Flames Roast Sharks 5-3, Sharks to Face Las Vegas in First Round

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks fell 5-3 to the Calgary Flames at SAP Center Sunday. The win clinched the Western Conference for Calgary, while the loss cemented San Jose’s playoff position at second in the Pacific Division. They are now certain to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. Calgary goals came from Sean Monahan, Mark Jankowski, Dalton Prout, Mikael Backlund and Michael Frolik. Sharks goals came from Timo Meier, Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc. Flames goalie Mike Smith made 12 saves in the win, while Sharks goalie Aaron Dell made 23 saves in the loss.

The Sharks are still without Joe Pavelski, Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek. Pavelski and Karlsson are expected to return for the playoffs if not before. Asked about what he hopes the team will accomplish before playoffs, Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer said:

I want to get healthy. I think that’s probably the biggest thing. I think it catches up to you. You know, you can go to the well so many times with guys but I think we’re missing some of our key people here. And it shows in a game like that, against a team that is healthy at this time of year that’s one of the top teams in the league and we had a hard time with it.

After the game, Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon was also asked about how the injury list changes the game. He said:

I don’t think defense is one guy or one D-pair or one forward or one goalie, to be honest. I think for us, over the years that’s kind of been our brand of hockey, is defensive style, and you definitely see the result when we get away from that. I think all around we’re trying to be a little more aggressive but I think we’ve got to kind of find that happy medium for it.

Timo Meier gave the Sharks an early lead 12:01 into the first period. Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi were in the corner competing for the puck against two Flames. They got the puck out of the corner to the face-off circle, where Meier had just arrived. He got control of the puck while reversing direction just enough to use a defenseman as a screen and shoot the puck past Smith on the far side. It was Meier’s 30th of the season, a career high. Donskoi and Couture got the assists.

The Sharks made it through the first 10 minutes of the opening period without giving up a goal but the Flames heated up in the second half. At 14:58, Sean Monahan tied the game with a quick shot off a feed from Johnny Gaudreau. While Marc-Edouard Vlasic harried Gaudreau and Justin Braun guarded the passing lane, no one was really on Monahan as he slid up to the blue paint. Assists went to Gaudreau and Rasmus Andersson.

At 15:29, Mark Jankowski gave Calgary the lead, pulling the puck out of a crowd that was moving across the slot. His quick shot went under Dell to the back of the net. Assists went to James Neal and Austin Czarnik.

Less than a minute later, again, the Flames scored to make it 3-1. Dalton Prout, with his first goal since 2016, snuck by Vlasic and Couture in the neutral zone to chase the 1-on-1 between Tim Heed and Andrew Mangiapane. Mangiapane passed to Prout as they approached the net and Prout’s shot beat Dell. Assists went to Mangiapane and Garnet Hathaway.

During the first period, the Flames had 11 shots to the Sharks’ 6, and Calgary own 67% of the face-offs.

The only goal in the second period went to the Flames when Mikael Backlund made it 4-1 at 7:27. Receiving Noah Hanifin’s pass from the boards, Backlund stopped it with his skate and tried to get control of it but failed. Instead, it pinballed across the goal mouth and the off of Joakim Ryan’s skate and into the net. Assists went to Hanifin and Gaudreau.

The Flames out-shot the Sharks 14-3 and won 56% of the face-offs in the second period. The Sharks took two penalties to Calgary’s one.

The Sharks had a little more than a minute of power play time to start the third period, and got another power play at 2:01 but did not score on either of those.

At 5:23, the Sharks finally got one back. Tomas Hertl made a big zone entry, pushing through and dancing around defenders. He carried the puck down below the face-off dot before passing it across the ice to Timo Meier. Meier sent it back across the ice to Logan Couture, who had just arrived in the slot. His shot went in before Mike Smith could get across. It was Couture’s 27th goal of the season. Meier and Hertl got the assists.

Calgary took that one back about three minutes later. Sharks and Flames converged behind the Sharks net and when the puck came back out, Mark Giordano and Michael Frolik were set up on either side of the ice with a clear view of Dell. Giordano passed it to Frolik for the shot and Dell could not get across in time. Assists went to Giordano and Matthew Tkachuk.

Kevin Labanc got one more for the Sharks at 16:34 of the third. He had just passed the puck to Tim Heed in the slot and Tim Heed tapped it right back to him for the shot from the right side. It was Labanc’s 15th of the season. Assists went to Heed and Joakim Ryan.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday in Vancouver against the Canucks at 7:00 PM PT.

Sharks Douse Flames for 3-1 Win

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE — The San Jose Sharks started a six-game homestand with a 3-1 win versus the Calgary Flames. Sharks goals came from Evander Kane, Joonas Donskoi and Joe Pavelski, who were on the same line. For San Jose, Martin Jones made 29 saves for the win. For Calgary, Mike Smith made 26 saves and their lone goal came from Sean Monahan. It was Logan Couture’s 600th NHL game.

50 seconds into the game, Joe Pavelski picked up a wandering puck as it made its way out of some confusion along the Calgary blue line. He turned with it and found Kane moving into the zone. Kane took his time and then the shot zipped over Smith’s outstretched glove. Assists went to Pavelski and Donskoi. That was Pavelski’s first assist of the season.

The Sharks outshot the Flames in the first period 12-8. The Sharks had one power play in the first, and it carried over into the second period without generating a goal.

At 1:28 of the second period, the same line of Kane, Donskoi and Pavelski scored again. Kane held the puck behind the Calgary net long enough for Donskoi to get to the front of the net, then made the pass to Donskoi under Mikael Backlund’s stick. It was Donskoi’s fourth goal of the season. Assists went to Kane and Pavelski.

Calgary struck back at 6:02 of the middle frame with a goal from Monahan. Erik Karlsson lost his footing just above the Sharks blue line, giving the puck up to Mark Jankowski, who was headed into the Sharks’ zone with Monahan right behind him. Monahan overtook him and Jankowski passed the puck up to him for an unobstructed shot. The lone assist went to Jankowski.

After that goal, Timo Meier left the ice with what appeared to be a cut on his leg. Kevin Labanc stepped into his spot with Couture and Hertl. Meier was not gone long and only missed the one shift.

The Sharks put a lot of pressure on the Flames late in the period. Marcus Sorensen had a nice breakaway with just under six minutes left in the second, but Mike Smith stopped his shot. The Sharks followed up with a two on one moments later, but couldn’t convert. With 2:45 left in the period, Evander Kane carried the puck in with Donskoi on a two on one. Kane passed and Donskoi shot, but Smith got across for a great save.

At the end of the second, the Sharks again led in shots, this time 11-8 for the period.

Just over three minutes into the third period, the teams played four-on-four after Sean Monahan was called for tripping Meier and Meier was called for embellishment. Neither team scored but the Sharks did put some pressure on the Flames, who were outshooting them 4-0 in the opening minutes of the period.

The Sharks got credit for their first shot of the period at 6:38. The shot came during a delayed penalty on Calgary, which sent Mark Giordano to the box for hooking. The Flames killed that penalty off just as they had the two previous Sharks power plays.

At 8:22 of the third, Martin Jones had to preserve the Sharks’ lead against a penalty shot awarded to Sam Bennet. Bennet was awarded the shot after Brenden Dillon was called for holding during Bennet’s breakaway chance.

As the clock ticked past the 15-minute mark of the third, the Flames were outshooting the Sharks 12-4. Logan Couture went to the locker room in the second half of the period with an injury.

With under a minute left, Pavelski scored into an empty net, securing the win despite the lack of effective Sharks’ offense in the third period. Hertl got an assist on the goal.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday against the visiting Nashville Predators at 7:30 PM PT.

Sharks Shut Out Coyotes 3-0

By Mary Walsh

AP photo: The San Jose Sharks Tomas Hertl scores a second period goal and goes to the Sharks bench for a brief victory lap Sunday

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks defeated the Arizona Coyotes by a score of 3-0 Sunday. James Reimer made 25 saves for the shutout. It was his second shutout in four starts for the Sharks. Sharks goals came from Joel Ward, Tomas Hertl and Joe Pavelski. Brent Burns picked up an assist on Pavelski’s goal, setting a new record for most points by a Sharks defenseman in a season with 65.

The Sharks owed the Coyotes a good performance after their unimpressive loss last Thursday. The Sharks also needed a win against a non-playoff team, if for no other reason than to get one. Their recent record is littered with losses to the wrong teams, and wins against top tier opponents. This is not a problem that is likely to come up during the playoffs, but selective competing is not something the Sharks want to fall back into. For this reason, beating the Coyotes was a very good thing for the team.

Near the 14 minute mark of the first, Logan Couture blocked a shot and ended his shift a little early, but he did not leave the game. Justin Braun took the first penalty of the game, an interference penalty at 14:07. The Sharks were able to clear the puck twice in the first minute of the Coyotes power play, and allowed just one shot in that minute.

1:21 into the penalty, Patrick Marleau was called for high sticking and the Coyotes had a five on three for 39 seconds. The Sharks killed off the five on three, but had their hands full. The Coyotes added another shot before Braun came out of the box, but no more after that.

At 18:20, the Sharks took the lead with a goal from Joel Ward. He deflected Brenden Dillon’s shot from the point, a one-timer on a pass from Joonas Donskoi. Donskoi made the pass from below the blue line, for his 22nd assist of the season. It was Ward’s 20th goal of the season and Dillon’s seventh assist.

At the end of the first, the shots were 13-7 Sharks.

2:26 into the second, Brent Burn went to the box for tripping. The Sharks killed it off and finished the kill with a short-handed chance.

The Sharks had their first power play at 5:48, a holding penalty to Klas Dahlbeck. The Sharks power play had some difficulty establishing themselves in the Arizona zone. Eventually they did get set up, but the power play did not generate a goal.

They had another chance at 11:05, when Boyd Gordon went to the box for holding Melker Karlsson. the Sharks’ first unit again looked somewhat disorganized and the second jumped in for a faceoff and went right to work. In the space ofa few passes, they had the puck in the net. This time they got a little lucky as Hertl’s attempted pass to Ward hit Arizona’s Murphy and bounced back under Mike Smith. The goal went to Hertl, with assists to Donskoi and Paul Martin.

The Sharks went right back on the power play at 13:50, when Kevin Connauton was called for delay of game after sending the puck over the glass, but did not score. The Sharks finished the period on a penalty kill, as Nick Spaling was called for interference. The shots at the end of the second were 22-18 Sharks.

The Sharks completed the penalty kill to start the third period, and 13:10 in they had another power play. The Coyotes took yet another penalty at 17:55, a hooking penalty to Michael Stone.

The Coyotes pulled their goaltender with just over a minute left and briefly threatened in the Sharks zone. It was quite brief, and then Brent Burns took control of the puck in the neutral zone and passed it to Joe Pavelski for the empty net shot. It was Pavelski’s 34th goal of the season. Assists went to Burns and Joe Thornton.

The Sharks next play on Tuesday at 7:30, hosting the visiting St. Louis Blues.

Matt Nieto and Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed their second game after being injured last Thursday.

Sharks Beat Coyotes for McLellan’s 300th Win

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks defeated the Arizona Coyotes 4-2 Friday. It was the Sharks’ 300th win with Todd McLellan as head coach, making him the second-fastest NHL coach to reach that mark. It was also the first time the Sharks beat the Coyotes in regulation in Glendale with Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith in net.

Joe Pavelski brings a lot to the San Jose Sharks in terms of consistency and leadership, but he has not scored very many NHL hat tricks. He is not someone you see wearing a lot of plaid either. He isn’t that kind of flashy. On Friday he scored three goals, one at even strength, one on a power play and one into an empty net. Joe Thornton had assists on all three goals. Barclay Goodrow scored the other Sharks goal, the game winner.

Speaking about the Sharks’ recovery from a poor first period, Pavelski said: “The first just can’t happen, happen again. I think we’re understanding, this time of year, the soft stuff just isn’t going to cut it for us. I think that’s kind of what was said in between the first and second.”

It would be unfair to say that only a continent-wide natural disaster, one that spared no NHL franchise outside Arizona, for the Coyotes to get into the playoffs this season. It is just very unlikely as they are having one stinker of a season. Anyone who has been following the Sharks this season knows that such an opponent has a pretty good chance of beating the Sharks.

The Sharks did not start the game well. Outshot and outscored, it was one San Jose’s worst first periods of the year, against a lackluster opponent. During the first intermission, Tommy Wingels summed it up: “That was about as bad of a first period as we can play. No emotion, getting beat in one on one battles, poor defensive play. I could go on and on, but it’s got to be better in the second period.”

The Sharks were better in the second period, and the third.

Less than two minutes into the first period, Sharks defenseman Mirco Mueller turned the puck over in the neutral zone. Arizona’s newly acquired Mark Arcobello took advantage of that and shot at an unscreened Niemi to give the Coyotes the lead.

Arcobello also took the first penalty of the game, which gave the Sharks a chance to pull themselves together. They had one good chance off a Tomas Hertl shot that found Matt Irwin, Tommy Wingels and Matt Tennyson all near the net. None of them could put the puck around Smith, and after that the Sharks turned the puck over in their zone. the puck found its way back into the Coyotes’ zone but neither team could do anything productive with that. The only player who seemed able to put the puck where he wanted it was Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith.

The Sharks took the next penalty, an interference penalty to Matt Tennyson at 13:08. Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi made a number of good saves before the Coyotes’ Sam Gagner intercepted a failed clear from Brent Burns. Gagner sent the puck back to the corner, where Keith Yandle passed it out to Martin Erat in the slot. 2-0 Coyotes. Assists to Yandle and Sam Gagner.

By period’s end, the Sharks had been outscored 2-0 and outshot 12-7.

Joe Pavelski opened the second period with a goal 27 seconds in. From behind the goal line, he attempted a pass to Melker Karlsson in front of the net. The puck didn’t reach Karlsson, but bounced off a defenseman and into the net. Assists went to Joe Thornton and Scott Hannan. Half way through the period, the Sharks took another penalty but kill it off.

Todd McLellan moved Tomas Hertl to the fourth line and Chris Tierney up to the third not long after that penalty kill. The move paid off as Hertl drew penalty at 10:57.

The Sharks had some trouble getting their power play going, as a couple of bounces near the blue line kept them out of the Coyotes’ zone. With 11 seconds left in the power play, a check from Tommy Wingels drew retaliation from Oliver Ekman-Larsson. This second power play looked to be in trouble again as Patrick Marleau fanned on a pass at the blue line. A quick recovery turned the tide and a couple of passes later, Joe Pavelski scored again to tie the game. Assists on the power play goal went to Logan Couture and Joe Thornton.

The third period began with promise for the Sharks. An early chance came off a pass from Mirco Mueller that found Matt Nieto up the ice. Nieto did not score but it was a good sign that the Sharks were going in the right direction. It took them just over six minutes of playing time to get there, and Barclay Goodrow was the lucky shooter.

Goodrow came into the zone at speed in a two on one with Andrew Desjardins against Coyotes defenseman Connor Murphy. After convincing Murphy and his goaltender that a pass was a good possibility, Goodrow shot instead and gave the Sharks the lead. Assists went to Brent Burns and Antti Niemi. Desjardins made the play possible despite falling in the neutral zone and having to get back to his feet quickly enough to catch up and protect the two on one.

With the win, the Sharks remain in the second spot in the Pacific Division with 66 points. The Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks are right behind them with 63 points each and several games in hand.

Joe Pavelski led the Sharks in shots with five. Tommy Wingels led in hits with four. Mirco Mueller led the team in blocked shots with four. Antti Niemi made 34 saves on 36 shots for the win.

Five different Coyotes had three shots apiece: Sam Gagne, Kyle Chipchura, Michael Stone, Lauri Korpikoski and Brendan Shinnimin. Jordan Martinook led the Coyotes in hits with four. Mike Smith made 22 saves on 25 shots faced.

On the injury front, some updates on absent Sharks came out. Kevin Kurz of CSNCA reported that defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, currently on injured reserve, skated Friday in San Jose and does not have a concussion. Additionally, defenseman Justin Braun could be close to returning, if the initial recovery time of 4-6 weeks was accurate.

The Sharks next play on Sunday at 5:00 PT against the Tampa Bay Lightning in San Jose.

Larry Levitt on the NHL

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by Larry Levitt

SAN JOSE–The Youth coming into the NHL now has such talent it’s really amazing to see there’s so many teenagers and 21 year olds coming in here in the first year and they are not intimidated by the game or the speed or the pace and they’re actually holding their own. Of course Tomas Hertl of the Sharks is also one them.

The Anaheim Ducks are near the bottom in penalty kills but the Ducks are on the move and are in first and statistics can be skewed a little. When you have a very bad penalty kill and your not doing well and yet your doing great five on five, your playing five on five more than your killing penalties hopefully so there are more full strengths than making it up on the other end.

The Sharks looked pretty good against Phoenix the other day in a shoot out loss 3-2 at SAP arena last Saturday night the way I would explain this game they have moments where they fall asleep and lose their focus and those moments are when good teams capitalize on you and the Coyotes are a very good team this year.

Every team in the west is very well rounded but the team that the Sharks usually have trouble with the Coyotes being one of them is because of the great goaltending of Mike Smith. They took advantage of him in the first game when he was really off his game but when he’s on his game he’s a tough guy to beat. They could have beat him it’s the Sharks own fault they had some loses of focus and allowed some really cheap goals but it is what it is and they’ll take the one point out of it as a gift.

My biggest fear is Buffalo their an NHL team, yes they play in the east and their record is 2-13-1 so they’re really playing poorly on the stat sheet but their actually a pretty good team. They’re a young team they have four young rookies on their team that are doing actually quiet well. The problem is when the Sharks face a team like the Sabers you don’t want to mail a game like that in.

You need to go out there and play your game, the way the Sharks need to look at that game last Tuesday night and say “let’s use this as a real good fine tune to get our focus and get our system in place and get ready for Vancouver Thursday night” but you can not look past Buffalo. You got to play that game and you got to really bear down and if it happens to be a blow out then use your third and fourth lines.

If it’s not a blow out you really need to stay focus because they’re an NHL team and in any game, any team, can win on any given night. The Canucks are no exception but I don’t know if they’re buying into head coach Mike Tortorella’s system and it’s going at the one step that Phil Kessler and and the Sedin twins are one, two and four for forwards time on ice in the NHL. So the Canucks top line is logging a lot of minutes.

Larry Levitt does NHL and ECHL hockey commentary each week for Sportstalk Radio