Sharks Sink Rangers 4-1

By Mary Walsh

AP photo: San Jose Sharks Joe Pavelski is congratulated by Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl after scoring third period goal vs. the NY Rangers on Saturday afternoon

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks overwhelmed the New York Rangers in a 4-1 win Saturday. It has been a while since the Sharks passed the 50 shot mark in a game, but they did so Saturday. They pummeled Henrik Lundqvist with 47 before he left the game, and Antti Ranta faced five more, for a total of 52 shots. At the other end, Martin Jones faced 25 shots and stopped 24. Two San Jose goals were scored by Joel Ward, one by Joe Thornton and another by Joe Pavelski. Tomas Hertl picked up three assists in the game, while Patrick Marleau picked up an assist in his 1400th career NHL game. The lone Rangers goal was scored by Dan Boyle.

Three of the Sharks goals came in the third period, after a hard-fought two periods. After the game, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said: “I liked our game through 40 minutes. I thought that if we stuck with it, kept pushing and kept pushing, eventually we would find a crack and I think that’s what happened.”

Missing from the Sharks lineup were Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Matt Nieto, both injured in Thursday’s game against Arizona. Neither injury is expected to be long-term and the team anticipates they will both be back in time for playoffs. Dylan DeMelo was in for Vlasic, while Tommy Wingels returned from injury to fill out the forward lines. He was slotted in on the fourth line, while Chris Tierney moved up to play with Marleau and Ward. That was where Tierney had finished Thursday’s game as well.

After the game, Tommy Wingels talked about how the team should be able to handle the absence of key players:

Guys earn each other’s confidence. When you can show your linemates that you can contribute, you can show your teammates that you can be relied on, the depth shines. To go far in this league you need guys, you need a full team of guys who can do that. I think in this last stretch here, these past 25 games, we’ve really shown each other that any guy can stand up at any moment and that’s what you need.

3:16 into the first period, the Sharks were on the penalty kill. Just back from injury, Tommy Wingels was called for closing his hand on the puck. The Sharks killed the penalty off and followed up with a fairly amazing shift in the Rangers’ zone, complete with last-ditch keep-ins, falling pass interceptions and a couple of good shots. The team looked ready to play.

The Rangers responded with some strong shifts in the Sharks’ zone and the first period went back and forth that way without a goal. At the first intermission, the Sharks held slight leads in faceoffs and shots, and had half as many giveaways as the Rangers. The Rangers had blocked nine shots to the Sharks’ three.

Wingels went to the box to start the second period as well, taking Tanner Glass with him at 2:14. Wingels went for tripping Mats Zuccarello, Glass for roughing Wingels. No harm was done, but no benefit gained either as the four on four elapsed with the game still scoreless. The Sharks had their first power play at 6:01 of the second, for too many men on the ice. J.T. Miller did the time for the Rangers.

The Sharks power play was a bit unsteady at first, but found traction with the second unit. With 11 seconds left, Joonas Donskoi controlled the puck as it came around behind the Rangers net, and sent a quick reverse pass to Joel Ward in the slot. He wasted no time taking the shot for his 19th of the season. Assists went to Donskoi and Hertl.

Dan Boyle tied the game with 2:28 left in the second. Derrick Brassard and Dan Boyle surprised the Sharks with a two on one. Brenden Dillon went down to block Brassard’s pass to Boyle, but the puck got around him. It looked like Jones would stay with Boyle and stop the shot but Boyle waited him out and put the puck in with a nifty backhand. Assists went to Brassard and Marc Staal.

At the end of the second, the Sharks held a 37-18 shot lead.

Five seconds into the third, Marc Staal went to the box for delay of game. The Sharks power play started more quickly this time around but did not score. The Sharks had a series of good chances almost five minutes in, with as many as three tries in fewer seconds but Lundqvist stopped all of them.

Just past the five minute mark, though, the Sharks took the lead back. Tomas Hertl carried the puck over the line and fought his way around the Rangers defense. He carried the puck through a tight turn and to the front of the blue paint. Lundqvist stopped his shot but as Hertl was being taken down to the side of the net, Joe Thornton arrived in front to pick up the rebound and put it away. Assists went to Hertl and Joe Pavelski.

1:49 later, Marleau, Ward and Tierney skated in three on two. Instead of passing, Ward scored his 20th with a shot from the left circle. Assists went to Marleau and Paul Martin. The floodgates were open. Joe Pavelski scored his 33rd of the season in a two on none breakaway at 9:05. Tomas Hertl picked his third assist of the game, and Antti Ranta came in to relieve Lundqvist in goal. At that time, the Sharks held a shot lead of 47-21.

The Sharks took another penalty at 10:32, but not to Wingels. This time it was Dainius Zubrus, for tripping Ryan McDonagh. The Sharks killed the penalty handily, throwing in a couple of short-handed chances to boot. The Rangers looked deflated after that. They managed few shots, and took one more penalty with 1:07 left in the game. The penalty was to Dominic Moore, for boarding Dylan DeMelo. The Sharks made a modest effort to do something with the power play, but Paul Martin ended by holding the puck behind the Sharks net for the last several seconds of the game. It was a reasonable choice.

The Sharks next play on at 7:00 PT Sunday at SAP against the Arizona Coyotes.

Better Effort Not Enough As Sharks Lose 3-1 to Rangers

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– The New York Rangers defeated the San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday. New York goals were scored by Martin St. Louis and Chris Kreider in the first period, and Rick Nash in the third. Henrik Lundqvist stopped 30 of 31 shots for the win. The win completed a sweep of the California NHL teams, as the Rangers beat the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings in back to back games earlier this week.

Joe Thornton returned to the Sharks lineup Saturday in time to face his old teammate Dan Boyle.It was Boyle’s first time playing against the Sharks as a Ranger, since he was out with an injury when the teams first met this season. In Saturday’s game, Boyle had one shot on goal for the Rangers, one hit and one blocked shot in 18:58 of playing time.

Thornton talked about the Sharks loss afterwards: “It was a competitive game, it really was. It felt like we got our chances, they got their chances but our compete level was high, it was a good hockey game.”

If that sounds maddeningly sensible and insufficiently agitated for someone who just lost 3-1 at home, it isn’t. To my eye, the Sharks showed more poise, better effort and energy than they have in a couple of games. All they seemed to lack is confidence. Despite winning two of their last four games, they have had some truly stunning losses. Games like that take time to recover from.

Joe Thornton thought that the way the Sharks played Saturday was a good sign, and Todd McLellan said much the same thing:

The moral victory is the commitment level and the effort went way up. I twas evident. I thought that if we apply ourselves that way most nights, we’ll give ourselves at least an opportunity to win.

Melker Karlsson scored the Sharks’ only goal, extending his scoring streak to five games. It was a little more memorable for the Swedish rookie because he had to beat Henrik Lundqvist to score that goal: “It’s huge. I mean, he’s a big player in Sweden and I was looking forward to this game. And I scored today so it’s, yeah it’s unreal.”

Make no mistake, Karlsson had his priorities in order about the loss. Asked if scoring against Lundqvist took the sting out of losing, he answered: “I don’t know, I want to win. It sucks to lose. So…”

The Rangers took the lead after the ten minute mark had passed, after being outplayed in most regards by the Sharks. Martin St Louis scored off the faceoff, it was his team’s second shot of the game. Assists went to Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan.

Chris Kreider took an interference penalty at 11:34 of the period. The Sharks’ power play was effective at setting up chances but unable to finish them.

With just under five minutes left in the period, Chris Kreider extended the Rangers’ lead, again right off the faceoff.  The Rangers’ push back was in full swing. Assists went to Dan Girardi and Derek Stepan.

Despite dominating in the faceoff circle (winning 74%) and earning good chances in the offensive zone, the Sharks’ finished the period down by two goals and just one shot ahead of the Rangers.

The second period was going very like the first one, with the Sharks starting well and the Rangers coming back late. The big difference was that the Sharks had given up no more goals. With 3:29 left in the period, Matt Tennyson was called for high-sticking and received a four minute penalty. Almost a minute into that, the Sharks drew a penalty to even things out. Martin St Louis went to the box for interference against Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

With no scoring in the second, the teams finished the second period even in shots on goal. The Sharks penalty kill had not given up any shots to the Rangers’ power play so far.

The Sharks completed the penalty kill to start the third period, but the Rangers did not go away. At 4:24 of the third, a Mats Zuccarello shot ended up in Niemi’s glove but the shot was reviewed at length. That the puck crossed the line, in or out of Niemi’s glove, was probable, but Toronto took their time determining that they could not overturn the call. After the long rest and a bit of good luck, the Sharks had every reason to get back in the game.

That opportunity was amplified with a penalty to Dominic Moore for interference at 5:31. The Sharks power play started inauspiciously with a won faceoff, a stray pass that left the zone, followed by a short handed chance for the Rangers. All of that transpired in the first ten seconds of the power play. The Sharks did get set up after that. After a tentative shot or two, the Sharks dug in. A keep in from Matt Tennyson turned into a pass to James Sheppard along the boards. Sheppard and Karlsson converged on the net and Karlsson scored to cut the lead in half.

Logan Couture was called for holding at 11:58. The Rangers again got credit for no shots on their power play, but the Sharks had one short handed shot that ended with Vlasic and St Louis tangled up in Lundqvist’s net.

In the final three minutes, the Rangers used their time out after a very good shift from the Sharks. The Sharks did not get their mojo back after the time out, and after the Sharks pulled Niemi for the extra skater, Rick Nash was able to ellude the Sharks defense to score the game-clincher.

Patrick Marleau, James Sheppard, Tye McGinn and Logan Couture each had four shots on goal, no Shark had more. Tommy Wingels had the most hits with three. Marc-Edouard Vlasic led the team in ice time with 25:18, while Justin Braun blocked five shots. Antti Niemi made 29 saves on 31 shots.

Rick Nash led New York in shots on goal with seven. Dan Girardi and Jesper Fast each had four hits, no Ranger had more. Ryan McDonagh led the team in ice time with 23:54.

The Sharks next play in Arizona against the Coyotes, at 6:00 PT on Tuesday the 13th.

Remember the Alamo: Sharks Have A Lot To Think About

By Mary Walsh

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, they say. Then again, sometimes things that can kill you do, in fact, kill you, and many things that cause you no pain at all can make you stronger. Pain, loss and failure are not necessary ingredients for success, they are just common obstacles you must overcome on the road to pretty much anywhere. So what do you do with a humiliating meltdown performed at the very worst moment, on a national stage? Assuming it has not killed you, you can remember it and nurse that awful feeling until you have a chance to redeem yourself. Or not.

Friday, some Sharks shared their present thoughts with the media. It had been less than 48 hours since the team made a historically noteworthy playoff exit. As one of only four teams to give up a 3-0 series lead to be defeated in the seventh game, they will be remembered for choking in the worst way.

Todd McLellan was asked what went wrong, what lead to the loss of a series the Sharks lead by three games to none.

I spoke about this at the press conference after the game and my opinion hasn’t changed one bit. In fact, I’m a little more frustrated at this point than I was even at that point, if you can believe it. We got beat in a number of different areas. The core of their group stepped up and performed at a very high level, ours fell off a little bit and my disappointment is as much or greater now than it was at at that moment.

What added to the frustration?

Probably having the chance to go back and look at it again. It is what it is, we went and looked at it again and it just makes us more frustrated.

Joe Thornton was asked if he had any explanation for what went on in the last four games.

No. I think I’ll think about that, you know, probably until next year sometime. You know, the way we played in the first three games and then what we did in the last four, it’s mind-boggling. And I think I will lose sleep probably for the next couple of months for sure on that.

Tommy Wingels was asked if playing in World Championships next week would help get the taste of the loss out of his mouth.

It won’t do it. It’s an honor to play for them and to an extent you’re excited when you get asked but without a doubt I’d much rather be playing for a Stanley Cup still. Regardless of what happens over there the disappointment of what happened isn’t going to go away, and to be honest that’ll be on my mind the entire time.

Patrick Marleau was asked about this series as a defining moment for the Sharks.

Yeah, it’s obviously a low point for us. Like you said it’s going to be with us for a long time so we have to use that as a motivational tool to get better and to learn from it and to know that you never want to feel this way again.

Scott Hannan was asked if, after time to think about it, there were any answers to how the series came unravelled.

No, there’s not, it’s disappointing, it’s gut wrenching that this happened. We’re going to have to deal with that for a while until we can set things right and turn it around. It’s going to eat away at you all summer and all next year.

Brent Burns was asked if he had any additional thoughts after a day and a half.

I think it’s still pretty fresh. It’s still tough, you’re not really prepared for it to be over. Nothing new. Waking up today it’s tough, it’s hard to imagine what happened but it’s sure to take a long time.

Dan Boyle was asked how his last couple of days had gone.

Horrible. This is the first time I left my house since I got back after the game. It’s definitely the worst loss of my career and yeah, I’m not going to get over this for a long time. This one hurts a lot.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was asked if this is a series worth remembering.

I mean, Boston won the Cup the year after they did what we did this year.

Did he think that humiliation motivated the Bruins?

Probably, they had something to prove. When you sweep and then get swept it’s embarrassing and hopefully we do the same.

One recurring theme in all of the locker cleanout interviews was  that the loss would take a long time to get over. Will the Sharks’ disastrous 2014 playoff ousting stay with them, in a way that might be productive? How will they respond? Raffi Torres said:

We just gotta figure out what we want to do here. Do we want to be a team that lives with the past, is this going to haunt us and just do the same thing over and over again? Or are we really gonna get pissed off and come back and see what we’re really all about. You gotta have a year, you know. Yeah, we’re gonna win a lot of games next year and probably going to make the playoffs again, but at the end of the day if you don’t show up and really want it, and really want to win, it’s not going to happen.

Of course, Doug Wilson has some work to do. In cases such as these, when an otherwise competitive team falls apart in the clutch, a common response is to fire the coach. That is clearly not something Wilson is in a hurry to do, nor should he be. How do you replace one of the top coaches in the league? It would be, to say the least, a gamble. And it was another recurring theme in the interviews: the players did not blame the coach. Antti Niemi put it concisely:

He’s been a great coach obviously and we played winning hockey all the time. And we have great systems we play, the whole team followed the systems and I think we worked hard. So I think he’s been a great coach, the whole coaching staff has been great.

It is rare for players to voice criticisms of their coach, and in any case it doesn’t answer the question: would another coach get better results, at least in the short run?

To study how teams fare after this particular failure you have to work with an impossibly small sample size. In the most recent example, the Boston Bruins did not replace their coach or significantly alter their core group. They did add several significant players, so the San Jose roster may need to be bolstered. Then again, those were the Bruins, not the Sharks. When you only have four cases and only two in the last quarter century, it would be folly to think you have a pattern to follow.

The only player in this narrative not available for comment Friday was Sharks majority owner Hasso Plattner. What he will make of the situation, what he might do about it, is difficult to even guess at. Possibly the most frustrating part of this is that such humiliation only happens to the best teams. It is not humiliating unless you have a team that should have won. That is why two of those other three were able to win the Stanley Cup so soon after squandering three game leads in the playoffs. It is an awful feeling for Sharks and their fans, but at least it is proof that they are close enough to success to amplify failure into a disaster on a par with the Alamo, minus the fatalities of course.

One of Three Sevens: Sharks, Kings Must Win or Go Home

By Mary Walsh

Seven. Each NHL Playoff round is a best of seven games, and three of eight first round match-ups have gone the distance. Second round dates have already been set, even for the Penguins who do not yet know who they will play.

With three Game Sevens today, it seems likely that we will see at least one upset… if you define upset as the triumph of the team with the lower position in the standings. In the case of the Pacific Division contest, the predictions have been for the third place team to upset the second place team all along, so would that even count as an upset? Is it really an upset if it was expected? Will the Kings live up to expectations, or will the Sharks reassert themselves?

All three of today’s games came to be with a Game Six win won by three goals. The Flyers and the Wild both beat their opponents 5-3 and the Kings beat the Sharks Jose 4-1. A little more eerie than that is the Philadelphia connection to Los Angeles: Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were both part of the Flyers team that upset the Bruins in 2010, and now they are in another Game Seven after a three game comeback, while their old team is playing a Game Seven on the same day.

The Sharks are not playing in three games, only one. They are not even playing in seven games, they only have one tonight. Is it any different from any other game? Sharks forward Logan Couture said:

Every playoff game has a different atmosphere compared to a regular season game. I mean, guys know, obviously, what’s at stake. I don’t think it’s any big difference.

Playing in and winning a Game Seven is every young hockey player’s dream. But after squandering a three game lead in the series, the Sharks might be feeling some extra pressure. This morning, Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle was asked about the fun and the pressure of a Game Seven:

This is fun, you know everyone’s going to talk about how we got to this point but at this point it really doesn’t matter. We’re in Game Seven, we got to win a hockey game to move on and we’re at home. So you’re right this is fun and we’ve got to channel our energy the right way.

The Kings won three games in a row, as did the Sharks, but the Kings played all of those games with the threat of elimination hanging over them. They were all “win or go home” situations. Is it any different for the Sharks now that they too must win or go home? This morning, Sharks defenseman Jason Demers said:

I don’t think so. But it’s like I said, it’s just about executing. You can talk as much as you want about x’s and o’s, but it’s just about executing those x’s and o’s… Just executing when we need to execute to win.

Sharks head coach Todd McLellan’s approach to the win or go home situation is to go back to his core group:

I think our core on our team has to step up, and they were there early in the series. LA’s core has been there later in the series. Tonight’s the deciding game and in my opinion Nemo’s a very big part of that core and they’re going to get their chance to perform in Game Seven.

It is April 30, 2014, or 4/30/14. Add month and day together without the zeros and you get seven. Divide the year by two and you get seven. All three games start in the seventh hour, two of them at seven sharp. It seems like it should mean something, but I can’t tell what that is or what could possibly be done about it. Probably a safe bet that everyone should steer clear of deadly sins.

Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi said his routine would not change for this game:

I just got to think about my own game… and do the same things to get ready as I do every day.

Sounds like a plan.

Sharks and Kings Keeping it Interesting

By Mary Walsh

With arch rivals and married couples, the key to a thriving relationship is continuing to surprise each other. The party line between professional sports teams, of course, is that with all the history and scouting and preparation, neither team will be able to surprise the other. But if that were true they wouldn’t have to play the game, would they?

Can there be any surprises between the San Jose Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings? No, said Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic before Game One between San Jose and Los Angeles:

There’ll be no surprises out there. Played enough against each other in that past couple years, last year in the playoffs, three years ago in the playoffs, so not surprising at all.

Of the kind of surprises you expect to see in a game, Vlasic said:

You can surprise them by the way you come out and play. But surprises as in we don’t know what they’re gonna do and they don’t know what we’re gonna do. No, we know LA in here, they know us, well enough to know there’s no surprises out there. But the team that comes out and dictates the game will have the advantage off the start.

Seems like Vlasic predicted the game pretty accurately. Still… if there were no surprises they would not play the games. Some surprises are to be expected in any game, especially NHL playoff games.

I imagine the Los Angeles Kings were at least a little surprised to see Vlasic rushing up the ice on a very scary (for LA) short-handed chance. Later, his shot off the post landed right in Raffi Torres’ lap, so to speak, for the game winner. I think those might be called surprises. That last one had to be a little difficult to plan.

Before Game One, Kings’ head coach Darryl Sutter was asked if the Sharks could do anything to surprise the Kings:

I don’t think system-wise, neither team is going to do that because of how good they are. There’s a reason you get here, there’s a reason that you have such good regular seasons, there’s a reason that you have playoffs spots clinched with a few games left.

What happens in playoff time, a lot of time what separates winner or loser is not the team part of it, it’s the individual part of it. So there’s somebody that steps up and goes to another level or somebody that doesn’t, that’s usually at the end, what… when you call it a surprise or whatever that is, that’s usually what happens.

We have already seen some game results that were not widely anticipated. Detroit defeating Boston was only expected by those who knew the Red Wings’ speed was a better weapon against the Bruins than it would have been against the Penguins. Still, there’s a little David and Goliath going on there. And it was still a one-goal game.

Which brings me to the most unsurprising surprise of the playoffs so far: that the Sharks were one of just two teams to win Game One by a margin of more than one goal. That a game would turn out differently than anticipated is not surprising, but for the Kings to be so badly run over by the Sharks in the first two periods was unusual.

Dan Boyle’s pregame comments described what the Sharks expected in Game One, in particular from the Kings goaltender:

With Quick back there, you’ve certainly got to earn your goals…We don’t expect to score many goals. We’d like to but we’re going to have to play good defense.

So scoring six goals, only one into an empty net, was surprising.

Tomas Hertl scoring in his first playoff game was to count as a little surprising, especially after missing so much of the season getting his knee repaired.

The third period was not surprising, since a team hardly ever maintains momentum with a five-goal lead. It seems like it should be surprising, but if a two or three goal lead is dangerous, what does a five goal lead do to a team? Such a thing in the playoffs must be unsettling.

It would be folly to expect a repeat of any of that. The Kings will probably be more ready to start, and the Sharks are unlikely to face the mental challenge of another dizzying lead.

Game One might have given the Sharks a bigger advantage than the series lead. It gave Tomas Hertl and Raffi Torres a chance to get up to game speed, maybe even playoff game speed. Those are weapons the Kings probably didn’t want the Sharks to prime.

Todd McLellan opted to play Mike Brown and not have Martin Havlat in the lineup. Havlat is not a natural fit on the fourth line, but Brown was not especially helpful there either. Maybe, probably, McLellan will surprise us Sunday. He does have a few options to work with. But which would be more surprising, changing a lineup that won, or sticking with one that perhaps could be improved on?

Both teams will put Game One behind them Sunday, and perhaps they will serve up something even more predictably surprising.

Three is Prime: Sharks Keep Stars in Place

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks really like the number three. They needed three goals to win their sixth in a row Saturday night. All three goals were scored by the Sharks who just signed three year contract extensions: Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

With those contract extensions, the Sharks propped open that window people talk about, the one that is supposed to be closing on them. Whether or not they also extend Dan Boyle, the team has locked up most of its most productive players for at least three years.

One piece the Sharks do not have locked up, and are not likely to have before the summer if at all, is associate coach Larry Robinson. It is safe to say that there is little if any negotiation involved there: it is a decision Robinson will make when the time comes. Any NHL team in their right mind would want Robinson to stay as long as possible.

The arrival of Robinson and Jim Johnson was a boon. Whether it was a matter of continuing development, as with Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, or getting a player back on track as with Jason Demers, the new coaches have had an enormous impact on Sharks defensemen.

If Robinson does not stay, his influence will remain in what he is teaching Sharks players, but in some things it is good to be greedy. It would be very regrettable if the Sharks could not convince Robinson to stay on.

On the player front, the Sharks should retain Dan Boyle, but numerically they have the majority of their top skaters in place until 2017: Brent Burns, Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Vlasic, Braun, and now Thornton and Marleau. That isn’t a whole hockey team but it is a fine collection of centerpieces.

That is why signing those three year contracts made sense for Marleau and Thornton too. It is a situation that offers as much chance of success as they would be likely to find anywhere else. Anyone can argue that there is something wrong in San Jose that they have never won the Stanley Cup after so many trips to the playoffs. But there’s many a slip twixt a cup and a lip, even more slips on ice with a bunch of guys trying to jostle your hand. No outcome is certain in the playoffs, except one: you can’t win if you miss the second season.

Maybe the Sharks need to finish the playoffs every which way they can before they win it: swept out, four games to one loss, game seven OT funny bounce loss… Maybe they have a few more exits to try before they find the right door. Not keeping their top players at this point won’t help them find it any sooner.

The notion of rebuilding right now is preposterous, with Couture and Vlasic and Braun and Tomas Hertl locked up. When you have promising players like Tommy Wingels, Matt Irwin and Matt Nieto playing as well as they are right now in the NHL, when you have a few more like Eriah Hayes and Matt Tennyson in the picture, and you might have a dark horse or two lurking in Worcester, now is not the time to trade everyone away and start over.

Alex Stalock is vying for more attention than Sharks backups usually get. Unless the Sharks will give him enough work to really test his potential as a starter, they may not reap the full benefit of his skill. That Stalock got two starts in four games is a step forward here. Maybe McLellan is ready to force some rest on his starting goaltender.

That isn’t a serious problem, and it certainly would not be solved by the acquisition of another player. The team doesn’t have any gaping holes, any glaring need of another big money player- actually or figuratively.

That is why the Sharks should try to keep Dan Boyle. The Sharks don’t need a significant disruption. Boyle probably wants a multi-year contract. Why wouldn’t he? Who doesn’t? What kind of salary he wants is probably the hold up. Doug Wilson has shown that he can get players to sign for less than they would be worth on the open market. That is partly because most players would rather not hit the open market, but also because the Sharks are perennial contenders.

I would guess that Boyle stays with the Sharks. If his salary requirements are reasonable, which would be significantly less than he is presently earning, I think Wilson is likely to offer him three years. He has given as many and more to players who are less central to the team’s core. With Thornton and Marleau at three years, it would be indecent for Boyle to expect more.

I would not put money on that guess. Boyle is at the point in his career where he is deciding how and where he will finish his playing career. Wilson has more cap space to work with than he might have after signing Marleau and Thornton, but he is not swimming in it.

Wilson might need some room to keep Jason Demers.  While Demers has been in and out of the lineup for a few season, he is clearly coming into his own now. He will probably have some suiters calling if the Sharks don’t secure him early.

While other teams are giving their masthead names seven years to stay, it is a sign of confidence from Marleau and Thorton that they accepted three. A 34 year old can’t expect seven years, but players of Thornton’s and Marleau’s stature could certainly get five somewhere. 37 isn’t a great age to be looking for a new contract, but those two are willing to take the risk. If they really think San Jose is the place to be, maybe it is.

Sharks Rally Comes Up Short, Lose 3-2 To Predators

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 14: Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks watches the replay of a goal against him by Viktor Stalberg #25 of the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on December 14, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN – DECEMBER 14: Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks watches the replay of a goal against him by Viktor Stalberg #25 of the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on December 14, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Kahlil Najar

NASHVILLE -The red hot Nashville Predators (16-14-3) wont their third straight game and beat the San Jose Sharks (20-7-6), 3-2. San Jose is now 1-4-1 in their last six games and have only scored 11 goals. Dan Boyle scored his sixth goal of the year and Antti Niemi stopped 20 of 23 for his fifth loss of the year.

“We weren’t nearly aggressive enough,” said San Jose coach Todd McLellan. “It’s amazing, in the third when we played on the inside a little bit more, we got more second chances, kept the forecheck alive, we were a much different team. I’m a bit disappointed in the first period and a half to two periods.”

Nashville defenseman Victor Bartley got the Predators on the board at 16:01 of the first period when he shot a wicked wrister at the net from just above the left circle and beat Niemi. The Predators connected on their first power play of the night after when Nick Spaling won the puck along the boards and got it over to Craig Smith behind the net. Smith found defenseman Roman Josi streaking in and Josi’s wrist shot beat Antti Niemi to the glove side to give Nashville the 2-0 lead.

The Sharks finally got in the scoring column in the third when Sharks center Patrick Marleau won the puck behind the net and found Matt Irwin high in the slot. Dan Boyle deflected Irwin’s shot between Hutton’s legs and made it 2-1.  The Predators Viktor Stalberg made it 3-1 with 2:39 left when he beat Niemi low to the glove side on a 2-on-1 breakaway.  The Sharks pulled Niemi and with the extra man, Markeau redirected a pass from Dan Boyle and got it past Hutton with 54.6 seconds left and brought it to a final score of 3-2.

“Every game we play it seems the team that wins the special teams play, wins the game,” San Jose’s Joe Thornton said. “Tonight they got the one power-play goal and we didn’t, and that’s basically what the NHL comes down to right now, who is better on special teams.”

Logan Couture echoed, “We have to be better on the road. We know how big points are right now. It’s a tough loss.”

The Sharks hope to get back in the win column when they head to St. Louis for an evening game this Tuesday at 8PM EST.

Sharks skid continues against the Islanders

By Ivan Makarov
San Jose Sharks returned to California after a disappointing four game road trip where they won just once. They hoped to turn things around playing at home where they won the last five games. Instead, their skid continued, as they allowed a third period breakdown, the Islanders come back, and their opponent’s win in the shootout.
The Islanders were in the middle of the losing streak themselves, having lost the last 10 games. However, solid play from their netminder and a great third period helped them break through and finally win.
A key turning point happened early in the third period. Sharks were up 2-0, but it became a one goal game just 51 second after the play began. Tomas Vanek scored by finding the puck in the crease after Antti Niemi was unable to freeze the puck after the shot by John Tavares who was near the crease after a great individual effort and drawing all defense to him.
New York went on to tie the game with less than two minutes left in regulation with an extra skater on the ice after their goaltender was pulled. John Tavares won the face-off inside the Sharks zone against Joe Pavelski and Kyle Okposo put one into the net. Antti Niemi was screened on that play by the Islander players and didn’t appear to see the shot coming.
“He lost it clean,” said Sharks head coach Todd McLellan about Pavelski’s play. [Islanders] scored short side high. You’d like to get beat by a different shot. You’d like to be in the shooting lane. But it was a draw like that, and they got one freebie and they made it count.”
It was an even game in overtime, with NY having the slight advantage and the best scoring chance. With 1:16 remaining in overtime, Antti Niemi saved the game with a stretch glove save after a breakaway attempt by Brock Nelson. This was a great save in the very important moment of the game, taking it to the shootout.
Logan Couture scored on his shootout chance but Joe Pavelski and Dan Boyle didn’t. Kyle Okposo became a hero again, scoring on his attempt after Boyle missed, and winning the game for his team.
There were still positives in that game despite the outcome.
The power play looked dangerous and was credit with the first goal. Patrick Marleau scored his 14th goal of the season after a rebound he picked up inside the face-off circle.
Joe Pavelski found the net for the first time in seven games, scoring Sharks’ second goal. Sharks’ center played aggressively on the forecheck, helping the puck stay inside Islanders zone and forcing a turnover. As he picked up the puck, he passed it back towards the blue line where Dan Boyle was skating by himself. Boyle shot the puck on the net, Poulin made the save, but it bounced back to Pavelski who put it inside the open net. This was Pavelski’s 10th goal on the season.
Sharks also had a great start in the game, outshooting the Islanders 18-3 in the first period, and outshooting them overall 48-28.
But in the end, it was losing key battles at the start and the end of the third period that cost them the win.
“Whether or not we deserved [the outcome], we ended up with it,” said McLellan. “I thought we started the game very well. I thought we got a little lose in the second period and decided we wanted to trade chances, giving up some odd number rushes. We gave up a goal in the first minute and the last minute of the third. … Our top line right now is getting beat, along with the goaltender, and it has to improve.”
They will be back in action on Thursday at SAP Center against Minnesota Wild.
Games Notes
  • The Islanders played game four of their five-game road trip in San Jose. It was the first of two meetings between the clubs this season.
  • Evgeni Nabokov was back to SAP Center, although did not dress up for the game due to injury. He was given a loud ovation during the first period when video board played his highlights from the time he was a San Jose Shark.
  • Two Sharks players registered multi-point nights: Patrick Marleau (1-1=2) andDan Boyle (0-2=2).
  • Patrick Marleau is now in sole possession of 77th place on the all-time goal scoring list (418 career goals).
  • Patrick Marleau led all Sharks skaters with seven shots on goal.

Sharks hot to get mileage on current trip/Bulls look to have close games on homestand

by Larry Levitt
DALY CITY–The San Jose Sharks are on very long road trip and I don’t mean long as in time although as in multiple days in an eight day, five game road trip but the amount of travel they criss cross the United States and Canada twice. The Sharks are doing rather well, they’re not really executing and playing a very good defensive game right now
To say they got lucky Thursday night and beat the Vancouver Canucks in an overtime goal by Dan Boyle is an understatement, they didn’t really deserve to win but then again they deserve to win a couple others they didn’t get the goals scored, for now it’s payback. The best line I heard was ”the hockey Gods might be even things up.”
When the Sharks had Ryan Clowe and Michal Handzus that was their go to team and when you trade them away and they traded them away for speed but they don’t have that skill. I love that quick shot of the Sharks Joe Pevelski and Logan Courture they really get their shot off their stick quickly. You got to give the goalie some credit too but they didn’t seem like they had much of a game plan going in the last game on Thursday.The Sharks did what they could, they got what they got getting one point even though you lose a game getting one point is better than none.
The scary thing about facing a team like Edmonton in last place, the Oilers have been shut out for the last three games in a row. So you know their going to be aching to get a goal and against a team that’s struggling defensively like the Sharks are. Edmonton has a young team their in transition for quite awhile. They’re suppose to be there now and they’re working at having a good team now. The Oilers are struggling so maybe it’s a good time for them to catch up to them and straighten out your own woes.
Two inured Sharks Raffi Torres and Brett Burns the two injured Sharks, Torres is the team’s spark plug but the Sharks have been doing pretty good without them. Raffi is supposed to be the big heavy hitter but they didn’t really need a big heavy hitter. They’ve really been playing okay without him. Burns is a bigger miss. I don’t understand why he’s been out so long. Burns has been out with a mouth injury and Torres out with a torn ACL.
For sure Burns is really missed and he’s out for more than just a chipped tooth it’s going to be interesting when we finally find out probably at the end of the season to find out how bad this injury is. Burns may have a broken bone that still needs to heal. They miss his speed, they miss his recklessness down on the ice that really plays havoc with other teams.
It was also reported that Burns is suffering from an injury that could be a concussion related so the Sharks are going to have to make due without him. When Torres comes back he can bring some offense he doesn’t have to be a heavy hitter. He’s a big guy, he’s a good skater he can shoot so their out there and the team has been getting along okay and the Sharks look forward to see what comes up.
San Francisco Bulls update: The Bulls are on a two game winning streak they won their home opener on Friday night and then they won in Stockton on Veterans day Monday night, they’re looking pretty good the thing that is most impressive getting the road win in Stockton on Monday night. The thing that’s most impressive is the goaltending and they have hot goaltending with Tyler Boskorowany he’s a big guy at 6’5 210 pounds he moves really well.
Boskorowany moves pretty well, he got caught out of position a few times in Stockton but recovered really well and saved a goal. If the team can learn to play with him he’s a new goalie for the team. If they can get used to his style and used to his defense that’s in front of him they can really be a good team. Boskorowany he talks a lot and they seemed to be thriving on that and a lot of the defenseman are pretty young and are pretty new to the league.
They have been performing quite well, offensively it’s pretty interesting that the Bulls have been had some really lousy luck in terms of losing some players that had been called up or an injury. Center Ryan McDonough and right winger Dale Mitchell with injuries and left winger Riley Brace with the call up to Worcester. Players like Chris Crane have been filling that gap, he was in the top half of the shots taken so he seemed primed to move up a line but offensively they’ve had some difficult loses of players but they seem to be holding it together anyway.
Larry Levitt does Pro Hockey commentary each week for Sportstalk

Boyle’s back bar shot seals comeback OT win

Photo Credit: Unknown

By Pearl Allison Lo

It was a swift and abrupt end for the Vancouver Canucks, after upon video review, the referee acknowledged San Jose Sharks’ Boyle’s goal had entered the net for a 2-1 win Thursday.

31 seconds after Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin went off for hooking at 2:07 of overtime, Boyle made the Sharks’ fourth time on the power play count. Boyle was aided by Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture for San Jose’s second consecutive overtime win, as they took the season series over the Canucks 3-1 in an early finale.

Couture had a chance with 3:11 left to go in the first period, moving across the ice against traffic, but his shot was muffled up front by goalie Roberto Luongo. The Sharks later controlled the majority of the possession as the first period neared its end. San Jose’s Marc Edouard Vlasic with three shots on goal, was the only one with multiple shots. Ryan Kesler led with almost half of Vancouver’s blocks with four.

The Sharks’ second power play was majorly controlled by the Canucks, and included an offensive blocked of a shot attempt by Luongo with his stick.

Vancouver’s Alexandre Burrows was called for interference to give San Jose their third power play at 11:10 of the second period. The set up for the Canucks’ go-ahead goal then started when Pavelski was called for interference 40 seconds later. After the then even matchup expired, Vancouver was given a 36 second man advantage, with which they capitalized.   After a faceoff win and Burrows’ wide shot, Kevin Bieksa was awarded his first goal of the season, slapping the puck in the net from 56 feet away. Bieksa was helped by Sedin with his 18th assist and Burrows.

The Sharks were outshot 20-9 in the second period.

In the third, it looked like the Canucks would be ending their two game losing streak amidst their momentum since the second period. However, with an extra attacker, San Jose was able to stay alive. Joe Thornton went down, but was able to pass it to Boyle, who eventually got it to Tomas Hertl, on Luongo’s left side, as Hertl scored with just over a minute left. Thornton had his 18th assist and Hertl had his 11th goal.

Re the goal, Boyle responded, “The puck came out and I was going to shoot originally, and then…guys kinda came together and I changed my mind at the last minute…”

Game notes: Vlasic led the team in shots at the end of the game with six and led in ice time, along with Boyle, as both stayed on for 22:34. Vancouver’s Dan Hamhuis led all skaters in ice time with 25:40. Thornton extended his points streak to six games. The Sharks will go for three in a row when they face the Edmonton Oilers at 7pm PST Friday.