It’s something that seems to be happening in quite a few of the San Jose Sharks’ games so far this season. The contests are close and come down to the wire, and any misstep can tilt the game in either team’s favor.
Such was the case against the Stars in Dallas on Thursday evening. Both teams traded off grade-A opportunities through the fast-paced game, with San Jose – once again – heavily outshooting the opposition. But just a few lapses on the defensive side of things was all it took to give the Stars a 4-3 victory.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media after the loss. “We made some soft plays with the puck or poor decisions.”
San Jose was keeping pace with the ferocious Dallas squad as they were tied 1-1 heading into the first intermission. Just a couple misreads in the second stanza was all it took, though, for the Stars to score two quick goals and take over on the scoreboard.
“I liked our first period, and (then) I looked up and we’re down 3-1,” DeBoer said.
The power shifted into Dallas’s favor during that second period when Tyler Seguin intercepted Brenden Dillon’s slow pass to Erik Karlsson in the Sharks’ defensive zone. From there, the quick forward easily notched the Stars’ go-ahead goal. Then, less than a minute later, Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen set up the perfect tic-tac-toe play with fourth liners Jason Dickinson and Gemel Smith to give Dallas yet another goal and the 3-1 lead.
DeBoer acknowledged the Sharks kept pace and pushed back after that point, but that the defensive breakdowns in the second period were their undoing.
“It wasn’t a lack of effort,” he explained. “It was just some execution and some poor decisions against a team that – you put it on (Tyler) Seguin’s stick, he’s going to put it in the net.”
This brings into question whether San Jose is, despite constantly outshooting their opponents almost every night, giving up more chances than they’re creating on a nightly basis. Seven of the Sharks’ last eight games have been decided by one goal. So, while they’re ranked 19th in the league in goals-against per game (3.00) those few goals are making a big difference.
DeBoer told the media postgame he doesn’t think there’s a pattern of that bad behavior.
“I don’t think it’s a symptom,” DeBoer said, directing attention back to the game that was just played. “We showed up, we played a good first period, and they found a way to come out with the lead.”
Perhaps the one consolation is that San Jose doesn’t have time to dwell on this game, hopping right on a plane and heading to St. Louis to play the Blues on the tail end of their back-to-back. St. Louis has had a very lopsided 2018-19 campaign so far, recently suffering a 5-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild before rebounding with a 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.
Playing an off-balance team like this could give the Sharks the opportunity to rebound from the Dallas loss and play a game where they can create some space.
This could, potentially, be a game where they can stop that pattern of battling down to the wire from evolving.