Sharks Preseason Notebook: A penalty-filled loss to Ducks exposes problem

The Sharks need to find a balance between physicality, and ... whatever else they’re good at.

When I spoke about the San Jose Sharks’ increased emphasis on physicality, I didn’t mean their commitment to earning every penalty in the books against the Anaheim Ducks.

I don’t know what it is about the Anaheim Ducks versus the Sharks, but it seems like every time these two teams play against each other, the penalty box is always full. The first period began with five (yes, FIVE) penalties within the first thirty seconds. We’re not sure why (or what) earned Jeffrey Viel and Sam Carrick the initial matching Unsportsmanlike Conduct penalties, but it’s clear the Sharks and Ducks weren’t having whatever it was. Eventually play got under way and the Sharks were quick off the draw.

The Ducks showed their frustration early with their hits (13 total hits in the first, with only 5 coming from the Sharks). That physicality eventually paid off with a goal from a Mason McTavish wrist shot, with assists from Vinnie Lettieri and Kevin Shattenkirk. The period ended with a 1-0 score in favor of the Ducks. Typical.

By the time the second period rolled around, the score didn’t reflect the Sharks’ effort. In the second period, the Sharks took charge with 11 of the 16 hits, 18 of the 25 shots, and 2 of the 4 penalties — and yet, they chased the Ducks throughout the period.

The first goal of the second came from Ducks forward Trevor Zegras at 6:23, with assists from his equally young and speedy teammates, Jamie Drysdale and Sonny Milano. The California rivals are equally physical teams, but the Ducks have one thing the Sharks don’t: speed. And the Sharks’ lack of speed is becoming apparent. The Sharks rookies were as visible as Anaheim’s are, but instead of getting on the scoreboard, they racked up hits.

But the Sharks can still depend on their veterans, as captain Logan Couture snagged a wrist shot off a Timo Meier rebound to put the Sharks within one of Anaheim to close out the period.

The third was a similar story, with the Sharks leading in every stat except on the scoreboard, until Tomas Hertl tied the game at 15:03, with assists from William Eklund and Rudolfs Balcers, which brought the game to overtime.

There wasn’t much to say about overtime, except that true to form, a penalty was called on Erik Karlsson for slashing against Rickard Rakell, which lead to a very confusing 4-on-3 to 4-on-4 situation.

Perhaps unsurprisingly with how goaltender John Gibson had been playing last night, the game then went to a shootout after a scoreless OT. The shootout was inevitable, due to teams pre-agreeing to practice them after each game, but this time the shootout actually counted.

Gibson kept the Ducks in the game, and he gave them a win, too, keeping out Sharks shooters Jonathan Dahlen, Balcers and Alexander Barabanov. Zegras won it in the shootout, with his goal being the only one to get through after regulation.

The Sharks ended the game out-playing and out-shooting (44 to 25) the Ducks, yet for some reason ... they still lost.

It’s slowly becoming apparent that the Sharks badly need to find a balance between physicality, and whatever else they’ll decide is their defining factor. The problem is, what can the Sharks focus on as part of their on-ice narrative? They don’t have the speed of the Ducks, or the goal-scoring magic of the Knights and Avalanche, so what do the Sharks have?

Whatever Bob Boughner and management decide is the Sharks’ focal point in addition to a punishing physical presence, they’ll have to decide soon.

The last preseason game for the Sharks will be on October 9 at SAP Center against the Vegas Golden Knights. The San Jose Barracuda will also be playing their first of two AHL preseason games on October 9 against the Colorado Eagles in Windsor, Colorado.