SAN JOSE | Cole Caufield paid a nice compliment to Juraj Slafkovski in the opposing team’s locker room at the SAP Center after the 3-2 win over the Sharks.
“He was good. I think he just played one of the best games of his career,” Caufield said. He used his body and his speed well. It was good to see that. He generated some chances for our trio. We spent a lot of time in opponent’s zone. I tip my hat to him. He was very strong on the ramps. This type of game will allow him to gain confidence.”
Martin St-Louis always talked about patience with Slafkovski. At 19 and in his second NHL season, the top pick in the 2022 draft class won’t follow a straight path. There will be pitfalls on the way, but also great achievements.
Slafkovsky showed more than encouraging signs in San Jose. In the list of scorers, he finished the game with an assist, +2 and a score of 19:44. He also fired three shots at MacKenzie Blackwood and had ten attempts.
St. Louis rewarded him for his valiant effort by using him three-on-three in overtime and sending him on as the third scorer in the shootout.
The Slovak blocked Blackwood during his shot, but failed to complete his feint by hitting the side of the net.
“I was close,” Slafkovsky replied with a smile. I don’t know how I managed not to score. But we found a way to win, so it’s okay. For my match, I felt good. Our trio was buzzing on the ice. Now I will have to recreate the same thing in the next game. I can’t settle for just one good match. »
Still on the right wing alongside Christian Dvorak and Caufield, Slafkovsky won a few battles along the boards. He relied on one of his big strengths, his 6’3″ and 230 lb frame, to recover pucks.
“I feel like I’m getting my confidence back now that I’m getting a chance to play with the puck more,” he explained. I want to keep building my game.”
On the right track
At a press conference in a small room next to the locker room, St-Louis repeated what he often said about Slafkovski. For him, the destination will always be important, not the time it will take to get there.
“We’re on our way,” he thought. What we see is very encouraging. He is gaining more and more self-confidence. You see him by what he does on the ice, where he goes, how many times he touches the puck. He is very efficient and therefore often has the puck. I know he puts a lot of pressure on himself, I’m happy for him. There will be even more growth because it feels good. »
“It’s evolving,” he continued. He understands what this league is. Learn from your mistakes. He is a sponge, that is expected from a 19-year-old player. He doesn’t think he has everything figured out yet, he is developing towards the best version of himself. »
Jesse Ylönen scored the game-winning goal in the shootout, Caufield had a rare five-on-five goal (his second of the season) and Cayden Primeau blocked 31 shots in a close win against the Sharks, the worst team in the NHL with a 3-15 record. 2. For the first time this season, the Sharks dominated their opponents in the shooting column (33 to 24).
It was not a perfect match for CH. Far from there. But the biggest victory could be that of Slafkovski, who seems to want to come out of his shell.