Rick Nash had a goal in each period and Mathieu Garon had 35 saves to help Columbus shut out the Sharks 3-0 on a rainy Saturday night in San Jose. The loss was the Sharks' third straight defeat, as they dropped overtime contests to Colorado and Dallas earlier in the week.
The Sharks, who were looking to rebound from two losses in which they carried a lead into the third, beat the puck up all night and looked tired throughout the match. Instead of coming out strong as the team had hoped, the Blue Jackets had the lead just 2:50 into the first and wouldn't look back.
"No growth tonight, not at all," concluded head coach Todd McLellan, who saw his team make uncharacteristic mistakes throughout the game. "I don't know if I've seen our team mishandle good passes, passes on the tape, breakout opportunities, pucks in the offensive zone, odd man rushes where we end up back checking... very disturbing."
McLellan gave credit to Garon, but highlighted his team's lack of sync and inability to adjust to a Columbus defense that gave the Sharks problems all night. "We prepared to play a fancy game at the blue line," said McLellan, "but by the time we figured it out, it was too late."
It was an effort that warranted few excuses, and according to the players, lack of rest wasn't a factor. "Being tired is no excuse," said Devin Setoguchi, who after his pre game demotion to line four played most of the second and third with the top unit. "These guys [Columbus], played three in four coming into tonight. We have no excuse. Our starts need to be better."
The slow starts are just part of the issue. The Sharks have also had trouble closing out games, and have now seen three straight third periods in which they have failed to register a goal. Credit some of those offensive problems to a power play which is 0-15 over the current losing streak.
Not everyone was quick to dismiss fatigue as a possible explanation. Dan Boyle, the team's top defensemen and power play quarterback, has averaged almost 30 minutes a game in the last three contests and danced around the possibility of his minutes affecting his play.
"I can only speak for myself. My legs weren't there, my hands weren't there, and no matter how much you want and you try sometimes you just can't put something together."
Even if Boyle is tired, he's a fierce competitor who will take the ice whenever his number is called. Thankfully, the Sharks have until Wednesday to get their energy back. With Douglas Murray still out with an injury and Jason Demers leaving in the third period with what appeared to be an injury to the wrist or hand, the Sharks defense is already playing at less than full strength.
As the Sharks approach the quarter season mark, they're currently on the outside of the Western Conference's top eight, looking in. And even though they have 22 points, they have just nine wins in nineteen games. They have a good portion of work to do this week, especially considering the team they're playing on Wednesday night. With Chicago coming into town, all eyes will be on the matchup in San Jose.
Let's hope the Sharks are prepared for the challenge.