Hurricanes Blow Out Sharks 5-2

By Mary Walsh

AP photo Carolina Hurricanes John Michael Liles (26) pass puck by the San Jose Sharks Melker Karlsson (68) in the first period of Friday’s game

The San Jose Sharks ended a three-game winning streak with a 5-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. Like the Sharks, the Hurricanes played the night before. Where the Sharks won their Thursday game in a shootout, the Hurricanes lost 4-2 in Ottawa. Friday, the Hurricanes bested the Sharks in every area of the game, in faceoffs, hits, shots, shot attempts as well as scoring.

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer described it as a well-deserved loss:

They took the game over, you know, we didn’t have an answer. We pretty much got what we deserved I think tonight. I think we lost too many of the tough areas: the faceoffs, special teams. When you lose three or four significant areas in the game, you’re not going to win. They deserved the win and we deserved what we got.

The Hurricanes are this season’s least penalized NHL team so the fact that the Sharks did not have a power play in the game is not very surprising. The Hurricanes got two goals from Jeff Skinner, and goals from Chris Terry, Joakim Nordstrom and Jordan Staal. Cam Ward made 22 saves on 24 shots for the Hurricanes. Sharks goals were scored by Brent Burns and Tomas Hertl. Martin Jones made 32 saves on 36 shots for the Sharks.

The loss left the Sharks’ position in the standings unchanged from the night before, except for the loss of a game in hand over the Kings and the Ducks. The Sharks are still in third place in the Pacific Division, three points behind the Kings and one behind the Ducks.

After the game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski addressed the question of whether the Sharks’ tough schedule on this road trip had something to do with the loss:

They were in a similar situation, coming back last night. We weren’t very good all night. I was awful. That’s one of the worst games I’ve had in a while. There were a few plays out there, a lot of plays I’d like to have back… You never let that affect you though, three games in four nights. You’ve got to manufacture your game.

Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer had a similar take on the game: “It’s one of those games. We’ve been consistently good for a long time, and you’re going to have those once in a while. It’s how we respond to it. I think we just have to throw it away and get ready for the next one.”

For the third game in a row, the Sharks gave up the first goal. This time it was a curious shot that bounced high off Chris Terry’s stick and over Martin Jones’ head. Assists went to Noah Hanifin and Riley Nash.

The Sharks got it back near the end of the period, when a nice pass from Joel Ward found Brent Burns high in the slot. It was Burns’ 19th goal of the season and his first in 19 games. Assists went to Ward and Matt Nieto.

The teams ended the period tied in shots was well as goals with eight each.

Early in the second period, the teams played four on four while Melker Karlsson and Eric Staal sat in the box for and embellishment respectively. Neither team scored.

The first power play went to Carolina in the second period, a delay of game penalty to Tomas Hertl after he swept the puck out of play during a frantic scramble in front of the Sharks’ net. Carolina had three shots during the power play and the Sharks cleared the puck out twice, though not until the final half minute of the penalty.

Carolina took the lead back at 12:25 of the second. Joakim Nordstrom crossed the blue line without any pressure and his shot from high in the slot blew by Jones as if unseen. The Sharks had three skaters back but none got in Nordstrom’s way. Assists went to Jordan Staal and Bret Pesce.

Instead of tying the game up again before the period ended, the Sharks finished the period on the penalty kill. Mike Brown took issue with a hit on Marc-Edouard Vlasic and three penalties resulted: Brown for holding Jordan Staal, Staal for roughing against Mike Brown and an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to Brown.

The Sharks were badly outshot in the second period, 18-4. They were also losing in the shot attempts category 42-21 and the faceoff circle 21-6. It was hardly surprising that they were behind 2-1 on the scoreboard.

The Sharks started the third period with most of the Brown penalty still to kill. Before the first minute elapsed, Carolina seemed to score but the official called it back for incidental contact with the goaltender. Eric Staal seemed to hook Martin Jones under the pad and pulled him to the right while Jones was trying to reach to his left. Carolina challenged the call and the play was reviewed and the call was overturned.

The power play goal went to Jeff Skinner with assists to Eric Staal and Kris Versteeg.

10:38 into the third period, the Sharks cut the lead to 3-2. Patrick Marleau stole the puck from Carolina goaltender Cam Ward behind the net and passed it quickly to the front of the net. Tomas Hertl was there to tap it in. It was Hertl’s 12th goal of the season and Marleau’s 20th assist.

With just under five minutes remaining, Carolina took back their two goal lead when Jaccob Slavin’s shot bounced off a skate to Skinner in the slot. An empty netter from Jordan Staal sealed the deal at 17:35.

The Sharks next play in St. Louis against the Blues on Monday.

Forward Mike Brown was in the lineup for the first time since January 24, as Tommy Wingels was injured early in Thursday’s game in Sunrise. Melker Karlsson took the open spot on the third line with Joonas Donskoi and Logan Couture, and Brown took Karlsson’s spot on the fourth line with Chris Tierney and Dainius Zubrus. Brown had one hit and three blocked shots in the game. The top two lines remained as they have been, with Hertl, Thornton and Pavelski on the top line and Marleau, Ward and Nieto on the second line.

Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon missed his fourth game. Matt Tennyson has played in his stead with Dylan Demelo on the blue line. Tennyson finished Friday’s game with a -1 rating , a blocked shot and a hit.

Kings Update: No trades and one assistant fired

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Former Kings assistant coach Vance Walberg

by Charlie O. Mallonee

The NBA trade deadline was Thursday at 12:00 PM (PST). The deadline came and went without the Kings being able to make a move.

There had been multiple reports that the team had made Rudy Gay, Kosta Koufos, Marco Belinelli and Ben McLemore available on the trade market. Cleveland and Chicago had been rumored to be interested in one or more of those players.

One scenario had the Bulls Pau Gasol and his expiring contract coming to Sacramento in exchange for Koufos and McLemore. The deal would have also altered the draft pick provisions of the selection the Kings owe the Bulls.

There had also been rumors that Cleveland was interested in a trade for Koufos.

Ultimately, the Kings were unable to make any trade so the current roster will stay intact. That does not mean the playoff push is over but it does mean that the current players will have to make the adjustments on defense in order to make the team more competitive.

Walberg terminated

In a surprise move, the Kings fired assistant coach Vance Walberg on Wednesday. The move was reportedly made despite a protest from head coach George Karl. Karl and Walberg have been colleagues and friends for years. Walberg was a member of Karl’s coaching staff in Denver.

Walberg is known as the father of the “dribble-drive motion offense” also known as the “Memphis Attack”. The dribble-drive motion offense has been used successfully in the NBA by Denver and at the college level by Kentucky. Walberg has taught the offense in clinics around the world.

George Karl instituted the offensive scheme in order to meet the expectations of Kings majority owner Vivek Ranadive. Ranadive wanted his team to play uptempo basketball more in the style of the Golden State Warriors.

The Kings offense has not been the problem. The team ranks number three in points scored at 107.1 per game. The defense has been the problem.

Sacramento gives up more points per game than any other team in the association at 109.1. The team has not been able to transition from the uptempo offense to defense all season.

The firing of Walberg would indicate that Vlade Divac feels that the offense needs to change in order for the team to play better defense.

The Vertical.com has reported that former Cavaliers and Lakers head coach Mike Brown is being considered to replace Walberg. Brown is known for his defensive expertise.

 

Sharks Beat Ducks With Lively 3rd in Home Opener

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– Saturday, the San Jose Sharks won their home opener 2-0 against the Anaheim Ducks. The Sharks’ best period of the game was their third, and it was a relentless one. It seemed to be just the kind of game head coach Pete DeBoer was looking for from the Sharks:

That’s how we want to play with the lead. You want to keep your foot on the gas. We kept rolling four lines to keep our energy and our legs. The best defense for me in that situation is spending the period in the other team’s end and I think we did a good job of that.

After the game, Sharks captain Joe Pavelski also talked about that third period push:

We kind of got better as the game went on, right from the start. The second was a little better and the third was definitely our best and it needs to be. I’d say last year that was one of the problems in this rink, we didn’t have strong thirds. So hopefully we can continue with that trend.

Joel Ward was asked about the developing chemistry between himself and his linemates, Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau:

When you get a chance to play with guys like Cootch and Marleau, it makes it a lot more fun, how dynamic they are and how skilled, what they can create on their own is pretty cool to watch. So, as you can see what Patty did tonight was a good example of that. Just try to get in the open areas and I just try to feed off them and know what they want from me, just communicating as best we can, it’s just going to continue to build.

Ward seemed to be communicating quite well with his linemates on Saturday, turning up in the right spot again and again, on both ends of the ice.

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones has also made an excellent impression in this two game sample. Martin Jones, after his second game and second win as a Shark, praised the team in front of him:

I thought we did a really good job. I mean, that’s a big, strong team up front and typically they do a really good job, getting in front of the net with bodies and with sticks. I thought we did a really good job boxing out and I was able to see a lot of pucks tonight.

As second games of the season go, this one was impressive: two goals from Patrick Marleau, two points for Joel Ward, and a second win from Martin Jones. The game even had two 31s in net, one at each end. Jones and Anaheim goaltender Frederik Andersen both wear 31.

With nine minutes left in the first, the shots were 7-3 Anaheim. Sharks had killed one penalty, but had had no power plays. They did, however, have a very good spell right about then, lasting almost three minutes and shifts for as many lines. The third line started it, with some aggressive play in the Ducks’ zone. The top line followed it up and the Sharks seemed to be on a roll and likely to score. When they finally had to defend again, Martin Jones was there to stop the Ducks. The game remained scoreless, but by the end of that little sprint, the shots were almost even, 9-8 Ducks. By the end of the period, the Sharks had a solid 13-9 lead in shots.

They were right back at it to start the second period, spending most of the first two minutes in the Ducks’ zone. After that, however, the Ducks pinned the Sharks for a solid couple of minutes. A breakaway from the third line broke up the Ducks’ momentum and ended with a discussion by the Ducks’ net. The second line picked up where the third left off, and added three shots to the Sharks’ tally in the space of a few seconds. By now, the Ducks were getting a little incensed.

By the middle of the second period, the game was clearly a goaltender battle. Both 31s were snuffing out scoring chances wherever they cropped up. Admittedly, they were few but that was partly due to quick reactions from the goalies.

The other limiting factor for those scoring chances was timing. A couple of shots fell flat for lack of follow-up and bodies in the right places. It was a reminder that this was only the Sharks’ second game of the season.

The game took on a delayed back and forth tempo, with each team trapping the other for a long shift before going the other way. The Ducks seemed to have the edge at the end of the period, catching up in shots and holding the zone just a little longer than the Sharks could.

The period was winding down to a scoreless close, but the Sharks’ second line had other plans. Joel Ward and Logan Couture chased the puck into the corner and kept after it. The announcer had just made the “one minute left” call when Ward got the puck to the net. Couture caught up with it on the other side and took a shot. Just then, Marleau followed up to take the third and fourth shots. He gave the Sharks a 1-0 lead with the fourth one. Assists went to Couture and Ward.

The Sharks ended the second period up by one goal and three shots, 27-24.

In the middle of the third period, the fourth line of Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney and Mike Brown had a very good shift, holding the zone with tenacity, getting a couple of shots in, and maintaining their composure when the Ducks finally got the puck out. They finished by slowing Anaheim down enough in the neutral zone for the defense to get organized for a line change.

Around the 13 minute mark, the fourth line held the zone again with aplomb, aided by Tomas Hertl Hertl, who had missed his line change. Eventually, he did manage to switch with Tierney, without the Ducks ever gaining control of the puck. It was an impressive shift by the fourth line and the top defensive pair of Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun.

With almost six minutes left, the Sharks had taken twelve shots during the period. The Ducks had taken three.

Shortly after the next faceoff, Marleau scored his second of the game on the team’s 40th shot. It was a lovely wraparound after he carried the puck across the blue line and through the o-zone against two Ducks. The lone assist went to Joel Ward, who apparently made the pass while also playing it safe:

I knew he can do that so I just kind of “here, you take it, you go.” I came back to the bench… I knew we were in our zone a little bit and I just kind of tried to play it safe, I didn’t want to get caught up the ice. Next thing you know hands are up in the air and I was looking for water.

The Sharks got their first power play with 3:07 left in the game. The penalty went to Mike Santorelli for hooking Barclay Goodrow. They did not score but the power play prevented Anaheim from pulling their goalie or coming back in the last minutes.

The final shot count was 44-27 Sharks.

Patrick Marleau led the Sharks in shots with seven. Mike Brown led in hits with eight. Brent Burns had the most time on ice with 24:43. Martin Jones made 27 saves for the shutout.

Frederick Andersen made 42 saves for the Ducks, no small feat. That earned him the third star of the game. The first star was Marleau and the second was Martin Jones.

Jakob Silfverberg led the Ducks in shots with four, and Andrew Cogliano made the most hits for them: four.

The Sharks will hit the road and play Tuesday in Washington against Ward’s old team, the Capitals. The game will start at 4pm PT.

Win, Lose or Draw, Sharks Shoot First

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- Friday’s game was the third of three preseason games that featured a gross shot advantage for the Sharks. It seems that no matter who is playing or how you line them up, Sharks will outshoot the other team. That does not mean they will win, but it certainly gives them a fighting chance. Friday the Sharks lost 2-1 to the Arizona Coyotes in a game that went to a shootout.

What goes in to these shot advantages? Defenseman Taylor Fedun, in his first training camp as a Shark, has had some time to learn something about the team’s playing style:

I think we have a pretty good shoot first mentality and it’s been working for us where we get pucks on net and then we’re able to retrieve them and it kinda gets defensive teams on their heels a little bit. It’s one of the ways to keep the game simple in the preseason here, where you’re not as sharp on the system as you will be a little bit later on in the season. So it keeps things simple, just throwing pucks on net and trying to outwork teams.

This is something the Sharks consistently do,  well into the season. It has been their style for a while now, it will probably continue to be what they do. How do they do it, even with players new to the team or even the league? Fedun said:

It’s something that’s touched on by the coaching staff that we want to get the puck on net as often as we can, try and generate second and third opportunities in doing so.

No surprise there. It is an old idea: you have to shoot to score. So the real question is: why doesn’t everyone do this? Or, do the Sharks just do it better than most?

Shooting a lot is not new for the Sharks, and neither is talking about simplifying their game. It is a style that happens to suit the Sharks’ new and young recruits. Of Fedun and Mirco Mueller, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said:

I thought he and Mirco both did some really good things on the rink, heightened our awareness, both of them and improved their status amongst the club. We’ll have some decisions to make. We often think about just keeping one, but maybe two of them, or three of them could push the veterans out. When I look at the game in Vancouver, we had a couple of players who were sub-par and if we have to make those changes we will, if the young D continue to play the way they do.

We should know after Saturday’s game how many will stay in San Jose to push the veterans.

Friday’s game was well attended, particularly for a preseason game.

The Sharks’ Tye McGinn started with an early penalty, which lead to the Coyotes’ first goal on their only shot for the first 13 or so minutes. That goal was Justin Hodgman’s, with assists to Max Domi and Michael Stone. McGinn tried to make up for it a few minutes later with a beautiful breakaway up the middle of the ice but his shot went awry. His game on Friday was a portrait of energy and hard work with communication gaps. The same could be said of the rest of the team, not surprising for a preseason game. It was the second game for most of the players, but they were not playing with the same group as they played with on Tuesday.

For Antti Niemi, it was the first game of the preseason. That, combined with the sad shortage of shots coming at him, did not show him at his best. He gave up a goal on the first Coyotes shot, but he did stop the rest until the shootout.

Arizona’s one goal lead persisted through the middle of the second period. The Coyotes steadily gained on the Sharks’ shot lead.By the seven minute mark, Antti Niemi had made a seven saves. At the other end, Devan Dubnyk made nine in the first period, and another 13 in the second.

The one he did not make was a power play goal from Joe Pavelski at 7:15 of the second period. The assist went to Brent Burns. Pavelski’s shot came from the blue line and blew right by Arizona’s new backup goaltender.

By the end of the second period, the Sharks had run off with the shot clock again, Niemi had done very little for several minutes.

In the final 19 seconds of the period, Nikolay Goldobin had the honor of being tripped by veteran defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Goldobin was tripped while making a very impressive dash for the net. He didn’t get the shot he wanted, and his team did not score on the resulting power play.

By the end of regulation, the shots stood at 38-16 Sharks with the score tied at 1. There was a symmetry to this result, as the Sharks already had one loss and one win under their belt. Seemed only natural they should have an overtime game.

A little over a minute into overtime, Michalek went to the box for tripping Joe Pavelski. The first power play unit included Goldobin, and the second included Mueller. Mueller wound up for a great big shot at the top of the slot… but he was only faking. He passed it. Neither power play unit scored. Neither team scored, the game went to a shoot out.

Joe Pavelski shot first, and scored. Justin Hodgman shot next, for Arizona. He scored too. Goldobin made one too make moves and lost his balance on the third shot. He did not score by accident either. Lucas Lessio, shooting third for Arizona, did not lose his balance and he scored. Joe Thornton did not score.

Mueller continues to play well, most of the time the puck goes where he is sending it. He perhaps could be more reckless, send the puck to the net more, or not send it anywhere at all. At one point, he executed a very pretty pass to a teammate in the neutral zone, sort of a hand off between players going in opposite directions. The problem with it was that there were two Coyotes in hot pursuit of that other player and Mueller might have accomplished more just by hanging on to the puck or even dumping it in. With time, his decision-making should catch up with his skating and puck handling skills.

Mike Brown made some good plays, including one breakaway that didn’t work out but looked dangerous. He also made a defensive zone pass that got some tired Sharks out of trouble. As he has shown before, he can be helpful in the right situation.

Sharks and prospects will play again Saturday against Anaheim Ducks and prospects. The game will be at SAP Center in San Jose at 5:00.

Sharks: Stalock, Brown Returning, Remenda Out

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks announced three moves Tuesday. Two players were resigned to two year contracts: forward Mike Brown, acquired at the trade deadline from the Edmonton Oilers last season for a fourth round pick in this year’s draft, and goaltender Alex Stalock. The third move was to let broadcaster Drew Remenda go. No particulars have been released by the team about this last decision.

According to CapGeek.com, Mike Brown’s two year contract will pay $1.2 million per year. His previous contract was for three years at an average of $736,667. Brown played in 56 games last season (48 with the Sharks) and six playoff games. He finished the regular season with two goals and three assists, and had a goal and an assist in the playoffs.

Stalock’s contract will pay $1.6 million per year. His previous one-year contract was for $625,000. He started 19 games last season and one in the playoffs. In the regular season he went 12-5-2 with a .932 save percentage.

Stalock was expected back, and said he expected to be back. Brown was said to be in talks with the team last week. If ice time in the playoffs is any indication, the coaching staff liked what he brought to the team. Of the moves, the third is by far the most surprising. In various radio and web interviews since the announcement, Remenda described the parting as “amicable.”

The tandem of Randy Hahn and Drew Remenda had grown in popularity beyond Shark Territory. Their team had been recognized numerous times by the Bay Area Emmys, including this year’s On-Camera Talent-Sports/Play by Play/Analyst. Even to hockey fans from other regions, they were recognizable. They occasionally did national broadcasts of other teams’ games, with the same energy and conviction they displayed covering Sharks games. There is no word yet on who will replaced Remenda. It seems most likely that it will be one of the other familiar faces from the broadcast team.

A friend once asked me if Remenda was as likable in person as on television. I think he is. To me he always was. His energy and candor will be missed.

Deja Vu Puts Sharks Up By Two

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- Sunday, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Los Angeles Kings to take a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Quarter Finals. The game winner was scored by Justin Braun, Antti Niemi made 24 saves for the Sharks, and Jonathan Quick made 33 saves for the Kings on 40 San Jose Shots. Though the Kings scored first, the Sharks’ dominance through the second two periods was a repeat of an unexpectedly dominant Game One victory.

After the game, Mike Brown said:

Games like this, you don’t stop playing, you don’t give up. That’s how the whole series is going to go and you see what happened when we didn’t stop.

We’re planning on low-scoring games and we gotta play solid defensively. So we can’t really look at these two games and think that the series is gonna go this way.

After a 6-3 victory in Game One series, everyone knew that the Sharks would not have to navigate the mental burden of a five goal lead again. It turns out that everyone was wrong. The Sharks defeated the Kings Sunday by a score of 7-2, scoring seven unanswered goals in the second and third periods. They not only took the five goal lead, they held it until the end of the game.

Talking after the game, Sharks captain Joe Thornton summed up the Sharks’ success thus far:

To do that two games in a row… We’ve been working hard for our goals, and the fourth line just brought this game back in grip for us. But scoring seven tonight… it was… was just a weird night.

That fourth line was the clutch factor in the game. The combination of Andrew Desjardins, Raffi Torres and Mike Brown scored the first two Sharks goals of the game, bringing the Sharks back from a deficit to a tie game in the space of five minutes. After the game, Logan Couture said of the trio:

They got us going, they generate a lot of energy in the building, a lot of energy on our bench. You can tell when they’re out there that they’re going to forecheck hard and if I was a d-man I’d be scared of those guys bearing down on me all the time. So they’ve done a great job in this series.

The Kings opened the scoring under two minutes in. A Jake Muzzin shot from the point went past Sharks goalie Antti Niemi with some help from a screen set up by Marian Gaborik. Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar were awarded the assists.

The Sharks responded with a good chance of their own but Kings goalie Jonathan Quick had time and space to see the shots and stop them.

After an extended spell in their own zone, and numerous takeaways for both teams, the Kings struck again. Kings forward Jeff Carter got the puck away from Sharks defenseman Jason Demers and sent it in front of the net where Trevor Lewis tapped it in the far corner. Carter got credit for the lone assist.

By the half way point of the first period, the shots favored the Sharks 10-6, but the score was all Kings, 2-0.

One of the Sharks’ better shifts came from an offensive zone attack that included Tomas Hertl, Tommy Wingels and Scott Hannan, with about six minutes left in the first. As the shot clock indicated, the other lines were spending time in the Kings’ zone but they did not make life very uncomfortable for Quick. Many of their shots were completely unscreened.

Mike Brown gave the fans something to cheer about with some solid hits in the final four minutes, and the Thornton line joined in with a scrum in front of the Kings’ crease. Two penalties came out of that: two minutes each for roughing to Slava Voynov and Brent Burns.

The Sharks ended the first period with a two-goal deficit and a reduced lead in shots, with 15 to the Kings’ 10.

Early in the second period, Tomas Hertl took the ice with Joe Thornton and Brent Burns, after taking a shift with Burns and Desjardins moments earlier.

That did not seem to do much, but the Sharks avoided being scored on for almost five minutes, then reversed the dismal trend with a goal of their own. It was Mike Brown’s first playoff goal. Andrew Desjardins centered a pass that found Brown skating into the Kings’ zone. Brown’s shot beat Quick fair and square from the slot.

Moments later, the Sharks got their first power play of the game. That produced a few good chances but did not add to the scoresheet.

It was near the half-way mark of the game when Raffi Torres scored his second of the series. After skating through traffic alongside Desjardins, he found an opening and tied the game. Assist to Andrew Desjardins.

About a minute later, Los Angeles got their first power play after Jason Demers was called for charging. It took the Sharks over 90 seconds to clear the puck for the first time in that penalty kill, but when they did they were rewarded by some inattention from the Kings that lead to an icing. With under 20 seconds left in the penalty the faceoff was in the Kings’ end. That was that and both teams remained perfect on the penalty kill.

The Sharks kept the pressure on. With 5:15 left in the period, James Sheppard won the puck along the boards and put it on net from a bad angle. The rebound went to the wall and Justin Braun, who shot it back in from the point. His hard shot flew by Tommy Wingels and Jonathan Quick to give the Sharks their first lead of the game. Assists went to Sheppard and Pavelski.

The Kings took a third penalty to finish the second, putting the Sharks on the power play to end the middle frame. It was an uninspiring power play, with the Kings ejecting the Sharks very effectively from their zone more than once before San Jose could get set up.

The period ended with shots 27-17 and the score 3-2 Sharks.

Tomas Hertl stayed on the Thornton line, with Pavelski playing third line center. The next goal did not come from either of those lines. The Sharks’ fourth goal came off a brilliant rush from the second line at 1:08 of the period. Matt Nieto centered the puck perfectly for Patrick Marleau who carried it as far as the opposite faceoff circle to put it by Jonathan Quick. Nieto and Logan Couture got the assists.

A nice neutral zone poke check from Scott Hannan started the next rush, sending the puck in for James Sheppard. Sheppard and the third line held the zone well, but it took a second neutral zone takeaway and another rush to put the Sharks up by three. Joe Pavelski scored that, after Dan Boyle  got the puck to him at the Kings’ blue line. The Kings were in the middle of a line change when Boyle snatched away that puck. Assists to Boyle and Wingels.

At 11:42 of the period, Marleau carried the puck in along the wall and passed it to Couture. Couture skated around two Los Angeles defenders to beat and unscreened Quick, who was moving across the crease.

6-2 Sharks. Assists to Marleau and Nieto.

A scrum at the Kings’ net resulted in a few penalties being doled out. Four minutes to LA for roughing, and two to San Jose for roughing. The offenders were Kings defenseman Matt Greene and Sharks’ forward Raffi Torres. Once again on the power play, the Sharks would not score in the five on four advantage, but just 30 seconds in to that penalty, Jarret Stoll gave the Sharks a two man advantage by high-sticking Joe Thornton and going to the box for two minutes.

After some nice passing around the perimeter, Thornton was left holding the puck in the right faceoff circle, with just Jonathan Quick between him and the Sharks’ seventh goal.

7-2 Sharks. The seventh goal assists went to Pavelski and Boyle. It was the Sharks’ first power play goal of the game.

With just over five minutes left, more hostilities broke out, sending several players to the locker room early and putting the Sharks on the power play again. For LA, Kyle Clifford got two minutes for roughing and a ten minute misconduct, Dustin Brown got a ten minute misconduct. For San Jose, Desjardins received a ten minute misconduct and Mike Brown got the same. Finally, the Kings’ Mike Richards went to the box for four minutes, confined for spearing.

As expected, Todd McLellan did not alter his lineup for Game Two from the group that won Game One. The scratches were Martin Havlat, Tyler Kennedy, Bracken Kearns, Matt Irwin and Adam Burish. He did exercise his right of misdirection by putting Havlat out for warmups but that was all we saw of Number 9 on Sunday.

The Sharks and the Kings meet for Game Three on Tuesday in Los Angeles.

Sitting Sharks: SJ Losing Streak Stands at Four

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE- The Sharks are not winning anymore. Fans might be having flashbacks to every season past, when even the most magnificent point streak was marred by some inexplicable, nonsensical streak of poor play, bad luck and predictably disappointing results. It would be reasonable to assume that it is time for the Sharks to break pattern, at least in some subtle way.

One could argue that the Sharks’ recent losses were not all due to poor preparation or unsettled play. One could say that the Coyotes had a bone to pick with the Sharks after the insulting 4-1 loss on October 5. One could say that the Canucks had an even bigger grudge to settle, having been defeated by the Sharks nine times in a row, including a playoff sweep. Then one could argue that it is too much to ask of a team to take this season’s Sabres seriously. So that is three of the four losses summarily dismissed, and the fourth was exactly like a game against the Los Angeles Kings: close and exhausting and down to who gets the last change.

Perhaps the Sharks are not in the middle of their seasonal falling sky routine. Maybe the bounces just caught up to them. Nevertheless, they have not responded well. They have not matched their opponents’ intensity. They shifted gears, but not to the right gear. Their passes were rushed and sloppy, their corrections off the mark. With each successive loss, their panic peaked higher and their ability to recover declined.

The most talked-about gaffe of the Vancouver game was Jason Demers’ bad pass followed by his worse decision to hit instead of defend. Not every Sharks player is combining errors so quickly and disastrously, but that sequence revealed the kind of hasty decisions too many Sharks are making. Did it go wrong because Demers was in the process of making the pass while he realized he should not make it? Was it just dumb luck? It doesn’t matter, he lacked poise at that moment. Demers was not the only Shark showing signs of needless panic. Blind passes, a lack of awareness and ill-conceived plays abounded from the blue paint outwards. It took the team two periods to burn off the panic.

Todd McLellan will probably respond with line changes for Sunday’s game in Winnipeg. He may sit Demers, he may shuffle forward combinations. McLellan was clearly disappointed after the Vancouver game, as was every player interviewed. Of course they were. But the team had already made the right correction. In the third period of that game, they were clearly more composed. Passes started to connect, lines were able to move the puck from here to there without giving it away. Even if Vancouver was sitting back, it still allowed the Sharks to compose themselves, go back to basics, settle down. That is exactly what the Sharks needed to do to prepare for the next game. Will they start slow again? It depends how high their pain of loss threshold is.

History suggests that McLellan will pull the lines apart and sit the most conspicuous offenders. The same history reveals a peculiar Sharks habit of allowing veterans to “play through” bad spells, while young skaters sit after  poor performances. It seems counter-intuitive that a veteran should be less able than a younger player to come in and out of the lineup. Demers has played a lot of NHL games for a defenseman of his age, but he hasn’t played more games than a professional player of his age. It is fair to say that he has yet to reach his potential. The same is even more true of Matt Irwin. To sit a game won’t hurt, but Irwin has been out for three now. His absence doesn’t seem to be helping. James Sheppard, though not a prototypical fourth liner, has shown that he can do the job if it is his to do.

Scott Hannan and Mike Brown should be better able to sit until needed. They have both played well, just not well enough to carry the team to wins recently. They shouldn’t have to do that last. Neither player was brought in to be a game changer. They were both brought in to back up a strong team. If the team is struggling with or without them, wouldn’t the ice time be better spent getting the team back on track?

All of this is true of the team’s goaltenders as well. Even if Niemi plays better when he plays more, he should not play as many games as he has in past seasons with the Sharks. If he needs to play a lot, let him do that closer to playoffs. At this time of the season, all he gains is wear and tear. Alex Stalock has shown that he can do the job and maybe he would be even better if he played more too.

If the Sharks want a different result from this season than seasons past, they should probably make some changes to their lineup, just not the ones they usually make.

San Jose Sharks Testing the Depths

By Mary Walsh

It is never a good thing when a roster player is out due to injury, as so many San Jose Sharks are right now. That obvious truth should not tarnish a high-quality silver lining. As effective as the Sharks have been over the last several seasons, their depth has not been tested as it is being now. The Sharks have had to fill spots in the lineup to replace (in the order they fell): Martin Havlat, Adam Burish, Raffi Torres, Brad Stuart, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. Thursday in Boston and Saturday in Montreal, they were without five of those six. They even had to go without Tommy Wingels for most of the Boston game. However you measure the value of one player, that list punches holes in every line, every aspect of the Sharks’ game except goaltending. In the midst of this injury epidemic, Doug Wilson acquired Mike Brown. In the big picture, it seems that acquiring Brown had little to do with the Sharks’ injury problems.

The replacements the Sharks already had were not all likely to be playing in the NHL this season.  The most conspicuous of them, Tomas Hertl, has reduced the odds to slim or nil that he will be sent down to the AHL, barring some freak salary cap or roster size event that forces him out.  Would he have had the chance to make such an impression if Raffi Torres had been available? Freddie Hamilton and Matt Nieto, though both showed promise, were very likely to spend this season in the AHL with the Worcester Sharks. John McCarthy has been up and down and back again, as has Matt Pelech. Scott Hannan, the presumptive seventh defenseman acquired last season, has played in all but one game this season.

Those players have turned in respectable to excellent performances, and until last Thursday, helped keep the Sharks’ point streak intact.  We can’t know how the team would have done with every asset ready to go. The games got closer when the team lost Dan Boyle, and then Brent Burns. How much of that was their absence alone? How much of it was the natural ramping up of play as opponents found their legs after rocky starts?

The point is moot. Hannan has held down the fort on the blue line, and the bevvy of young players from Worcester have kept the forward lines moving. The readiness of those young players does the organization proud. They don’t have to be Brent Burns or Logan Couture or Raffi Torres, they just needed to not be a drag on a fast-moving ship. They did better than than that, by and large.

San Jose fans might not have seen these reinforcements in action were it not for what could have been a season-crippling casualty list. The missing starters will return, gradually. Replacements will be sent down again, but knowing they can step in and be better than “not a liability”… that is very exciting for the team. When playoffs roll around, chances look slim that the team will be overwhelmed because one or two key players get hurt (or suspended).

So why acquire Mike Brown? In his first game as a Shark, Brown wasn’t a problem. He didn’t take penalties or cause a wreck. He performed as advertised. He brought energy on the forecheck but only got credit for one hit. On the stat sheet that stands out, since Tomas Hertl was second in hits behind Zdeno Chara and Shawn Thornton in the game. Hertl had significantly more ice time at his disposal than Brown, and the fact remains that Brown was fine. That is saying something on his first day with the team.

He still doesn’t seem like a necessary addition. The Sharks might not be winning lopsided games now, but they are doing more than keeping themselves afloat. Many have said this team looks better than they ever have. The season is long, there is no straight course through it. Were it not for so many injuries at the start of the season, the Sharks might not have tested the depths of their organization so extensively. The team will certainly be stronger as their experienced players return, but so far the pressure hasn’t crushed them. It hardly slowed them down.