The San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders each have won their first three games to open the season, but neither club’s coach is exactly celebrating the early success.
New York tries to open 4-0 for the first time in 13 years when it hosts San Jose on Thursday night.
The Sharks opened by beating defending champion Los Angeles 4-0 on Oct. 8 before blanking Winnipeg 3-0 on Saturday. However, coach Todd McLellan wasn’t pleased with his team blowing a pair of three-goal leads in Tuesday’s 6-5 shootout win over Washington.
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”Right now we’re a team that’s winning and needs a lot of work,” McLellan said. ”And I guess that’s a good thing when you’re not playing as well as you’d like in a lot of areas but you’re still winning games.”
McLellan has seen some improvements, though he pointed out that the effort has been imbalanced from period to period.
"We’re improving, but so are the other teams," McLellan said. "Our consistency has to get better. We’re fortunate that we’re winning games when we’re not playing our ‘A’ game, but everyone is in that infancy stage trying to improve on a nightly basis."
Islanders coach Jack Capuano feels similarly about his club after a sloppy second period against the New York Rangers on Tuesday. New York was outshot 21-8 in the middle 20 minutes before scoring four times in the third for a 6-3 victory.
"I shouldn’t have to go in after the second (period) and say the things that I had to say," Capuano said. "They should know the way that we need to play. I’m pleased that they responded, but we just have to make sure that the consistency in our game and the way we need to play becomes a focus."
New York is off to its first 3-0 start since winning its first four to begin the 2001-02 season, scoring 15 goals while going 5 for 12 on the power play. Captain John Tavares, Mikhail Grabovski and Kyle Okposo had a goal and an assist apiece Tuesday.
Brock Nelson continued his solid start by scoring his fourth goal, but the Islanders know they were bailed out by the solid play of Jaroslav Halak, who had 40 saves.
"It was a big win for us, but at the same time we know we didn’t play our best," center Frans Nielsen said. "Jaro kept us in it. We still have stuff to work on that we can get better at."
Halak is 5-5-0 with a 2.57 goals-against average in 12 career games against the Sharks, who got some production from unlikely places in their last contest.
Matt Irwin scored twice in the first period of his first game of the season in place of 19-year-old Mirco Mueller, and fellow defenseman John Scott scored the third goal of his seven-year career.
McLellan said scratching Mueller – the 18th overall pick of the 2013 draft – wasn’t due to his play, but rather to give the rookie an opportunity to observe the game from a different point of view. He could be back in the lineup for this contest.
"He’s still 19 years old and we’re still going to try and develop him slowly," McLellan said.
After shutting out the Kings in the opener, Antti Niemi struggled at times against the Capitals. Niemi is 1-0-1 with a 3.25 GAA against the Islanders and will be in net again unless McLellan decides to go with backup Alex Stalock, who shut out the Jets in his season debut.
The Sharks are 5-0-1 in their last six meetings with the Islanders, winning three straight on Long Island.