SAN JOSE — With the San Jose Sharks’ three-game winning streak on the line, head coach Pete DeBoer shortened his bench and only played nine forwards in the third period.
“Some guys, it was just circumstance,” DeBoer said. “Some guys didn’t deserve to play [in the third].”
Ryan Carpenter, who was called up on Saturday after Tommy Wingels left Friday’s game with an injury, and Micheal Haley likely were likely victims of said circumstance. In limited minutes, the pair led the team in puck possession at even strength, according to hockeystats.ca.
They, along with linemate Kevin Labanc, were integral in the Sharks’ second goal, as the line controlled the puck for an extended stretch before Labanc fed DeMelo for the equalizer.
Mikkel Boedker was probably not a victim of those same circumstances. Although he had another strong possession game (58.33 even strength CF%), his goalless drought increased to 11 games, and did not attempt a shot.
It’s the tenth time this season that the Sharks’ free agent acquisition has been held without a shot on goal. DeBoer did not call out Boedker by name, but said he was disappointed with the energy of the team’s younger players in the team’s fourth game in the last six days.
“There’s no doubt it takes a toll, but again, the best legs on the ice were our veteran guys,” DeBoer said. “[Joe Thornton], and [Patrick] Marleau, and [Joe] Pavelski, which is a little inexcusable if you’re a younger guy and you don’t have legs when those guys are going.”
The defensive side of the bench was also shortened, as defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed the third period. Vlasic was evaluated for an undisclosed injury, and DeBoer did not provide an update on Vlasic’s condition after the game.
San Jose was already down one of its regular defensemen ahead of the game, as Brenden Dillon was a late scratch. It was the second time in three games that DeMelo was pressed into duty as a defenseman missed the game with an illness, and DeMelo said he was more prepared than the first time around.
“I definitely felt more comfortable,” DeMelo said. “Kind of shook off the nerves in the first game [after] being out quite a long time. I felt really good again today, the legs felt great, so [I’m] happy to contribute.”
In addition to the goal, DeMelo logged 15:36 of ice time, and only David Schlemko had a better relative FF% than DeMelo. Logan Couture called DeMelo’s performance “pretty special” after playing less than a handful of games since April, and defenseman Justin Braun said DeMelo’s “responded well” to the late nature of his first two appearances this season.
“[He’s] a true professional,” Braun said. “He’s always ready to go, even [after] sitting around for a month. He comes to the rink and works hard every day.”
Braun said he thought the Sharks’ defense responded well in Vlasic’s absence. Anaheim held a slight territorial edge that period, but outshot San Jose 9-5 over the game’s final 20 minutes. Even with a shortened bench thanks to Vlasic’s injury and DeBoer’s decisions, the head coach said the loss felt like a missed opportunity.
“We got a goal from our fourth line. We got a goal from our power play,” DeBoer said. “There was some good stuff that happened, but you have to give them credit. They found a way. I thought that was a winnable game for us, and [we] just didn’t get it done.”