Jabber Jaws: Quinn, Kunin & Kahkonen on special teams

Quinn: “Not that I was tickled pink about all those penalties, but it gave us a chance to watch our penalty kill.”

(Preseason) Hockey is back! The San Jose Sharks opened the preseason at home against the Los Angeles Kings with a 3-2 overtime win.

Luke Kunin opened the scoring in the first period with a feed from Tomas Hertl to give the Sharks the lead. After the Kings tied the score early in the second, Timo Meier tipped in a shot from Matt Benning to put the Sharks up by one again. The Kings pushed the game into overtime, but captain Logan Couture ended the game in the extra frame with Kevin Labanc and Erik Karlsson on his line.

Despite penalty troubles that culminated in a whopping 15:51 of 5-on-5 play through the first two periods, the Sharks sported a flawless 8-for-8 penalty kill record. Though the team also went 0-for-7 on the power play, head coach David Quinn said it wasn’t for a lack of good chances.

Following the win, Quinn, as well as forward Luke Kunin and goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen, took to the mic to address the first preseason game, special teams and the developing team identity.

Here’s what they had to say:

David Quinn

On impressions of the first preseason game: Obviously, it’s been a short camp so far, so we haven’t been able to go over a lot of structural things, but I liked how we competed. I like the mentality we have in the game. There were things we have to clean up for sure, but we have to build on what happened tonight with the positive stuff that we did. We had some special teams practices because we haven’t spent one second on any of our special teams so far — not that I was tickled pink that we got all those penalties, but it kind of gave us a chance to watch our penalty kill a little bit. I thought our power play, without even spending one second on it — early in the first period in particular, I thought we played great in the first period, we had some great chances and good looks. Overall, I liked a lot of what happened tonight.

On special teams evaluations: It’s a pivotal part of hockey, we have to be really good on both sides of the special teams. I know we didn’t score, but I thought our power play had good looks and chances. I thought we got pucks off the faceoffs well, numbers are on the puck more than I’ve seen. It’s something we can build on.

On Bordeleau and Eklund: They did some good things tonight. I’ll have a better feel of what they did after watching the film, but they certainly did things that I liked, and there were things that they’ve got to be better at, but I could probably say that about every player tonight.

On Kahkonen: He was very good tonight, that’s for sure. The second period seemed like a penalty kill for the full 20 minutes. The 5-on-3s, things like that, he made some big saves. He’s a good goalie, he’s been a good goalie his whole career, we’re fortunate to have him.

On defense pairings: I thought they looked good. Nutivaara hasn’t played a lot of hockey in the last year, so we wanted to get him as much ice time as possible. Simek is obviously coming back from the year he had last year. We want to put these guys in situations where they have to compete and show what they’re capable of doing. Those guys did some good things.

On the physicality of the game: I was a fan of our physicality. I liked the fact that we had numbers on top of people — I think we continue to work on that and continue playing an in-your-face style. I did like our physicality, but it has to be controlled physicality, you can’t just do it. The penalty situation, I think we can clean that up a little bit, but we do need to have control of our physicality.

Kaapo Kahkonen

On getting back into games: It was good — I felt good all game. The first period was a little slow for me, but in the second period, they started to get more looks. Obviously, there were a lot of penalties in this game, so the rhythm was a little off for both teams, but we found a way to win, which is always nice.

On being on the penalty kill: At least you get to practice it in a way. Special teams are going to be crucial, so it’s good to get some time together, especially with new guys coming in. For myself, it’s good as well.

On the new scoreboard: The only way it obstructed me at all was the penalty clock. They were only shown on the sides of it, so I couldn’t really see how much time was left on the power play or penalty kill. I couldn’t really give the guys a little heads up that time was expiring, but the refs did a good job once they realized that — they came down and told me how much time there was left, so I appreciated that. That was the only thing.

On losing a lead late in the game: Of course, you really want to win a game in regulation. I don’t think frustrated is the right word — the game lasts 60 minutes, so you have to play until the end, and that’s what happened today. It shows that we can still come back and win a game in OT and that’s great. It shows resilience there.

Luke Kunin

On training camp: It’s been good, been hard. Quinny’s been pushing us hard — we’re skating a lot, battling a lot, and I think you saw that when we did have some 5-on-5 tonight. Really attacking, not sitting back, everyone skating and gapping up. It’s been good so far.

On the team’s developing identity: I think some of the guys who are new here as well play with a lot of that grit, a little bit of edge to their game. As camp goes on, like I said, more games are played, you get more familiar with each other, you’ll see more of that turn into part of our identity.

On the team’s early systems: Every team is a little bit different, but I think there aren’t too many different ways to play the game. No matter what line or team you’re on, whoever the coach is, it’s all pretty similar. A few little changes here and there with the X’s and O’s, but you just go out there and compete, and usually the rest falls.

On working with Bordeleau and Eklund on the power play: They’re great young players — obviously a lot of skill. They were finding me in areas that I was a little surprised to get the puck in, but they’re great players and they’re going to be really important for us this year and years to come.

*Lightly edited for clarity.