SAN JOSE – Playing their seventh game in 12 days against a team fighting for its playoff life was too much for the Sharks to handle on Thursday at SAP Center in a 4-1 Blues win.
Throughout the game, evidence piled up that the home team didn’t have its legs. Forwards weren’t supporting the defensemen on breakouts or through the neutral zone, the forecheck was ineffective, shots were getting blocked, and the rare ones that got through were easily cleared away from dangerous scoring areas.
Both Logan Couture and coach Pete DeBoer both indicated that the team might have hit a wall, for at least one night.
“They played well defensively, but for us, from looking at the game from the bench, I thought we looked tired,” Couture said. “I thought we looked slow, sluggish. We just didn’t have any jump up front. So, I think a lot of it was on us.”
DeBoer said: “They came in here desperate and they were really solid, and we weren’t. We’ve got to do more to help ourselves. I don’t know the reason. Is it fatigue? I don’t know. We’ll look at the tape and come up with some answers.”
These kinds of nights are bound to happen at points throughout the season as every team deals with the condensed schedule, right?
“Unfortunately, yeah, I think so,” Couture said. “This month is pretty nuts. But, every team is going through it this year. We need to find a way to be better. Tonight, we weren’t.”
It’s not like the Blues should have been any more energized, however. They were playing the second of a back-to-back, and third in California in four nights as they continue a five-game road trip.
But they’re at a different stage in their season. The Blues are trying to hold on to the final wild card spot, and may feel like they have something to prove after changing coaches six weeks ago and trading away key defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington.
Sharks forwards combined for just seven of the team’s 20 shots on goal, a good example of how hard the Blues were working to prevent San Jose from getting any good looks.
“If we did get a shot [through], they got to it probably a little quicker,” Joe Pavelski said. “It was kind of one and done. We weren’t probably on the inside enough. It’s hard to say. ... Obviously, that’s not us, we’ve got a lot better than that.”
Couture said: “The biggest thing tonight was we didn’t forecheck well, we didn’t sustain any pressure in their zone.”
The Sharks’ only goal was a lucky one, as Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s attempted pass deflected in off of Carl Gunnarsson’s skate in the first period to tie the game at 1-1.
St. Louis got a goal from Scottie Upshall just prior to that to open the scoring, thanks to a sloppy pass from Brent Burns that went right to the Blues’ forward, another from Zach Sanford on a rebound off the end wall that held up as the game-winner, and two from Vladimir Tarasenko, on the power play and into an empty net.
Despite the loss, the Sharks will have a chance to finish off their season-long six-game homestand with eight of a possible 12 points if they can beat the Ducks on Saturday.
Friday will be a complete day off, and by the look of Thursday’s game, they could use it.
Paul Martin said: “Saturday will be a big game, obviously. Anaheim, and a lot at stake. I think after tonight’s performance we’re going to want to make sure that we tighten things up and have a better effort, and fix some things we should be able to correct.”
“Get rested tomorrow, and get our legs back and have some jump and force [the Ducks] to play in their end,” Couture said.