SAN JOSE – Forget about the San Jose Sharks losing streak and every ugly night that was a part of it.
Put away the record book for now.
The Sharks, almost four weeks after their season began, have earned a win.
Thanks to an often spectacular performance from goalie Mackenzie Blackwood and goals from Anthony Duclair and William Eklund, the Sharks beat the Philadelphia Flyers 2-1 on Tuesday, ending an 11-game season-opening losing streak that tied an NHL record first established in 1943.
Has Tomas Hertl wanted to win a game as badly as this one?
“Yeah, maybe in playoff time,” Hertl said moments after the Sharks held a brief celebratiion inside their own dressing room. “No, probably never.”
Eklund’s goal was the winner. And after he scored at the 16:18 mark of the second period, giving the Sharks their first two-goal lead of the season, Eklund stood two dozen feet away from the Flyers net and let out a roar, a release of sorts after three-plus weeks of frustration.
“It was a big relief,” Eklund said of his second goal of the season.
A goal by Joel Farabee with 1:11 left in the second period cut the Sharks’ lead to 2-1. At first, it appeared Blackwood made an unbelievable glove-hand save, but a video review revealed that the puck had crossed the goal line.
Still, Blackwood finished with 38 saves, and the Sharks needed every single one.
Three times before Tuesday, the Sharks held a one-goal lead going into the third period only to lose it every time. Tuesday, Blackwood made the difference, stopping 15 shots over the final 20 minutes as the Sharks avoided making NHL history.
The only other times a team has lost its first 11 games of the season were in 1943 when the New York Rangers went 0-11-0, and in 2017 and 2021, when the Arizona Coyotes went 0-10-1.
“It’s a lot of relief in here,” Blackwood said. “Everyone’s happy. It’s been a long time coming and now we can take a breath and start to try and put some more together.”
After giving his team a tongue-lashing Monday, general manager Mike Grier wanted to see how they would compete against the Flyers, how many puck battles they won, and how they would respond if they faced adversity.
“A lot of it is them being honest with themselves and looking themselves in the mirror, and just worrying about the things that they can control,” Grier said. “You can control your effort, your compete, your details, and if everyone does that, then hopefully you’re able to win a game 3-2, and then that’s how they’re going to get confidence.
“They’re not going to get confidence until they win again, to be honest with you. No one needs, ‘Oh, we played we played well today, but we lost.’ We’re past that. They need to win a game and start feeling good about themselves.”
It’s a chicken and egg scenario for the Sharks, who needed to win to gain a bit of swagger, but to gain that kind of confidence, they need first taste some success.
For close to four weeks, the group of twenty-some players just hadn’t found the right formula, as they simply lacked several elements of what makes an NHL team successful in 2023: A puck-moving defenseman who can quarterback a power play, speed, skill, and depth amongst the forward group, defending as a five-man unit, and confidence.
How can the Sharks build some confidence if they haven’t won a game yet?
“Playing shift by shift,” Sharks defenseman Mario Ferraro said. “We’re going to build confidence by seeing one good shift and making it in two good shifts, and every good shift leads into the other. We’re going to build confidence by seeing each other work, seeing the guy next to us work, go out there and do his job and have a good shift and then we’re going to follow it up ourselves.”