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.”
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.”