SAN JOSE — Right out of the Olympic break, there was skepticism that the Sharks would be able to maintain momentum heading into the playoffs with such a rigorous schedule.
Thursday night against the Winnipeg Jets, that wear-and-tear was evident.
Even with more healthy skaters on the ice — as opposed to earlier in the season when San Jose easily had the most talented IR in the league — playing 60 minutes of hockey every other day is starting to take its toll.
Head coach Todd McLellan addressed the team’s fatigue after Thursday’s 4-3 loss:
“It’s not easy — tonight was our ninth game in 15 days…All the teams are going through it. But, what we don’t have coming back is a practice day. We just take the day off, we have to. Because [the team is] worn out after back-to-back games and it takes a while for us to get going again.”
This isn’t to say the Sharks have been a complete bust. The team clinched a playoff berth while in Calgary and placed themselves three points ahead of the Anaheim Ducks in the Pacific Division standings.
But the nitty-gritty physicality that Team Teal played with against, say, the Pittsburgh Penguins has faded, and dropping games to non-playoff-contending teams such as Winnipeg doesn’t help their case for keeping that first place spot.
Plus, San Jose’s placement is crucial when it comes to Round 1 of the playoffs. A tired team will only get beaten into the ground if they’re matched up against the LA Kings.
But McLellan remained positive that the Sharks will pick up speed:
“That’s the unfortunate thing with the way the schedule is. We’re not the only team going through it. We’re through most of the tough spell now. We’ll be able to breathe after this weekend, and get a day or two of rest and a practice in, and get working on our game from here.”
The Sharks have seven regular-season contests left starting Saturday in Colorado, before returning home Monday to face off against the Oilers.