For the San Jose Sharks, two losses in a row are a heavy blow as they hit the midway point in the season, and the race for the playoffs heats up. Last night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning was a test of how capable the Sharks are at playing top-tier teams, and they failed.
With stalwart players like Erik Karlsson and Jake Middleton out, the blue line struggled, but from the jump, the compete level was lacking. It’s a rough loss in a comparatively long season, and there’s still hope to be had for a Wild Card spot, but it’s clear the Sharks have quite a bit to work on, given their recent results.
Head coach Bob Boughner, goaltender James Reimer, and forwards Logan Couture and Andrew Cogliano took to the mic in the postgame media conference to reflect on the loss and look ahead to the Sharks’ punishing road trip throughout the American South and up to the Eastern seaboard.
On last night’s loss: [It was] very discouraging. It was the benchmark of ‘if you want to compete and play with the big guys, you have to bring your A-game’ and we didn’t do that from the drop of the puck. The first 10, 15 minutes were a disaster, and that’s what happens, it starts with showing up, and making sure we’re our best against the best team in the league.
On the biggest issue in the Sharks’ game: There were too many guys standing around our net, they’re poking pucks through, and not paying the price for standing around our blue [paint]; we weren’t hard enough in our D-zone, we stick-checked all over the ice, which allows a team that’s very offensive to not have to stop their feet … we didn’t get a save early, we weren’t good in front of [James Reimer]. Top to bottom, I don’t think we were very good committing to playing hard defense, and you need to against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
On what the team will learn from the loss: We have these guys in a week from now. [If] you look at our road trip coming up, we’ve got Washington [Capitals], Florida [Panthers], Tampa [Bay Lightning] and Carolina [Hurricanes], it doesn’t get any easier. If anything, you better think about that one tonight and think about what you need to do to compete against the best teams.
We’ve been good all year. I’m not challenging this team’s will or their passion, or their urgency. It was one of those nights where we were out-competed and we were men amongst boys.
We have a lot of injuries, and dealing with some pretty important players out of our line-up, but other guys need to step it up and I thought a couple of our veterans were okay, but not enough of them, and I thought the young guys struggled. I think it’s very apparent, without mentioning names, that there were a lot of guys who really struggled out there, and didn’t look like they were ready.
Looking ahead: You can’t have any success if you can’t match the compete [level], and that’s the most discouraging thing for me. We can always sort out the Xs and Os, the mistakes and personal errors, but when you’re not ready to play hard and [you] do the opposite and play soft, that’s the issue. So we have to learn from it, and put it behind us, and get ready for an important first game of the road trip.
On the mood in the room: We didn’t start well, and we just couldn’t get any traction. Obviously, that’s a really good team over there and they’re coming off a loss. We knew they were going to come hard, and we just couldn’t match them.
On looking ahead: Tonight was just one of those nights. It sucks — it really, honestly sucks, especially when it’s in front of your home fans, you never want to have a bad game at home. But that’s just sports, that’s hockey and we’ll regroup and go back to our style of hockey next game.
On this game being a wake-up call: Well, it should be a wake-up call, if that game doesn’t alarm you in terms of how fast you can be out of position and how fast you can go the other way. Coming up on the [road] trip, at the end of the day you should be in the line-up, so that’s an alarming game in terms of everything, I don’t really know how to explain it. That’s the best team in the league for a reason, and obviously, you have to respect them to a certain degree, but they’re our back-to-back, and, no offense to [Brian Elliott] but their best goalie isn’t in net, and we didn’t really do anything.
On the Sharks’ compete level: That team exposes you when you don’t compete, it’s simple as that. They can beat you when you compete at your highest level, but when you don’t compete, you’re not even close to their level, and it gets embarrassing real fast.
At the end of the day, there should be zero excuses for our team and the guys we have in our line-up and where we’re at in the standings and what we’re fighting for, and not compete.
On the first period: You can’t give them easy goals, and that’s what we did.
On Couture’s leadership approach after the loss: Stay positive — I feel like that’s all you can do. It’s easy to feel down and bad about your game, and yourself and the team after a game like tonight, and the loss in Seattle the other night. So we’ll look at the positives and remind ourselves that we’re still in a position to give ourselves a chance to make the playoffs coming down the stretch and it’s just one game.
On the Sharks’ ability to bounce back: We’ve had some tough losses this year and games where we didn’t play well and stretches we haven’t played well and we seem to have bounced back, whether it’s the next game or the game after. That’s the reason why we are where we are in the standings and we’re slightly over .500, I believe. In this league, you can’t lose too many in a row. You have to put an end to losing streaks and that’s our goal.
*Lightly edited for clarity.