The Sharks managed to get a point against the Kings on Tuesday night despite playing without Marc-Edouard Vlasic, David Schlemko and Tomas Hertl. Losing to L.A. will never feel satisfying, but San Jose should look at the silver lining in what turned into a halfway decent performance after a fine third period of action.
Martin Jones kept the Sharks alive through two periods and San Jose turned on the jets in the third. They couldn’t find a go-ahead goal after Jeff Carter knotted things up on the power play, but San Jose applied most of the pressure in the final frame of regulation.
In the end, Los Angeles controlled 52 percent of the unblocked shot attempts at 5v5 play (score-adjusted courtesy of hockeystats.ca). That’s a far cry from the blood bath it started to turn into after the first period. San Jose managed to get on the board first because of some leaky goaltending, but it was head coach Pete DeBoer shortening his bench that helped get the Sharks back into the game.
That, of course, brings up another set of problems. The root cause of San Jose’s defeat lies in the absence of two defenders in Schlemko and Vlasic. 21-year-old defender Mirco Mueller, just recalled from the Barracuda, only played 12 minutes. Dylan DeMelo, who played the next fewest minutes, played 19. Mueller got some tough minutes but posted an even strength corsi differential (that includes all shot attempts) of -2. That certainly wasn’t the worst of the night (Joe Pavelski had a rough night and posted a -10).
The eye test didn’t do him any favors either. Mueller didn’t look bad but he didn’t look particularly good, either. Despite being put into a tough position, the defender didn’t make a great argument for sticking around once Schlemko or Vlasic returns to the lineup. That’s a shame given the talk of his overall improvement with the Barracuda.
Mueller wasn’t the only player who spent the majority of the third period on the bench, though. Micheal Haley, who gets dressed for games like this because of his physicality, played all of zero minutes and zero seconds in the third period on Monday. I’m not questioning Haley’s value to the roster; I’m asking DeBoer to put his money where his mouth is. If he’s unwilling to play Haley for the entirety of the third period in a tie game against a division rival, he’s not good enough to play on the team. Period.
Beyond the obvious optics at work here (it probably doesn’t feel too good to be scratched for a guy playing seven minutes a night) it’s poor roster optimization. Your feelings on Tommy Wingels and Matt Nieto aside, those guys deserve a shot if DeBoer doesn’t trust Haley to play in the third period of games like this. If he doesn’t want them to play those minutes, call up Daniel O’Regan and give him a try.
It’s time for the Sharks to play with four lines again. They have the depth internally to do it and it’s embarrassing that DeBoer continues to neglect it. After losing in the Stanley Cup Final to a team with incredible depth, Doug Wilson went out and bolstered the roster. Now it’s time for him to tell his head coach to use it. Yes, the Sharks are banged up. That doesn’t mean DeBoer should refuse crutches while his legs are broken.