Peter DeBoer couldn't help but laugh and crack a joke about the San Jose Sharks' four-game road trip this week when he spoke to NHL.com on the phone after arriving in Dallas on Sunday.
Two games at the Dallas Stars, bridged by a game at the Minnesota Wild, before the trip ends at the Nashville Predators. DeBoer said he has never before in his coaching career had a road trip that featured two games in the same city with a trip in between.
"We owe the NHL scheduler one for this," DeBoer said, laughing. "I don't know if it was the end of the day or what."
The Sharks started the trip off the wrong way with a 1-0 loss in Dallas on Monday. It was their third straight regulation loss. They don't have time to sulk though. They traveled after the game to St. Paul, Minnesota, where they will play the Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NHL.TV).
Video: SJS@DAL: Lehtonen makes aggressive stop on Couture
The Sharks go back to Dallas on Wednesday to prepare to play the Stars again Friday. They play in Nashville on Saturday.
The Sharks, who reached the Stanley Cup Final last season, lead the Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers by four points for first place in the Pacific Division with 10 games remaining.
"You know what, we had a great schedule in February, made hay, separated ourselves from the pack, and March is where we're paying the bill," DeBoer said. "We've got 16 games in 30 days. It's just one of those months. You can't complain about it. Every team has to go through it."
The Sharks hope their three-game losing streak turns out to be a minor blip in what has otherwise been a strong push to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. DeBoer talked about that push and more in a Q&A with NHL.com.
Here are Five (Actually Six) Questions with … Peter DeBoer:
I know it's been a couple of losses now, but on the whole do you think this team is better situated with confidence, ability and know-how this time around as you go into the playoffs just based on what you did last year? Is that where the experience factors in, understanding everything and how to do it?
"Well, I think that's a piece of it. It definitely gives you some confidence having been down that road, getting that close at the end, and realizing some of the things that worked and didn't work across the trail. I also think we're more confident because we're a better team. We're deeper. We're deep. We are a year older, which you can't hide from, especially some of our key guys. But I feel one to 30 in the organization, we're a much deeper organization, and it's a credit to [general manager] Doug [Wilson] and what he's gone out and acquired, and also to the scouting staff and some of the young guys who are pushing for jobs."
Where do you think you're deeper? What position?
"You know what, I really think [Aaron] Dell has come in right from training camp and brought us stable backup goaltending. We didn't really get to that point until the trade deadline last year with [James] Reimer. On defense, the addition of [David] Schlemko, with [Dylan] DeMelo a year older and [Brent] Burns a year more comfortable in our expectations of him and his own game. I think everybody has grown in that position. And up front I think the same. We recognized against Pittsburgh that it was the first team we felt we played that we weren't faster than them. We went out and I think we've addressed that. [Mikkel] Boedker in the summer, [Jannik] Hansen at the deadline and some of the young guys we've added to the lineup have all addressed that."
Video: WSH@SJS: Thornton picks the corner with one-timer
How has Hansen fit in so far? It can be hard for a guy who has been in one place his entire career to make an impact right away.
"I think it's been seamless because of who he is and how he plays. The guys here have played against this guy in the playoffs and they know how hard he plays and how honest of a game he plays. I think the acceptance was immediate, and he's been a great addition for us. He's helped us in a lot of areas. He's playing with Joe [Pavelski] and Joe [Thornton], and he's fit in really well with those guys, but also I think he's really helped our penalty-killing. He's been a real nice add."
You mentioned Dell, who has played well. For a while there, Martin Jones was playing a lot, quite a lot, but lately Dell is getting a few more starts [seven in the past 17 games after starting eight times in the first 55]. Is that by design, or is there more to it, such as maybe Jones is tired or Dell has just proven he deserves it?
"Yes, by design is the short answer to that. People have to remember that Marty is still a young goalie. Last year was his first year as a starter. It's not like this guy has been a starter for five or six years and has that type of mileage on him. I didn't want to come in and get into a situation early on in his second year as a starter despite the long playoff run that he wasn't playing for long stretches. Dell's contribution here is he's played so well when we've put him in that it's made our decision easy to give Marty a little extra rest down the stretch."
Video: SJS@DAL: Dell flashes leather to deny odd-man rush
What have you noticed lately from your veteran guys? Scoring is down [two goals in the past three games], but otherwise have you seen a jump in them, something different in the last little while, or are they kind of by the book, day by day, grinding through?
"No, I think there is a definite rise in play and in production and, really, everything. These guys are big-game players. They always have been. Until you go through a season after a Stanley Cup Final loss, knowing what it's like to go that deep and lose, and then compound it with the World Cup, you don't realize the extent of the fatigue, mental and physical. What I've seen here in the last month or two has been all our big guys seeing the finish line and playoffs coming and really raising their level."
Have you see a season like Brent Burns is having before, considering the position he plays and the fact that he leads the League in shots and he's right up there in points too? But on top of that, is he showing any frustration that he hasn't scored a goal in [13 games]?
"He's playing through it. He'd be lying if he said he wasn't frustrated. He expects to score and he wants to score, and there is always frustration when you do that and it's not going in. But I think he's smart enough to recognize he's doing all the same things he was before and it's just not going in. It is exceptional what he's doing when you consider the age of shot-blocking and the attention paid to getting in lanes. For a guy that is shooting a lot of nights from the blue line, not from 10 or 15 feet out, it's an incredible stat [to lead the League in shots on goal]. The other thing you have to realize too is I would say at least half his shots he's shooting for a stick or a tip, he's not even aiming for the net. I think his shot totals could be even higher on net if he wasn't so unselfish.
"I can remember [Alex] Ovechkin coming into Florida when I was coaching there still, my second or third year, and one night he had 11 or 12 shots on net, five or six hits. It was just fantastic stuff, like this guy is better than anybody we've seen this year. It's that type of reaction other coaches have had in their coaches room after we've played them because he's been that dominant.
Video: SJS@ARI: Burns scores second goal on a power play