Quick Bites: Sharks kept to 17 shots in loss

Goaltender James Reimer left after the first period with a lower-body injury.

After a 3-1 loss, the San Jose Sharks are now 0-11 in regular season games against the Vegas Golden Knights since Dec. 22 in the 2019-20 season. Pete DeBoer joined the Golden Knights as their head coach on Jan. 15 2020, just months after leading the Sharks to one of the more memorable playoff series wins in Sharks history, over the Knights.

Sharks head coach Bob Boughner replaced DeBoer in the middle of the 2019-20 campaign, but has failed to win a regular season game against Vegas, often allowing the Golden Knights to score three or more goals.

Last night’s loss was more of the same, not that Boughner has ever had much to work with: since the Boughner era, the Sharks have been steadily recycling pieces of a squad with an aging core and a few mammoth-sized contracts, limiting any ability to onboard significant help — a glaring detail in last night’s loss.

Starting netminder James Remier made 10 stops and allowed one goal before leaving the game during the first intermission. Some of the Vegas chances in that first period had Reimer putting on acrobatics, perhaps a little much for a goaltender to get acclimated into the game in the first few minutes.

Reimer was then pulled ahead of the second period, a result of a lower-body injury. He was replaced by Zach Sawchenko, who was recalled from the San Jose Barracuda since Adin Hill’s injury. Sawchenko did a fine job in relief again — as he did against the Pittsburgh Penguins back on Jan. 2, when he made 20 saves on 21 shots in relief of Reimer.

Similarly, against the Golden Knights, he made 18 saves on 20 shots on the two periods he played, but there wasn’t much offense going the other way to help out San Jose’s goaltenders last night. The Sharks were outshot in every frame, finishing the game with just 17 shots on goal to Vegas’ 31.

Noticeably, after a stagnant first period, Boughner tried to shake up his lines, as the team struggled to establish a forecheck and saw most of the games chances going the other way, one of which resulted in an off-the-rush goal by Vegas’ Keegan Kolesar.

The change initially seemed positive, as a reenergized third line allowed Noah Gregor to get off the schneid with a second-period goal. In his last 12 games, Gregor has scored just twice, despite skating up in the top-six at times. Timo Meier was returned to the second line with Logan Couture and rookie Scott Reedy skated with the pair, after scoring his first NHL goal in the last game against the Seattle Kraken.

But it didn’t take long for the Golden Knights to respond and reestablish the lead, coming off the stick of Vegas forward Reilly Smith. Indicatively, there weren’t many positives outside of the Gregor’s schneid-busting, lone goal to relish. For the most part, it seemed that Vegas was simply on a higher level. At one point in the home broadcast, the Vegas commentators noted that the Sharks are a relatively young team, having fielded the most rookies of any team this season.

Compare that to a currently playoff-bound contender in Vegas, with a generational player in Jack Eichel and a line with five-years of tenure together in Smith, Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson, who have helped to set a winning culture in Vegas since the team’s inception (the trio also had two of the Golden Knights’ three goals).

But how did Vegas score, while the Sharks struggled to put more than 15 pucks on goaltender Robin Lehner? Well, take Smith’s second-period goal: a failed Sharks forecheck led to a Vegas transition the other way. The Golden Knights rushed with numbers, allowing for a seam to open for the third-man, Marchessault, who tapped it to Smith for an easy goal.

Though Nicolas Meloche did the right thing and eliminated W. Karlsson from the play, the Sharks didn’t have the legs to cover the trailing Smith, who scored the goal. Though it led to a goal-against, it wasn’t as bad as some miscues from defensemen, who made obvious ill-advised passes in mostly the second-period, which led to a few Vegas chances that resemble the one above.

Meanwhile, the Sharks failed in the neutral and offensive zone. They failed to win races on the dump-in or to establish any semblance of a cycle-game. In the faceoff dot, they struggled, winning just 42 percent of all draws. Lastly, they drew no penalties, preventing what has been a recently successful power-play from helping to cut the 3-1 deficit. Chances were sparse enough that a single goal to show wasn’t surprising.

Per Hockey-Reference:

All of this led to less possession time for the Sharks, and more for the Golden Knights, in which they were able to take advantage because ... well, they’re a skilled team who will probably win if they have the puck more. With important divisional points on the line, undoubtedly, the Sharks had a plan going into this one against one of their bitterest rivals.

But ‘the best laid schemes of mice and men’ tend to fail when you have a lot on your plate: an injured goaltender, an anemic offense and an opponent on the other bench who knows everything you are trying to do before you do it.