SAN JOSE – For just the third time this season, the Sharks lost a game in regulation when holding a lead after two periods. The Oilers’ victory nearly assures Edmonton of home ice in the first round, while the Sharks’ struggle for points since early March continued. Here are our three takeaways from the 4-2 loss…
1 – Oilers bend, but don’t break
Reaction in the Sharks’ dressing room was that they seemed generally pleased with their work ethic after Tuesday’s ugly win over Vancouver in which they basically packed it in after 50 minutes, but got away with it. The 15 shots on the board against Edmonton on Thursday simply didn’t reflect the way the game was played, in their view.
That’s correct – to a point – as the Sharks only trailed 57-55 in shot attempts. Still, the Oilers were outworking the Sharks when both teams were in Edmonton’s defensive end, getting credit for a whopping 28 blocks and keeping the puck out of dangerous areas for goalie Cam Talbot.
Brent Burns, who scored a second period goal, saw five of his seven attempts blocked.
“It’s just execution. Working around them,” he said.
David Schlemko, who managed to get two of his seven attempts on goal, said: “I thought we had a lot of good shifts in the o-zone. They did a good job of fronting pucks.”
Getting the puck into the offensive zone is one thing. Working hard to get the puck and bodies to the net is another. The Sharks didn’t do enough of the latter.
2 – Hertl line strong, Marleau line not
The Sharks’ European line of Tomas Hertl, Mikkel Boedker and Jannik Hansen was easily the team’s best on Thursday. Despite getting the tough assignment of playing against Connor McDavid’s line with Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl much of the night, the three Sharks forwards led the way in shot attempt differential. Hertl and Boedker were each a plus-seven, while Hansen was a plus-six (McDavid and Draisaitl were a minus-four, and Maroon was a minus-six).
“We handled it pretty good, our line against McDavid,” said Hertl, who set up Burns for a second period score.
Patrick Marleau’s line, on the other hand, has been invisible lately. Along with Joonas Donskoi and Joel Ward, those three finished at the bottom of the list in shot-attempt differential, as Marleau was a minus-three while Ward (minus-nine) and Donskoi (minus-10) also had rough possession nights.
If there’s a line that needs to be broken up with Joe Thornton and Logan Couture out, it’s this one. Why not move Marleau to the wing of the Chris Tierney line, and give Ryan Carpenter or Danny O’Regan another chance to play fourth line center?
3 – Matchup might not be a bad one for San Jose
Here’s a glass-half-full outlook on the game from the Sharks’ perspective: Despite getting a relatively strong performance from Edmonton, and considering their injury situation, the Sharks were in a great position to pull out a win. Had Marcus Sorensen scored on that penalty shot in the third period, San Jose probably prevails.
If Thornton and Couture are able to return in the first round against this Edmonton team – which is obviously lacking playoff experience – advancing to the second round doesn’t seem like an impossible task.
“We’ve got to find a way. We almost did,” DeBoer said. “We’ll regroup and get ready for the next time we get a chance to play them.”
Schlemko said: “I think we match up well against them. They have some high-end skill we’re going to have to do a little better job of shutting down. We’ll make some adjustments and look to get our game going, going into the playoffs here."