After the historic 6-0-0 road-trip that put them atop the Pacific Division, the question immediately arose: Can the Sharks have that same success on home ice?
Through the first couple minutes of the first frame, it was pretty clear that road dominance hadn’t fully carried over.
The curious case of the slow start struck San Jose yet again, and it was too much for them to rally back against the stealthy Chicago Blackhawks.
“It was a team effort that put us in that hole,” coach Peter DeBoer said bluntly after the 5-2 loss. “We know they’re a good team. We know they have good sticks. But we were just sloppy, and a little soft in the first, and they made us pay.”
“We like to come out of the gates a little bit better,” said Martin Jones, who could have used more offensive cushion during Wednesday’s tilt. “But they’re a good team. It seemed like there wasn’t a lot of room there for us to make plays. And we ended up turning a lot of pucks over. Against that team, it gets you in trouble.”
It didn’t help that the puck spent the vast majority of the premiere period in the Sharks’ zone. San Jose didn’t put a shot on goal until 13:08 into the game, and multiple turnovers — 12 in the first frame alone — aided in tilting the ice in Chicago’s favor.
“We didn’t turn that many pucks over, I don’t think, in the entire road trip,” DeBoer said. “The reason for that, I don’t know.”
Why the slow start again? Was it the difficulty readjusting to coming home? Does coming back to the West Coast have that big of an impact on how the team starts a game?
“It shouldn’t,” Patrick Marleau insisted. “It’s there if you want to use it. We don’t want to use it. We’ve been home for a couple days too. So I don’t think (that) played into it.”
So, for lack of better wording: What gives? What are the Sharks doing on the road that they aren’t doing on home ice?
Joe Pavelski broke it down: “We never really found a flow in the game … You’re looking for that one shift that can really get you back into it. We were just a little short there.”
In fact, one shift could have changed the momentum for the home team, as they did do many things right. Brent Burns’ power play goal in the first that tied the game up 1-1 was the Sharks’ first on the man-advantage at home all season. Team Teal also continued the positive trend of gaining speed as the contest went on and began to get more looks as the game went on, despite being stymied by Corey Crawford.
When they did get the puck past the Chicago netminder to close the scoring gap — and seemed to be finding that flow Pavelski referenced — the Blackhawks were quick to retaliate. “We had our chances,” the captain said, “(but) we didn’t do enough with them.”
The team doesn’t seem to be upset with their entire effort. They know what they are doing well and what needs to improve.
They just need to channel whatever spirit animal got them through that shiny six-game roadie and turn it into home dominance.
“Obviously we’ve got to find a way to get more wins at home,” Jones said. “I thought we’ve played some good hockey at home. It’s just … we need to translate that into wins.”