Before I potentially ruin your day by recapping the San Jose Sharks’ 8-0 loss to the Nashville Predators, just now that there was some good news to be had before the game started, and that was that Zach Sawchenko will get his first NHL start versus the Anaheim Ducks (finally) and that Erik Karlsson is back and practicing again. Oh, and Rudolfs Balcers was back in the line-up, although he may have wished he was still out, given the outcome of the game.
Goaltender Alex Stalock played all but the final ten minutes of the game, and the first period started off relatively smoothly. Stalock looked locked in and focused, and the Sharks had enough energy to rally after Timo Meier and Luke Kunin’s tussle after the first whistle.
It was clear from the get-go that the Predators were cohesive and excellent at utilizing every second in the offensive zone to create high danger chances. In those first few minutes, Stalock looked good too; he was turning away the first few fast chances with relative ease.
When the first goal came, halfway through the first period from Michael McCarron, it looked like a solid goal and not the opening wound it would become. Stalock wasn’t square to the net and the Predators capitalized upon a line change. Stalock, who hasn’t played an NHL game in around 18 months due to health issues stemming from COVID, just looked rusty. Not a big deal; the Sharks could come back from one goal — right?
Nashville played physical, with tight checking and focused man-on-man defensive coverage. San Jose couldn’t break out of the zone, and when they could, they were pinched so far into the boards that any hope of a structured offensive push evaporated. Any offensive rush was smothered before it had a chance to get set up, and it was a rinse-and-repeat performance all game.
The second goal came in the last minute and a half of the period. Matt Duchene was left uncovered, completely alone smack dab in the middle of the ice and shot the puck right through traffic (i.e., Nicolas Meloche and Filip Forsberg) that was screening Stalock.
The second period still held an early sense of hope. The Sharks were only down by two goals, and some of the top line, like Alex Barabanov and Tomas Hertl, had hit the posts. The team was getting a few chances that just weren’t going in, and they couldn’t turn their frustration into energy.
Whatever problems the Sharks had scoring, they were personal, because the Predators snuck in their third goal after Radim Simek failed to fully cover and control a skater into the corner, and Stalock was again screened by a combination of opponents and his own teammates.
Timo Meier was called for interference (the first of many penalties in this game) but if there is one measly positive to take away from this game, it’s that none of the eight goals came on the power play. Sure, that means that 5-on-5 is more under the weather than originally anticipated, but at least it means that the penalty kill is still strong as ever.
I’m grasping for straws here, people.
Forsberg and Logan Couture had words, Forsberg was given two for unsportsmanlike conduct, and what do you know — no power play goal for the Sharks. Although, to be fair, mid-way through the second, San Jose looked the best they had all night, with extended zone time and flashes of energy. No goals, but there were some high-quality chances.
Both teams traded several penalties and power plays, although neither had any success with either.
In the final thirty seconds of the second, Matt Luff cleaned up the garbage in a scrambling mess in front of the net, after the Sharks couldn’t effectively clear the puck, to make it 4-0 to go into the third period.
Needless to say, all hope was lost at that point.
The third period began, the Sharks had a few chances, nothing went in. You get it.
Within the first five minutes, Matt Duchene made it 5-0, after Noah Gregor failed to exit the zone, Marc-Edouard Vlasic got stuck behind Duchene and Stalock over-committed to the right. Just a couple of minutes later, McCarron tapped one in, after Scott Reedy was out of position and unable to effectively cover him.
At that point, there were six goals on the board and just ten minutes left in the game, so head coach Bob Boughner felt it was the perfect time to put Sawchenko in net for relief — something, I’m sure, is beginning to feel far too familiar for the young netminder.
The Sharks earned another power play, but I can not express to you all how it accomplished literally nothing other than registering a single shot and one post. It was not great, but at that point, survival was key. San Jose wasn’t going to come back and win this game, but they didn’t want to go down without a fight.
(The only fighting was some mild fisticuffs throughout the last ten between various Nashville skaters, Jonah Gadjovich and Jake Middleton).
Yakov Trenin rammed the puck in off the right corner from behind the net on a miscue from Vlasic, and Sawchenko, who was expecting his defensemen behind him to do their jobs, was none the wiser. That was goal number seven.
The final goal came with six minutes left on the clock, from Mikael Granlund, a quick shot off a rebound. That was the nail in the coffin, the eighth goal in a game that couldn’t end fast enough.
Clearly, if the Sharks were shut out on eight unanswered goals, there are some pretty obvious problems on the ice, and quite frankly, none of them are new. Self-belief, a lack of energy, cohesion and communication, faulty own-zone defensive coverage, and a starved offense … the list goes on, but it wasn’t written yesterday. Just by going back and reading through all of the goals against, you’ll see examples of what the Sharks did wrong, like being out of position or obstructing Stalock’s vision.
They just can’t seem to dig their way out of the hole they’re sliding into, and I can only hope that all of the players have some good self-care strategies to cope with this brutal loss, because I guarantee you — however you feel about this loss, the players themselves feel worse.