3 Positives From Sharks’ Impressive Road Trip

An impressive three-game win streak to end a difficult four-game road trip projects a faint glimmer of hope for the San Jose Sharks season. After concluding the road swing with an exclamatory 5-2 win at the ever-intimidating ‘Fortress,’ the Sharks are showing they won’t go away quietly.

Could this be a sign that new coaching systems are finally taking hold? There’s a lot of work to be done, but there were many positives that became more defined with each game. With that in mind, here are three positives from the Sharks’ successful road trip.

Third-Period Comebacks Solidify Sharks’ Road Success

If not for two third-period comeback wins against the Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights in back-to-back games, this road trip could’ve been much uglier. San Jose trailed 2-0 in Minnesota at the start of the third, only to come back and win it 3-2 in a shootout. They similarly turned the tables in the Golden Knights in the following game after trailing 2-1 heading into the third, eventually winning with a game-winning goal from Timo Meier with 2:47 left in the third. The Sharks would tack on two empty-netters to cap off the 5-2 victory over their bitter foes.

While trailing so frequently heading into the third is no recipe for success moving forward, such late-game pushes were nearly non-existent last season. It was a very encouraging change of pace for Sharks fans to witness once, let alone in back-to-back games. The secret? The Sharks simply wore down the opposition with a relentless forecheck that created scoring opportunities from virtually nothing. It’s a style of play that appeared to take a toll on both the Wild and the Knights in succession. To exemplify, this goal exhibits those factors on full display.

You can chalk this up as a poor decision with the puck, but the fact is it was initiated by a Sharks forecheck that just wouldn’t quit. That relentless pressure at the blue line, combined with Alexander Barabanov’s hard work down low, turned what would have been a simple Vegas clear into a tie game. Considering how they’ve notably struggled at the end of games, this degree of late-game improvement is a good sign for team teal.

Sharks Are Slowly Learning What It Takes To Win

These were the words head coach David Quinn used following their 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars. As cliche as it may sound, it couldn’t be more true for a team that had grown accustomed to finding new ways to lose the past three seasons. The Sharks exhibited great character on this road trip by gutting out some hard-fought wins. Aside from taking their foot off the gas in Dallas in the third period, the Sharks were mostly solid closing out games.

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You wouldn’t think that a veteran team that has featured only one rookie in their starting lineup this season would need to learn how to win again. But experience is key for a team that has little experience in winning the last few seasons. Old habits die hard, and none are more difficult to break than the trend of finding ways to lose. Minus a few bad hiccups, the Sharks broke that trend for the first time this season, and perhaps the last three with a solid work ethic en route to a 3-1 road trip. They’ll be looking to improve upon their recent victories by coming out of the gate stronger and dictating the play with some leads of their own in the upcoming homestand. Regardless, it’s encouraging to see team teal break the trend by finding ways to win.

Commitment to The System

For every player to be on the same page, it takes buying into the coaching staff’s systems collectively as a team. For Quinn’s style, that means putting together a full 60-minute effort of tenacious forecheck in all three zones. That means everybody has to be on their toes. As alluded to earlier, the Sharks showcased that hard-nosed style for the majority of their road trip, evidently wearing down the opposition as the games progressed.

David Quinn San Jose Sharks
David Quinn Head Coach of the San Jose Sharks (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If the Sharks are to find success this season, it’s going to take the same 60-minute commitment to Quinn’s wear-down approach with an aggressive forecheck and backcheck. As simple as these elements may seem, it’s easier said than done for 21 skaters to be willing to put themselves in that vulnerable position. It’s an encouraging sign for the team’s character to put their nose to the grind in a collective commitment to Quinn’s teaching.

November Games a Fateful Stretch for the Sharks

The outcome of their games for the remainder of the month could very well determine general manager Mike Grier’s decisions leading up to the trade deadline. The team’s success or lack thereof is the new GM’s cue to decide how much of this roster remains intact come April. The Sharks are running out of time to sway the front office’s mind of whether or not a full rebuild or short-term reset is in order. For the Sharks, this upcoming homestand and beyond is the team’s playoffs to prove to the hockey world and Grier that they can compete for a playoff spot.

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