With muffled breath and a quiet tone, rookie defenseman Justin Braun sat in the corner of the Sharks locker room and explained what it was like to play in his first NHL playoff game.
“It wasn’t the outcome we were looking for,” said Braun. “We had some chances early and (Jonathan) Quick played well. We just have to stay out of the box a little more.”
The loss was clearly upsetting for the 24-year-old native of Vadnais Heights, Minnesota. And around the Sharks lockerroom, a similar feeling of anger, frustration and disappointment lingered around each player that spoke with the media. For the first time since Game 3 of the 2010 Western Conference Quarterfinals against Colorado, the Sharks were shutout in a playoff game. And although San Jose outshot the Los Angeles 34-23, the Kings were able to block 22 shots as opposed to the Sharks eight. Pucks weren’t getting to the net and that was extremely frustrating for an offensive-minded defenseman like Braun.
“Guys were in lanes constantly,” said Braun. “They’re a great shot-blocking team and we need to do a better job as a defensive core.”
Braun earned the start after Ian White suffered a head injury in Game 1 on Thursday. After being hit from behind by Jarret Stoll in the first period, White didn’t return to the game and Stoll was handed a one-game suspension by the NHL. Sharks head coach Todd McLellan had said he was deciding between Braun and Kent Huskins to replace White in Game 2, but didn’t inform Braun that he was in the lineup until right before the start of the game.
“I was excited,” said Braun about hearing the news. “This is where you can make a name for yourself and play well. It’s an important time of the year. You want a good outcome.”
Having a strong, right-handed shot, Braun was paired up with 11-year NHL veteran Niclas Wallin and earned 56 seconds on the power play and 1:28 on the penalty kill.
Wallin gave Braun some simple advice before the game.
“He told me to keep playing the way I was,” said Braun who earned 11 points (2 goals, 9 assists) over 28 regular season games. “He’s always very supportive of me and he kept that going tonight.” Following the game, McLellan was impressed with Braun’s performance.
"I thought he was one of our better defenseman,” said McLellan during his postgame press conference. “He kept the game simple. He was very competitive. He moved the puck and didn't try to over handle it. He did an admirable job. He wasn't the root cause of anything that went wrong with us tonight."