’t play a 40-minute game.”
— With the secondary assist on Joe Pavelski’s first goal of the evening, Joe Thornton became tied for 35th place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 1,267 points.
— Joonas Donskoi registered his first career assist and now has two points (1g, 1a) in seven games played.
— Justin Braun tallied an assist on Joe Pavelski’s first goal and was tied for the team lead with three blocked shots.
— The Sharks announced that they selected Joel Ward as the Sharks Foundation “Sharks Player of the Month” for October. Ward lead the team in points (11) and goals (7) and was tied for fourth with 4 assists. He also leads the league in face-off percentage at 62.7% amongst players with at least 50 face-offs taken.