SAN JOSE — Kevin Labanc’s fourth preseason game was much different than his previous three. For one, the Sharks lost, meaning their three-game winning streak of identical 3-2 scorelines is now just a piece of useless preseason trivia, if it wasn’t already before.
But most importantly, Labanc and the Sharks faced off against the closest approximation to an NHL lineup that they’ve seen this preseason. While five of the seven Sharks that participated in the World Cup of Hockey did not dress, most of Anaheim’s contingent did.
Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Sami Vatanen, Ryan Kesler, and Jakob Silfverberg all played for Anaheim on Wednesday, as did veterans who didn’t play at the World Cup like Cam Fowler and Andrew Cogliano. The difference was noticeable, according to Labanc
“You saw the way they moved the puck,” Labanc said. “When you have an experienced team like that, you’ve just got to be a lot harder on them and be faster [than them].”
Individual and systemic mistakes are rarer against an elevated level of competition, according to Labanc. The Sharks made few of their own mistakes defensively, according to head coach Pete DeBoer, who said he was pleased with San Jose limiting Anaheim to 21 shots on goal. But like the rest of the preseason, the scoreline didn’t matter much in what the coaching staff was looking for, DeBoer said.
“It’s a combination of evaluation and getting your systems and stuff in place,” DeBoer said. “The lineups are starting to become NHL lineups, so you’re getting a true evaluation of whether a guy can help you or not.”
With Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joe Thornton sitting, Nikolay Goldobin, Barclay Goodrow, and Labanc continued to make their case that they can help the Sharks. Goodrow tied for second on the team with two shots on goal, and was third among Sharks forwards in shorthanded ice time (1:54). Goldobin and Labanc ranked second and third, respectively, in CF% and FF% at even strength, and each saw time on the Sharks’ lone power play.
The trio will likely see less time on special teams, and in general in the Sharks’ remaining preseason games. All of the Sharks’ veterans will play in at least one of their preseason games this weekend, according to DeBoer. There may be less ice time to go around, but players like Goldobin, Goodrow, and Labanc have gotten a long enough look to make an impression, DeBoer said.
“The one thing this camp has been is [an] opportunity,” DeBoer said. “The young guys have played almost every game and played in key situations and played special teams and played with good players. If you haven’t got a spot at the end of this camp, there’s nowhere to look but really in the mirror.”