Sharks Win 5th in a Row, Beat Ducks 5-3

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks won their fifth in a row Saturday, defeating the Anaheim Ducks 5-3 at the Honda Center. Sharks goals came from the usual suspects: Tomas Hertl (2), Evander Kane, Brent Burns and Logan Couture. Martin Jones made 29 saves for the win. Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg and Max Jones scored for Anaheim, while John Gibson made 30 saves. Tomas Hertl has now scored in five games in a row. Regrettably, he left the game late in the third after a collision.

After the game, Sharks captain Logan Couture talked about Hertl’s contribution to the team: “He’s playing tremendous. You hate to say you get used to it, because he’s playing at such an elite level but the way that he’s been playing these last two years, three years, however long it’s been, he’s been at that level and he’s getting better, so he’s a big piece of this team for sure.”

Asked about the injury, Couture said: “Anything to the knee doesn’t look good but from what I’ve heard, he’s okay.”

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said: “I thought in the third we found another level. You know, our entire team, we talked between the second and the third, that we had an opportunity to win this game if we could get some more guys going.”

To that end, they made some line changes after the second period: “I think we needed some type of spark. I thought Hertl’s line was productive, I thought especially in the second period, I thought some of other lines were kind of vanilla. So we moved some things around, we regrouped between the second and third and I thought we came out with a good push.”

Anaheim struck first, just 1:09 into the first period. Rickard Rakell scored his sixth of the season with his team’s first shot of the game. A failed clear by Radim Simek took a bounce and ended up on Rakell’s stick as he was crossing the blue line. He skated in and took a quick shot from the top of the circle, beating Jones on the far side. An assist went to Jakob Silfverberg.

Tomas Hertl tied the game at 6:44 in a 2-on-1 with Barclay Goodrow. The play started when Marc-Edouard Vlasic broke up a 2-on-1, at the same time getting the puck to Timo Meier, who found Hertl breaking into the neutral zone. The puck wound up crossing the line between Gibson’s skate and Hertl’s stick blade, and the official did not see it. It was not until the next stoppage of play that an official review caught it. Assists went to Goodrow and Timo Meier.

A few moments later, Sharks defenseman Dalton Prout and Nicolas Deslauriers fought after a hit on Brenden Dillon. It was Prout’s first game back after being injured in the Sharks’ first game of the season in Las Vegas.

Tied at the end of the first, the teams were also very close in shots on goal (11-10 Sharks) and face-off wins (9-8 Ducks).

The Sharks got into penalty trouble early in the second period. Kevin Labanc was called for hooking at 4:18, followed by Melker Karlsson being called for a face-off violation as that first penalty ended. The Sharks managed decent short-handed attempts in each of those penalties and got lucky on a couple of plays before killing off almost four minutes short-handed.

The Sharks were back on the penalty kill at 12:30 after a tripping call to Brent Burns. 30 seconds in, Jakob Silfverberg pushed a puck under Martin Jones after a great cross-ice pass by Ryan Getzlaf forced the Sharks penalty kill to switch sides in a hurry. Assists went to Adam Henrique and Rickard Rakell.

The Sharks got a their second power play of the night at 13:56 when Max Jones was called for hooking Barclay Goodrow. They had a couple of good chances at the end of the power play, but could not push the puck through the melee in front of the net. No shots were recorded for the power play.

Tomas Hertl tied it again with a hard wrist shot from the faceoff dot at 18:28. Timo Meier had collected the puck from the below the goal line and found Hertl with a quick pass after a long shift on offense. The second assist went to Brent Burns. It was Hertl’s 10th goal of the season.

At the end of the second, the teams were still close in shots (11-10 Ducks) but now Anaheim had a heftier 9-6 lead in face-off wins.

The Sharks had their third power play of the night at 6:42 of the third. It did not start well, allowing two good short-handed rushes by the Ducks. Momentum shifted when Brent Burns gathered up the puck in the defensive zone. After a giving the power play time to set up, he carried the puck end to end and took his shot from the slot. It went off of a defenseman and past Gibson to give the Sharks their first lead of the game. Assists went to Evander Kane and Erik Karlsson.

Soon after, Dalton Prout was called for hooking. In the second minute of the power play, the Sharks had their own short-handed chance. Logan Couture carried the puck into the zone with Evander Kane on the other side of the ice. Couture waited until Kane was in shooting position to make the pass and caught Kane with a pass just above the blue paint. It was Kane’s 12th goal of the season and Couture’s 15th assist.

Anaheim answered with a goal at 15:50. Max Jones took a harmless-looking shot off the rush but it deflected off of Radim Simek’s body, bounced under Martin Jones and into the net. Assists went to Carter Rowney and Sam Steel.

The Ducks pulled their goaltender with just under two minutes left. Nick Ritchie, the sixth Anaheim skater, had a great chance just after taking the ice, but it went off of the post. In the final minute, Gibson was back in the net for a face-off in the Sharks’ zone.  Just as he was preparing to leave again, Logan Couture stole the puck skated out on a breakaway. With a couple of quick moves, Couture got Gibson moving and then shot the puck underneath him.

At then end of the game, the teams were still very close in shots (35-32 Sharks) and face-off wins (51% Ducks).

The Sharks next play on Saturday in San Jose against the Detroit Red Wings at 7:30 PM PT.

2019 NHL All-Star Game: Central Division Eliminates Pacific 10-4

Photo credit: @NHL

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- The First round of the All-Star Game was between the Central and the Pacific Divisions, with the Central Division winning 10-4. The Pacific Division was coached by Bill Peters from the Calgary Flames, while the Central Division squad was coached by Paul Maurice of the Winnipeg Jets. The coaches came from the teams with the best record up to the All-Star break.

The All-Star Game was broken into three parts, two Conference contests and a third between winners of those. The games were made up of two ten minute periods of three on three play.

The Central Division scored first, with goals from Colorado’s Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog against Anaheim’s John Gibson. Both were assisted by St. Louis’s Ryan O’Reilly.

San Jose’s Erik Karlsson got one back for the Pacific Division at 4:51 in a breakaway against Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. John Gibson got an assist on that one.

Nashville’s Roman Josi scored a third for Central, followed seconds later by a fourth goal from Chicago’s Patrick Kane. Kane assisted on Josi’s goal and Josi assisted on Kane’s.

A fifth goal came from Winnipeg’s Mark Scheifele, assisted by O’Reilly. Gibson gave up a sixth goal to Rantanen, his second of the game. Patrick Kane also got a second goal, the Central’s 7th. That was 8:11 into the first period.

For the second period, the teams changed ends and goaltenders. Las Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury took over for the Pacific Division and Minnesota’s Devan Dubnyk took the Central Division net.

Colorado’s Landeskog scored a second goal to start the second half, less than a minute into the period. He was assisted by Roman Josi. Fleury made a number of valiant saves before Ryan O’Reilly took the puck away from Brent Burns in the neutral zone. Fleury came way out of his net as if to steal the puck. He did not and O’Reilly went around him to score.

Yet another Central goal came from Landeskog, his third with about five and a half minutes left. Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler got an assist.

The Pacific Division got one back courtesy of Johnny Gaudreau with an assist to Connor McDavid at 4:47. They got another courtesy of two Sharks, Erik Karlsson assisted by Joe Pavelski. San Jose’s Brent Burns added a fourth goal for the Pacific Division at 5:52. Pavelski also got the assist on that one.

The Central Division squad went on to the second round.

Sharks Drop Opener 5-2 to Ducks

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In front of an enthusiastic full house, the San Jose Sharks fell to the Anaheim Ducks 5-2 in their season opener at SAP Center on Wednesday night.

The Ducks had four rookies in the lineup replacing roster regulars who were out with injury. One of those scored Wednesday. Max Comtois, Rickard Rakell, Brandon Montour, Adam Henrique and Carter Rowney all scored for Anaheim, while Jakob Silfverberg had three assists in the game. John Gibson made 31 saves on 33 shots.

Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane scored for the Sharks, while Martin Jones made 10 saves on 14 shots.

Just 49 seconds in, Max Comtois scored on a breakaway after acquiring the puck in the neutral zone. It was Comtois’ first NHL goal. Assists went to Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg.

The Sharks started the game looking like a team playing on unfamiliar ice. Pucks seemed to skip over their sticks, passes missed and the Ducks’ game looked altogether more tidy. After 2:47, the Sharks were on the power play while Josh Manson sat in the box for interference on Kevin Labanc. That power play was cut short when Joe Thornton was called for tripping Hampus Lindholm. The Sharks create some chances during 45 seconds of four-on-four, and then got some four-on-four because Anaheim’s Pontus Aberg was called for goaltender interference just five seconds after the Manson penalty ended.

None of those penalties changed the score, but at 7:51, Evander Kane tied it up. The Sharks’ attack had just been rebuffed, with help from a bouncing puck and general poor timing. As they regrouped on their own blue line, Justin Braun’s pass found Kane crossing the Ducks’ blue line. He skated in with an edge on a defender and put the puck underneath John Gibson. It trickled through for the goal.

The last five minutes of the first period showed a much improved Sharks team. Passes started to connect, plays started to take form and decisions came faster. No more goals were scored but the Sharks stretched out their shot lead to 11-5.

The first five minutes of the second looked much the same. The Sharks jumped out with five shots to Anaheim’s one. As the midpoint approached, San Jose had outshot Anaheim 10-1. Anaheim’s second shot of the period was from Silfverberg and Jones had to be quick to stop it. That imbalance continued through the period, but the score did not change until the Ducks had a power play at 16:24.

Evander Kane was in the box for tripping Josh Manson. After breaking up a pass with his stick and knocking the puck out of the zone, Tomas Hertl followed up, evaded two defenders and scored short-handed at 17:14. While the crowd was still buzzing, Anaheim went back to their power play. Rickard Rakell scored off a nice pass through the blue paint from Silfverberg. Assists went to Silfverberg and Ryan Getzlaf.

At the end of the period, the teams were still tied 2-2 despite the Sharks’ shot lead of 26-9.

Kane and Hertl both had good chances in the first half of the third, but Gibson got in the way. Jones was less lucky at 8:02, when Brandon Montour skated in and scored with an almost casual backhand shot, giving the Ducks the lead. Assists went to Rakell and Getzlaf.

The Sharks looked like they were back to the opening minutes of the game, having trouble handling the puck and finding each other. Pete DeBoer changed the lines up a bit, putting Hertl with Meier and Thornton, and Kane with Pavelski and Hertl.

Logan Couture was called for interference at 10:08 of the third. It took the Ducks 13 seconds to score this time. Quick passes around the outside kept everyone moving, until Adam Henrique found an opening. The shot was not a hard one, it was just enough to slide under Jones without a fuss. Assists went to Silfverberg and Rakell.

In the final two minutes, DeBoer pulled Jones and put Hertl, Pavelski, Kane, Labanc, Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns on the ice. Couture replaced Labanc before the end, but no combination could score a goal. The Ducks scored into an empty net with 23.7 seconds to go for the win.

The Sharks next play in Los Angeles against the Kings on Friday at 7:30 pm PT.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Sharks Take 2-0 Series Lead, Beat Ducks 3-2

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks took a 2-0 series lead over the Anaheim Ducks in the NHL Playoff quarterfinals with a 3-2 win Saturday. Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture and Marcus Sorensen scored for the Sharks, while Martin Jones made 28 saves. For Anaheim, goals came from Jakob Silfverberg and Hampus Lindholm, with 32 saves from goalie John Gibson. It was the first time that Anaheim lost two home games in a row since November 24.

The Ducks started the scoring just 40 seconds in. Jakob Silfverberg had just carried the puck over the line when he took a long shot that must have surprised Jones, as it went right by him. Hampus Lindholm got an assist.

The first penalties went to Evander Kane and Jakob Silfverberg, matching roughing penalties at 6:12. Each team added a shot to their total but neither team scored four on four.

The Sharks tied the game up at 9:41 when Brenden Dillon’s blue line shot came off the boards behind the net and went right to Marcus Sorensen next to the goal mouth. He tapped it in for his first playoff goal.

Near the 15 minute mark, the Sharks were trapped in their own zone for long time, including two icing calls. Mikkel Boedker finally got the puck out and seconds after the much needed change, Melker Karlsson drew a hooking penalty from Brandon Montour at 13:37.

The Sharks took the lead at 14:41 with a goal from Logan Couture on the ensuing power play. Kevin Labanc caught Couture with a pass across the slot as Couture was skating hard for the net. Couture pulled the puck across the crease and away from Gibson’s poke-check before putting it away with a backhand. Assists went to Labanc and Joe Pavelski.

At the end of the period, the Ducks mustered sustained pressure against the Sharks, almost catching up on the shot clock. That count was 9-8 Sharks after the first.

That late-period pressure from the Ducks did not phase the Sharks as they jumped into the second period. Tomas Hertl scored with a back hand after skating by a couple of Ducks from the blue line to the net. Mikkel Boedker gave him the puck as he came fast through the neutral zone, earning the first assist on the 1:11 goal. Logan Couture got the secondary assist.

Shortly after the goal, Ryan Getzlaf caught a deflected puck to the face. He left the ice only briefly and returned with an ice pack for use between shifts.

Paul Martin was called for slashing at 6:30, giving the Ducks their first 5 on 4 power play of the game. Hampus Lindholm took advantage of Martin Jones being pulled off balance by Brenden Dillon’s skate as Dillon tried to get in front of the net to defend. Jones was helpless to stop the shot. Assists went to Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler.

The Ducks were back on the power play at 6:12 of the third period after Evander Kane’s clearing attempt went over the glass. The Sharks killed that off and got their own power play at 9:17 after Nick Ritchie tripped Marcus Sorensen in the neutral zone. Despite a number of good chances, the score remained 3-2 Sharks.

At 16:17, Corey Perry hit Melker Karlsson while he did not seem to have the puck, knocking his helmet off and spinning him around. He went to the box for interference. The Ducks started their penalty kill with a short-handed opportunity, but the Sharks pushed back and held the zone after that.

The Ducks pulled John Gibson with under two minutes left but the Sharks held them off for the win.

The Sharks finished with 35 shots on goal to the Ducks’ 30.

Game three will be Monday in San Jose at 7:30 pm PT.

Goalies and Go-Getters: NHL Playoffs

By Mary Walsh

Watching the French team beat the Canadians in the World Championships was one of the most entertaining viewing experiences I have had in a while. Even though I had to keep clicking through ad popups, exposing my computer to who knows what kind of hazards, the game was riveting. Sure, it went to a shootout, after a couple of power play goals from the French kept them in the game. Goalie Cristobal Huet also kept them in the game, neutralizing the not yet ready for prime time Canadian team. But who doesn’t love to see an underdog steal one?

The French are not the only underdogs playing right now. The Montreal Canadiens, though their record hardly looks like an underdog’s, had the Boston Bruins on the ropes for a bit. I wonder how many people became Habs fans then? It isn’t that the Bruins are so easy to root against, but they won the Cup so recently, and they are reputed to be big tough guys. The Habs are supposed to be quick and light in the way they play. (Hence the utter confusion about the Douglas Murray signing.) Yet even if the Bruins are the hounds and the Canadiens the foxes, it usually takes several hounds to take down one fox. That makes us root for the fox. We know one hound could never catch a fox on his own, but it still seems unfair to gang up on the little fox like that.

The thing is, it isn’t true. Apart from Zdeno Chara, the Bruins are not bigger than average for an NHL team, and the Canadiens are not small. Even their playing styles are exaggerated– the Bruins play fast whenever possible, and the Canadiens don’t scamper around the rink without standing their ground defensively.

Neither team shows the defensive recklessness of some teams (hello Pittsburgh), though both teams get reliable goaltending. Tuuka Rask and Carey Price are both exceptional, in their prime, and playoff hardened. Neither has been surprising in a good way or a bad way. They have performed as expected: very well.

The teams were more evenly matched than advertised, but hyperbole makes it a better story.

What is not exaggerated are their respective playoff records. The Bruins won the Cup in 2011 and made it to the Finals last season. The Habs haven’t been to the Conference Finals since 2010, and they haven’t won a Cup since 1993. One of these teams is due, the other has won recently enough to remember the way clearly. The latter will not go quietly, if at all. The Bruins demonstrated as much by taking the lead in the series on Saturday.

Here in the West, Sharks fans may or may not be watching the Freeway Series between the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks. If they are watching, they may have noticed how strange it is that two teams that did so well at home have now turned into road warriors, if across town really counts as a road game. In any case, it is strange to see the Ducks cast in the underdog role, since they were so dominant in the regular season.

One of the more talked about issues is the way Bruce Boudreau has been handling the Anaheim goaltenders. He pulled Frederik Andersen twice before he had to be replaced for injury, always putting Jonas Hiller in. Hiller has played well, has experience, and probably deserved to start Saturday. But the Ducks started the season overloaded with young goaltending talent. They even traded one away to the Oilers, they had so many goalies. Now they can’t seem to find one the coach can rely on.

It doesn’t really breed confidence, to keep switching goaltenders. It also doesn’t breed confidence to have a goalie the team doesn’t trust to make all the stops he needs to make. Here is the problem with that– some teams play better defense with a backup in the net, precisely because they don’t trust him. Doesn’t it make more sense to give defense extra attention, no matter who is in goal? What if your awesome unbeatable goalie has an off night? It wouldn’t matter if you were helping him out enough.

See the Minnesota Wild and Ilya Bryzgalov for how to make it work. Bryzgalov has one of the most mercurial records in the NHL. This season alone, he had to claw his way back into the league after starting off signed to a PTO with an ECHL team. He is not stealing games for Minnesota, but they are doing pretty well for a team working on its fourth goalie in the season. In response, he is playing better behind them.

See the LA Kings and Jonathan Quick in Games 1 & 2 against Sharks for how to let it take you down. No matter how the Sharks lit him up, it took the Kings two games to figure out that their super-duper goalie was not going to win the game for them and he needed some help. Once they gave it to him all was well, but how it could take them so long to get their act together is mind-boggling.

They say that a goalie has to steal a couple of games along the road to a Stanley Cup. That may be true but it seems awfully risky to assume that your team is going to simply fall apart for a game or two along the way. Yes, if a Sharks goalie had stolen a game, or two, maybe they would still be in it. But after the way the Sharks played in Game 5, did they deserve to be?

Sometimes a team has no choice but to flip flop goalies through the playoffs. The 2010 Flyers made it as far as the Finals, changing starting goalies mid-playoffs due to injury. Michael Leighton had only been cleared to play the day before he replaced Brian Boucher, and each goaltender gave exceptional performances in turn. In the end, they were still being swapped mid-game, I suspect because neither was truly 100% healthy. Through it all, the rest of the team held it together, killed themselves on defense (Ian LaPerriere almost literally) and went further than the Sharks have ever gone.

Maybe confidence is over-rated. Maybe will is all.

Antti Niemi was a raw rookie in his first season of North American hockey when he won. He didn’t even play in the minors. The Blackhawks made due. There really is no sure-thing formula for the role goaltending plays in a Cup run. Everyone needs to pull their weight and a little more if possible. Should it matter to the Ducks whether Anderson or Hiller or Gibson is behind them? No. If the puck is behind them, they need to get it back in front of them ASAP, no matter who is perched in the paint. That’s a good rule for any team to follow.

Ducks win Pacific; Sharks will face Kings

Photo Credit: (USATSI)

By Pearl Allison Lo

ANAHEIM– The end of San Jose’s biggest game of the regular season equaled the Ducks’ second straight Pacific Division title, as the home team won for the last time this regular season series, 5-2 Wednesday.

The Sharks now know they will face a familiar Southern California foe in the playoffs, Los Angeles, for the second year in the row as well.

San Jose will have Joe Thornton, which was questionable as he crumbled near the end of the game. Afterwards, what happened was described as a “stinger,” as Coach Todd McLellan said “(Thornton) got hit up in the chest area.”

The game-winner was Patrick Maroon’s first career multi-goal game at 9:35 of the second and brought in goalie Alex Stalock. Teemu Selanne got his second assist and Hampus Lindholm chipped in on the attack. The Ducks never looked back afterwards. Rookie goalie John Gibson won his second game in a row and stopped 36 shots.

The team’s first power play opportunities came almost simultaneously. 15 seconds after the interference penalty to San Jose’s Brent Burns ended, Anaheim was called for too many men on the ice.

Gibson was able to fight off shots by Jason Demers earlier, but Demers broke through at 18:17 of the first, to score the game’s first goal. Joe Pavelski aided on the goal.

The Ducks’ Corey Perry, however, went stick to stick with Justin Braun and tied the game with three seconds left in the first period. Matt Beleskey and Francois Beauchemin got the assists.

Three individual mini fights broke out to cap the end of the first period and led to a Sharks’ power play to start the second period.

Anaheim got their first lead when Selanne passed the puck to Maroon. Maroon then went around the net chased to make the game 2-1 at 3:32 of the second.

17 seconds after San Jose killed their second penalty, Logan Couture re-tied the game at two at 7:23.

The Sharks’ goalie change didn’t halt the Ducks, as they moved further ahead when Beleskey got Perry’s rebound off Stalock. It was the game’s first two-goal margin at 16:46.  Ryan Getzlaf had the second assist.

Beleskey then went in the box with 24.8 seconds left and San Jose started the third period on the power play again.

Demers ran into Stalock who fell backwards and hit the goalpost. After he was down and later came back up again, Stalock was called for delay of game for the puck going beyond the glass at 12:35.

It looked like a 6 on 4 with 2:44 left, but Gibson came back and Jakob Silfverberg scored a shorthanded empty net goal at 18:22. Andrew Cogliano got his 20th assist.

Both teams were coming off 3-0 games as Anaheim killed all five of the Sharks’ power plays.

Game notes: The Sharks’ Bracken Kearns played after returning from Worcester Tuesday. Before the game, it was announced that the Ducks’ Luca Sbisa would not play because of an upper body injury. San Jose’s Marty Havlat and Raffi Torres were also ruled out. Anaheim’s Cam Fowler returned from his mid-March knee injury.  The Sharks’ second to last regular season game will be Friday at 7p versus the Colorado Avalanche.