Sharks

Peter DeBoer: 'Soft plays' doomed Sharks in 4-3 loss to Stars

Peter DeBoer: 'Soft plays' doomed Sharks in 4-3 loss to Stars

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.

Sharks 'just weren't good enough' vs. Coyotes in first loss of 2019

Sharks 'just weren't good enough' vs. Coyotes in first loss of 2019

You have to hand it to the Sharks, they put on quite the show to kick off 2019. They’ve shown incredible growth since the start of the season, and battled through a jam-packed schedule to defeat some difficult teams and put together a stellar winning streak in the process.

That in of itself probably makes their first loss of the new year -- a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night -- a letdown.

“We just weren’t good enough,” Sharks forward Logan Couture told the media in Arizona, “and it’s tough because we were on such a nice run.”

The Sharks were, in fact, shooting for their eighth win in a row. They had just beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins the night before, in arguably one of their most complete 60-minute efforts this season. Playing a lower-level team like the Coyotes afterward can, of course, result in a little bit of a letdown.

However, the Sharks had yet to fall into that trap in 2019, defeating the lowly Los Angeles Kings after a win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Ottawa Senators two nights after beating the Vegas Golden Knights. This is a team that, clearly, knows not to overlook lesser competition.

But even knowing the difficulties such a game can present, the Sharks had trouble early against the Coyotes.

“We knew coming in that we had to get our emotional level back engaged again after last night,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer acknowledged. “We didn’t do it quickly enough or for long enough.”

[RELATED: Sharks GM says trade deadline deals must strike right balance]

It didn’t help either that San Jose was playing Arizona on the tail end of yet another back-to-back. All three times these teams have met this season have been on the second night of a Sharks back-to-back. The Coyotes, on the other hand, were well-rested after losing to the Calgary Flames on Sunday.

That extra time showed on Wednesday. 

“You have to give [Arizona] credit,” DeBoer continued. “They were rested, and they played with a lot of energy and won a lot of battles.” 

San Jose has battles of their own to fight, and no time to dwell on the end of a season-long winning streak. The Sharks entered Wednesday just one point behind the Calgary Flames in the Pacific Division, but fell back another point after the Flames lost to the Buffalo Sabres in overtime.

Plus, they'll have another emotionally-charged game coming up on Saturday when they travel to Tampa Bay for a rematch with the Lightning. San Jose’s already beaten the Bolts once before, and a loss to the Coyotes shouldn’t deter them from thinking they can do it again.

“We’re not happy about this loss, but we’ve got to keep doing what we’ve done before,” Timo Meier said. “We’ve done some good things, we’ve played some great hockey. We’ve got to continue.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-3 loss to Coyotes

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-3 loss to Coyotes

BOX SCORE

All good things must come to an end. Yes, even the Sharks' winning streak. 

San Jose made things interesting Wednesday night in the desert against the Arizona Coyotes. Evander Kane stayed hot, Kevin Labanc got off the schneid, and Logan Couture got a late power-play goal to keep it close. But the Sharks came up just a little bit short, falling 6-3 to the Desert Dogs.

Here are three takeaways from Wednesday’s game:

You have to give the Coyotes some credit

Arizona may be occupying the cellar of the Pacific Division, but that didn’t mean San Jose could come into their house and steal a victory uncontested. The Coyotes played a smart game on Wednesday night, jumping on the Sharks when they showed signs of getting tired and not giving them a ton of room to build up momentum.

This is something we’ve seen from San Jose’s opponents since they got hot at the start of December. Even teams who aren’t as good as the Sharks – like the Ottawa Senators and Wednesday’s opponent, the Coyotes – have turned up the heat against San Jose.

[RELATED: Doug Wilson says Sharks' moves at trade deadline must strike right balance]

Aaron Dell’s performance

Yes, Dell should have stopped Lawson Crouse's game-open goal. But after that he really settled in, even bailing out a couple of his teammates before the first 20 minutes expired. His most impressive saves occurred later in the game.

The first, with a little over five minutes left in the second stanza when he froze Richard Panik with a magnificent glove save.

Then, there was the third-period stop when he kicked Vinnie Hinostroza’s chance out of the way.

Dell didn’t have as much help in front of him. San Jose was playing on the second night of a back-to-back – why are they always playing Arizona on the tail end of a back-to-back – with travel. That’s in addition to playing a tough game against the Pittsburgh Penguins the night before. The Sharks didn’t look their sharpest, but Dell, who hadn’t played the night before, did his best to keep his team in it.

It’s almost time for Timo Time, right?

This has been a subject of Twitter chatter for a few games now. Timo Meier has now gone a career-high 16 games without scoring. In the last few contests, his level of play has really come up a notch as he tries to snap the drought. And that’s saying something, because if you have watched Meier play this season, you know he’s a player who doesn’t sit back on his heels.

On Wednesday in Arizona, he led all Sharks’ skaters with seven shots on goal. Make no mistake, Meier is primed to break out. Heck, getting a goal or two on Saturday in Tampa Bay against the Lightning would be a nice way to bust his slump.