San Jose Sharks podcast with Mary Lisa Walsh: Sharks didn’t go on without a fight in loss to Blues to snap win streak

Photo credit: nhl.com/sharks

On the San Jose Sharks podcast with Mary Lisa Walsh:

#1 The loss by the San Jose Sharks to the St. Louis Blues to end their eight-game win streak didn’t go without a fight as the game was forced into overtime by the Sharks as they tried to keep their streak alive.

#2 St. Louis Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko took a pass from Vladimir Sobotka from behind the net. Sobotka took the puck in front of the net and passed it to Tarasenko show put it past San Jose goalie Aaron Dell, who was expecting it long side; but Tarasenko got the goal short side at 2:33 in the overtime stanza to get the Blues past the Sharks.

#3 Dell was left off balance on Tarasenko’s shot thinking he was going to get to the puck, but the game-winner made it in.

#4 Tarasenko is the Blues’ leading scorer with 31 goals and has also shot for 30 or more in each of the last four years.

#5 The Sharks head into Nashville for Thursday night’s contest. The Predators snapped a three-game loss streak on Tuesday loss streak and are looking to start putting a win streak together with the Sharks coming to town. This should be one of the best games of the week head-to-head.

Mary Lisa does the Sharks podcast each Wednesday at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

 

Sharks’ win streak ends at eight with 3-2 OT loss to Blues

Photo credit: NHL.com/blues

By Pearl Allison Lo

The St. Louis Blues ended San Jose’s win streak with a 3-2 overtime win at the Scottrade Center Tuesday.

It was the Blues’ fourth overtime win during their now six-game streak.

It was another close game for both teams and the Sharks’ second back-to-back game that went beyond regulation.  

St. Louis, however, was the more desperate team in the Wild Card race. With the win, they moved above the blue line alongside the Los Angeles Kings. Vladimir Tarasenko won the game with his second of the match, the only time the Blues led in the game.

San Jose lost forward Barclay Goodrow due to an upper-body injury just 1:56 into the game, but was still able to start out with the lead for the third game in a row. Evander Kane struck for the third game in a row with his fifth point during that time.

However, the Sharks left the period without the lead again as Oskar Sundqvist scored his first goal and first with St. Louis to tie it at 17:43.

San Jose able to go ahead again in the second. Brent Burns found Pavelski who hit the top left corner at 7:07. Pavelski now has 20 goals and Burns 50 assists. The power play goal ended the Blues’ three-game streak of limiting their opponents to a lone goal.

St. Louis duplicated the opening third by responding in the same period with their own on the man advantage. Tarasenko hit his mark at the top right corner from the middle of the right faceoff circle at 12:03. It was Tarasenko’s 30th goal on the season.

Both teams stayed tied at two apiece as they searched for the game-winner. The Blues had an especially spirited attack in the third starting with 7:45 left. In two minutes, St. Louis garnered two shots, two missed shots, one blocked shot and two hits.

The Sharks’ Logan Couture mentioned coach playing “three and a quarter lines” in the third and it “caught up to us.”

St. Louis had all three shots in overtime. Brayden Schenn had one of them, a blocked shot four seconds later and a missed shot. Alex Pietrangelo, who had a game-high five shots, had the Blues’ second shot.

Tarasenko’s goal came after Sobotka preoccupied San Jose at one end before receiving his backwards pass.

The Sharks lost Barclay Goodrow in the middle of the first period. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer after the game mentioned it as an upper-body injury, but the extent beyond that is murky.  

Game Notes: Jake Allen, who has been in net each game of the Blues’ win streak, made 22 saves in the win for St. Louis. On the other side, Aaron Dell made 29 saves in a losing effort for San Jose.

Up Next: The Sharks visit the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena Saturday at 5 pm PST.

Sharks’ Power Play Slump Snaps After 30 Attempts as They Blank Blues 2-0

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

By Jerry Feitelberg

The San Jose Sharks finally snapped their power play drought, and it came at the most opportune time. Mikkel Boedker broke a scoreless tie with 7:48 left in regulation, scoring on the man-advantage for San Jose’s first extra strength goal in 13 games. Tomas Hertl added an empty-net goal and San Jose limited the St. Louis Blues to a season-low 16 shots on goal in a 2-0 win. Martin Jones picked up the shutout, helping San Jose leapfrog the Anaheim Ducks into second place in the Pacific Division with a game in hand.

The Sharks entered the game on an 0-28 power play skid, the absence of prolific passer Joe Thornton (out with a knee injury) evident in every missed opportunity.  A second period Blues penalty didn’t yield better results. It wasn’t until Kyle Brodziak picked up a holding the stick infraction with 9:30 left in the final frame to put San Jose up a man.

Joonas Donskoi went to work, dangling along the boards before working the puck to Dylan Demelo on the blue line. Demelo tapped the puck right back to Donskoi who worked his way up the boards to the faceoff dots. From there he fed a pass to Boedker who was cocked in the slot. Boedker’s quick-release snapshot beat Blues goalie Jake Allen over his blocker shoulder for the Dane’s 13th goal of the season. Demelo picked up the second assist on the goal, notching his fifth point in three March games.

Allen played an otherwise spectacular game, making 34 saves to keep the Blues in the game despite being greatly outshot. It was a performance made all the more impressive by the fact that Allen wasn’t expected to start. As early as morning skate, backup goalie Carter Hutton was expected to get the nod against his former team. An injury forced Allen into net, giving Palo Alto native Ben Wexler the chance to suit up as emergency backup goaltender. Wexler’s highest level of play before tonight was club hockey at the University of Illinois.

Tomas Hertl punched in an empty-netter with 15 seconds left, with Brent Burns picking up an assist on the Czech’s 16th goal of the year. San Jose pulled ahead of the Ducks, losers 4-2 in Nashville, but couldn’t gain ground of Los Angeles. The Kings beat the Washington Capitals 3-1 at home Thursday.

Up Next: The Sharks host the Washington Capitals on Friday afternoon at 1:00 pm PT.

San Jose Sharks Podcast with Mary Lisa Walsh: Sharks look to improve on the power play face off with Blues Thursday

Photo credit: @NBCSSharks

On the San Jose Sharks Podcast with Mary Lisa:

1 How bad is the Sharks power play they were 0-28 and hoping to get a power play goal  against the St Louis Blues at SAP Center Thurday

2 Former Shark Jonathan Cheechoo, aged 37, is hanging up the sweater after skating in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League for the last four years. During his Sharks days, Cheechoo led the NHL in scoring in 2005-06 with 56 goals. It’s almost like yesterday when Cheechoo was skating for the Sharks.

3 After beating the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks last week, the Sharks took a tough loss at the SAP Center on Sunday night 4-2 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a game that Mary Lisa covered.

4 The Jackets’ Artemi Panarin scored twice and was the difference for the Blue Jackets in the win.

5 It’s the St. Louis Blues Thursday night at the SAP Center and Mary Lisa tells you how she see these two teams matching up.

Mary Lisa Walsh covers Sharks hockey each Friday, Saturday and Sunday games at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

 

 

Sharks edge Blues 3-2 to extend winning streak to three games

~ Photo credit: NHL.com

~ By Pearl Allison Lo

~ The San Jose Sharks scored three goals off six shots as they extended their winning streak to three games after escaping with a 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center on Tuesday.

Both teams saw each other for the first time this season as the Blues lost a season-high four straight games.

The Sharks have scored three goals in their last three and held their opponents to two or less in their last four games.

Both Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker got a goal and an assist apiece. Boedker, with seven points during his four-game goal streak, earned the game-winner with 4:06 left in regulation.    

Goalie Martin Jones made 31 saves and put together his and San Jose’s third straight win with a late game assist by Brent Burns. The Blues outshot the Sharks 24-11 during the last two periods.  

Marc-Edouard Vlasic had a chance near the end of the first that was redirected by Boedker and clanked off the right post.

After putting up zeroes in the first, both teams went the other way in the second with multiple goals each.

First, Couture cashed in after scooping up Boedker’s rebound and then lifting the puck at 6:35.

Less than two minutes later, Ivan Barbashev evened the sheet on a 2-on-1 from the left faceoff circle.

Undaunted, Joonas Donskoi made it 2-1 on a 3-on-2 from the right faceoff circle at the 12:05 mark. It was Donskoi’s first since January 13 as he hit almost the same spot in the net as Couture.

Boedker then put San Jose up 3-1 as he crashed the net and moved the puck underneath Carter Hutton’s right pad.

The Blues kept the game close though heading to the third. 10 seconds after drawing a penalty, Vladimir Tarasenko pulled his team back to within one. Vince Dunn got the primary assist as his shot went off Jones and rolled to Tarasenko. Tarasenko now has four points in his last three games.

With just over four minutes left in the game, Burns went fishing behind Jones to help keep Saint Louis at bay. Burns returned to continue his Iron man streak after missing the majority of the third period last game.

Game Notes: The Sharks’ recent power plays stand at 0-for-13. Sharks management made a pre-game trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs when they acquired Eric Fehr in exchange for a 2020 7th-round draft selection.

Up Next: The Sharks will take on the Nashville Predators Thursday at 5 pm PT for game two of their four-game road trip.

Sharks Win Western Conference Final 4-2

By Mary Walsh

AP photo: San Jose Sharks celebrate their first Western Conference title in franchise history with the Western Conference title Cup on Wednesday night at SAP Center

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks punched their ticket to the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday, by defeating the St. Louis Blues 5-2 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. The 4-2 series win represents the first time the Sharks have prevailed in a conference final, the first time they will compete for the Cup.

Joe Pavelski scored the first goal of the game, Joonas Donskoi scored the fourth, Joel Ward scored the two in between and Logan Couture tidied up with an empty net goal. Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice for the Blues late in the third period. Sharks goaltender Martin Jones made 24 stops for the historic win, while Brian Elliott made 22 for the Blues.

It is the third time that some of the Sharks have been to the Western Conference Final, among these is Joe Thornton. He talked about the win after the game:

It’s a pretty cool feeling. Obviously it’s our first time here so it was pretty neat to get this done at home. Fans here have waited so long, 25 years, and we’ve waited” here he turned to verify with Patrick Marleau, “18 years or so. So it’s a great feeling. And this team, we’ve always said we’ve got a deep team and we truly believe we’ve got a deep team. And you saw tonight all twelve forwards played big parts, all six D played big parts and Joner played great. This is really truly a team effort from top to bottom.”

Patrick Marleau said he does not wonder why this group has made it so much farther than previous Sharks teams:

“We’re just enjoying the ride right now. We’ve had some really good teams over the years but like Joe was saying, this team’s a little bit different. The confidence we built over the regular season and now in the playoffs. I think winning on the road helped us get close as a group during the regular season and it carried over into the playoffs so far. Just having each other’s back out there and working for each other.

Head coach Pete DeBoer said that he believed this team could get this far right at the start of the season. This, despite or perhaps because of their troubled recent seasons:

They were coming off a down season but they were coming off a decade of great hockey. They had been well coached. Todd McLellan and the previous staff are as good as there are in the business. These guys had a great foundation. Right place, right time. Everyone was ready for something a little bit fresher and newer, not anything that much different. But that and the additions Doug [Wilson, Sharks GM] made, it just came together.

“I inherited a similiar team in New Jersey when I went there. Same type of thing, they had missed the playoffs for the first time in a long time the year before I got there. I think when you go into that situation, when you have really good people like there was in New Jersey when I went in there, like there was with this group. They’re pissed off, they’re embarassed by the year they just had and they’re willing to do and buy into whatever you’re selling to get it fixed again.”

Today I heard someone suggest that the other three teams in these conference finals get more air time than the San Jose Sharks do because there is nothing controversial about the Sharks. They are not swapping their goalies around, they are not switching their lines around, their star players are not underperforming, there is no supplementary drama. They just go out and do what they are supposed to do. But for fans of this team, this playoff run has been very dramatic, very suspenseful. They may be cheering like mad in the audience, but there are a lot of fans just holding their breath through every game.

The Sharks played up to that hum-drum reputation when Joe Pavelski got credit for the first goal of the game just 3:57 in. Assists went to Joe Thornton and Tomas Hertl.

Apart from the last half minute of the period, the Sharks won the first period handily. Those final thirty seconds were getting out of hand, as the Sharks failed to clear several times and had the puck snatched away from them a few more. But they were saved by the bell and came away form the first with a 1-0 lead and a 9-5 shot advantage.

Seconds after that shot, play went the other way and the Tierney line wrought some havoc in the Blues’ zone. A Brent Burns shot went off Joel Ward’s stick for his fifth goal of the playoffs. Assists went to Burns and Tierney.

The Sharks earned their first power play when Troy Brouwer took an interference penalty early in the second period. San Jose’s power play did not convert but did bump their shot count to 13 without alowing the Blues to take a shot before close to the five minute mark of the period.

Scottie Upshall, back in the Blues lineup after sitting out the last three games, caught Tommy Wingels in the face with a high stick at 6:08 and drew blood, earning himself a double minor.

The four minutes of power play time seemed to lull the Sharks into complacency, or else it galvanized the Blues. The Blues took a couple of short-handed shots and the Sharks had more trouble getting through the neutral zone than they had previously. They accomplished the most immediate goal: of maintaining a two goal lead.

That was not enough for coach DeBoer. He used his timeout with just over five minutes left in the period. The Sharks had been scrambling and the Blues were making up ground on the shot clock. The end of the second had that in common with the end of the first: the Blues pushed the Sharks and Martin Jones had to make a few more stops. The Couture line had a good shift in the final 20 seconds but the Blues outshot the Sharks in the second, 11-10.

That second line picked up where they left off to start the third period, crowding into the Blues’ zone and making Elliott stop a shot from close in. It took them a few more shifts, but they finally caught what they were hunting: a third goal. It was only part of the Couture line. Ward was on the ice momentarily instead of Donskoi. As a result, he scored his second of the game and seventh of the playoffs. Assists went to Couture and Patrick Marleau.

The crowd went a little bit crazy. Richard Dean Anderson was shown helping duct tape Sharkie’s drum back together in one of the tunnels.

The Blues ruined the shut out with 8:21 left in the game. Vladimir Tarasenko got his first point in the series by way of a goal. Assists went to Jori Lehtera and Colton Parayko.

At 15:35, the teams were both penalized after a scuffle by the benches. Tommy Wingels (slashing) and Kevin Shattenkirk (cross-checking) both went to the box for two minutes. The Blues pulled Elliott for the additional skater and Tarasenko made a game of it with a second goal at 16:25. It squeezed through a gap between Jones’ blocker and the pipe. Assists went to Paul Stasny and Alex Pietrangelo. The Blues tried the same shot again a few seconds later but Jones adjusted.

The Blues continued to push right to the end of the period, until Logan Couture was able to put the puck in the empty net.

The Sharks will play the winner of the Eastern Conference Final in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday.

Blues Turn Tables On Sharks, Tie Series With 6-3 Win

By Mary Walsh

AP photo: St Louis Blues Jori Lentera (12) scores in the first period against the San Jose Sharks in game four at SAP Center on Saturday

SAN JOSE-Saturday’s Game 4 of the NHL’s Western Conference Finals was a complete reversal of Thursday’s 4-0 victory for San Jose. The St. Louis Blues tied the series 2-2 with a 6-3 victory, beating the San Jose Sharks in all three zones. The Blues’ power play went 2-4 while the Sharks’ power play went 0-4. Troy Brouwer and Kyle Brodziak each scored two goals for the Blues, with Jori Lehtera and Alex Pientrangelo adding to the tally. For the Sharks, Joe Pavelski, Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson scored.

Oddly, the Sharks won on the shot clock and in the faceoff circle, the same way the Blues won those in the previous game. The fact that the Sharks were not shut out seems like a negligible detail.

It was the first time in these playoffs that Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer decided to pull goaltender Martin Jones from the game and put backup James Reimer in. It was a stark contrast to the consecutive shutouts that Jones pulled off in the last two games. On the performance of Jones, Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said afterwards:

We hung him out to dry tonight, he made some big saves there and he gave us a chance. We kept giving them more opportunities, odd-man rushes and guys alone at the net. So that’s certainly not on [Jones] at all, it’s on every guy in front of him.

It is anyone’s guess whether we will see these teams bring their best game to the same game in this series. The first game may have been the closest we will see, as each subsequent game has shown one team or the other at their best and the other very much not so. Of the Sharks’ performance Saturday, forward Logan Couture said: “We weren’t ourselves early. When you give a good team a two-nothing lead, and you give up a short-handed goal, that’s pretty much it.”

Tommy Wingels went into some detail about what the Sharks did wrong in this game:

We got away from our game. Our game is going north with it, it’s making plays where we’re there, it’s gettin pucks past their d-men, through the neutral zone and in on the forecheck. We got away from that, we turned pucks over, we turned it into a track meet for the first twenty, thirty minutes.

The only change in either lineup from Game 3 was Jake Allen, replacing goaltender Brian Elliott in the Blues net. After the game, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock talked about the decision to put Jake Allen in net:

He gave us exactly what we needed. He’s a competitive son of a gun and we needed a battler in there. We needed somebody to really help us play better defense. And we played with more passion in front of him in our own zone because I made the goalie change. And I had to make that decision. But I just felt like we were allowing them too much easy space with [Elliott] in there. And [Elliott] was getting bombarded and we needed to just dig in a little bit deeper defensively if we were going to have a chance in this series.

Almost four minutes in, Roman Polak took a shot from the blue line that looked like it was in, at least from one end of the rink. A section in the audience got half way to their feet before seeing that it was not a goal. The crowd was ready and confident that any Shark could score from anywhere. The game did not fulfill their expectations.

Instead, five minutes in, the Sharks took the first penalty, a tripping call to Brent Burns. Before that power play was over, the Blues had taken the lead. The goal was Troy Brouwer’s, with assists to Robby Fabbri and Paul Stastny. Coach DeBoer challenged the play as offside but the goal stood up and the Sharks lost their timeout.

Shortly after the half way mark of the first, matters got worse for the Sharks. Jori Lehtera took a shot that Jones stopped, and the rebound went to the other side of the crease, where Robby Fabbri was waiting. Jones got across and stopped two shots, but a third rebound went out front to Lehtera, who put it under a prone Brent Burns and into the net.

The Sharks had their first power play a few seconds fater that, an interference call on Paul Stastny. The first power play unit did not look their worst, but they were not as sharp as they have been. The Blues took advantage of some poor passes and overdressed plays and killed the penalty. The second unit had no more success, and only a little less time. The first unit went off the ice with just under a minute left in the power play.

The next power play came with just 21 seconds remaining in the period, and it went to the Blues. As they waited for a delayed slashing call on Vlasic, another shooter drew Jones away from the net and got the puck behind him. Burns was there again he knocked the puck away.

Just over half way through the Vlasic penalty, Logan Couture put the puck over the glass and gave the Blues a two man advantage for 48 seconds. The Sharks survived both penalties and got a round of applause for it.

Their next power play, though, earned applause only from the Blues fans in the building.
Jaden Schwartz and Kyle Brodziak escapaed through the neutral zone with the puck, attacking two on one against Marc-Edouard Vlasic. Schwartz passed and Brodziak shot at the far corner on Jones, scoring his first of the playoffs short handed at 6:09, while Kevin Shattenkirk sat in the box for interference. An assist went to Jaden Schwartz. Their escape was explained by Joe Thornton after the game: “It was going to [Pavelski] and Pav thought [Couture] was behind him so he let it go. But it was just one of those plays where usually we make that happen and it just didn’t.”

The Blues’ second even strength goal came just after the half way point of the second. This one looked a lot like the previous one, when Jones had to get from one side of the net to the other and ended up too far from the center of his crease, giving [] an open net to shoot at. After that fourth goal, Peter DeBoer did the same thing Ken Hitchcock did in Game 3: he replaced the goalie. James Reimer hit the ice for the first time in the playoffs.

A minute or so later, a puck hit the netting above the Blues net, which caused the official to blow his whistle. When the puck landed, Hertl knocked the puck inth=o the Blues net. That got a reaction out of the Blues and got ?Hertl all tangled up in a scuffle. Oddly, the officials felt that Thornto ought to go to the box, along with Brouwer, both for roughing, but not each other.

The Four on four play seemed to favor the Sharks, or maybe it was the Blues sitting back on their 4-0 lead. In any case, the penalties elapsed and the score was still 4-0.

As the second wound to an end, the score stood at 4-0 and the shots were 21-15, both in favor of the visitors.

1:05 into the third period, the Sharks pushed back a little. The Thornton-Pavelsk-Hertl line worked their way into the offensive zone, accompanied by the Sharks wrecking ball defenseman, Burns. Burns took one of this familiar skates around behind the net to loosen things up and then made his way back out to the top of the slot. This all seemed to be a distraction as the puck got back to Joe Thornton while Joe p/avelski was making his way to the net.Hertl was already there, possibly screening Allen’s view of Thornton’s pass to Pavelski. It was Pavelski’s tenth goal of the playoffs, Thornton’s 11th assist and Martin’s 4th.

The Blues put the kibosh on the Shark’s excellent third period start when Joel Ward put the puck over the glass at 3:48. Just seven seconds into the power play, Troy Brouwer put the puck around Reimer, off the post and in. Assists went to Alexander Steen and Paul Stastny.

The next attack came the Sharks’ third line of Chris Tierney, Joel Ward and Melker Karlsson. It started with an uncustomary skate deep into the offensive zone, by Justin Braun. That set off a chain reaction that had the Blues scrambling around the energy and quickness of Tierney and Karlsson. They put at least four shots in the direction of the net before one went in at 6:57. The goal went to Chris Tierney with an assist to Melker Karlsson.

The Sharks had another power play at 7:07, but all they got for that was some padding for their shot count. Yet another power play came their way at 10:51. Stastny was in the box again, this time for tripping Chris Tierney. Still the Sharks power play could not launch.

With more than four minutes left, DeBoer pulled Reimer for the extra skater. All that accomplished was the Blues’ sixth goal into an empty net.

With Reimer back in the net, a good push by San Jose’s third line resulted in the Blues’ scoring an own goal while trying to clear Tierney’s pass out of Karlsson’s reach.

With 2:11 left, after a group discussion around the faceoff circle, Brenden Dillon and Carl Gunnarson came to blows. The crowd deemed Dillon to be the winner. Both players left the game. Alexander Steen and Tommy Wingels also received ten minute misconducts.

The final shot count was 34-27 San Jose.

Game 5 will be in St. Louis on Monday at 5:00 PT.

Sharks and Blues: Western Conference Final Preview

By Mary Walsh

AP photo: St Louis Blues goalie Brian Elliott stops a shot from the San Jose Sharks Patrick Marleau 12 as Blues defenceman Cotton Parayko 55 watches on Sunday night in the third period

The Western Conference Final is upon us. Past results reveal that the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues have followed very similar paths to this point, and neither team is a clear choice for favorite. Even intangibles cannot give us a hint. Both San Jose and St. Louis are hungry for success. The Sharks have never made it to the Stanley Cup Final, and the Blues have not been there since 1970. They both unseated recent Cup winners in the first round. They both defeated up and coming teams in the second round, by the a five goal margin, in the seventh game. The likeness is uncanny, and utterly proper. The final teams in the Stanley Cup playoffs should be equals, it is only right that the results be entirely unpredictable. The results of the Stanley Cup Final could be easier to predict, especially with the Eastern teams taking such heavy casualties after just one game. I predict that the Western team will win the Cup, and that team will be from a city named after a saint.

A glance at the current NHL Leaderboard shows three Sharks leading in playoff scoring categories. In points, goals, and assists, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Brent Burns top those charts. Logan Couture is in the top three in all of those categories, while Pavelski and Burns are top five in two. The Blues have two players in each of these categories, with Vladimir Tarasenko listed in the top five in points and goals, Robby Fabbri top ten in points and assists, and David Backes ranked fifth in goals. The teams are pretty close when it comes to high ranking for their top scorers.

Those numbers tell us which players the opponent will zero in on defensively. They also tell us, by omission, which players previous opponents probably spent most of their defensive energy on. For the Sharks, Joe Thornton did not rack up quite as many points as he might be expected to, especially being one of Joe Pavelski’s linemates. Joel Ward fell from fifth to eighth on the team in goals. Tomas Hertl dropped from fourth to ninth on the team in goals. Patrick Marleau should have produced more, especially since he spent so much time not on a line with Couture or Thornton. I say that because he should have been able to slip under the radar of the Kings or the Predators, if the top lines drew top defense away. So either Marleau did get the defensive attention he can deserve, or he just was not playing that well. Either way, he is one who could suddenly start producing in this series.

Even if underproducing players do not break out, how many goal scorers has it taken to get the Sharks this far, compared to the Blues? The Sharks have seven players with three or more goals in these playoffs. Apart from the league leaders mentioned above, the Sharks have four goals from Marleau, three each from Thornton, Chris Tierney, and Joonas Donskoi. Joel Ward, Tomas Hertl and Melker Karlsson have two each. Matt Nieto and Tommy Wingels each have one tally.

For the Blues, eight players have scored three or more goals. Tarasenko has seven, Backes has six, Troy Brouwer has five, Alexander Steen and Patrik Berglund each have four, while Robby Fabbri, Jaden Schwartz and Paul Stasny each have three. Seven more St. Louis skaters have one or two goals. During the regular season, Tarasenko also led his team in goals, and the rest of the top six were essentially the same as they have been in the playoffs: Backes, Brouwer, Fabbri and Steen.

Though none of the Blues defensemen can challenge Brent Burns in the scoring department, St. Louis has gotten more points from their defense than the Sharks have. They have four defensemen with four or more points, Kevin Shattenkirk leading there with ten points. The Sharks have four defensemen with three or more points, Justin Braun and Paul Martin having just three.

The Blues have three more goal scorers than the the Sharks have, but the Sharks have scored .28 more goals per game. The Blues have given up a few more goals (2.43) than the Sharks have (2.33), if you go by games played. One could argue that the Sharks should not have it held against them that they did not give up goals in games they did not play by defeating the Kings so quickly. But since the Blues and the Sharks will play the same number of games in this series, games played is probably a better measure than total goals against.

The Sharks’ 30.9% power play is the best among teams in the final four. The Blues are right behind them with a 27.5% success rate. The Sharks’ penalty kill is a couple of ranking spots higher than the Blues, with San Jose at 82.3% and St. Louis at 79.5%. Either of those special team rankings could be reversed in the course of a single game, so again the teams are darn close.

The Blues gave up more shots (31.3) per game than the Sharks did (28.5) , but not many more. The Blues played Chicago and Dallas, while the Sharks played Los Angeles and Nashville. The habits of their respective opponents may have skewed those figures. During the regular season games, the Sharks consistently outshot the Blues, but usually by a fairly small margin.

In the playoffs, faceoff win percentages are be heavily influenced by the opponent, but it is still worth looking at. The Blues have been better at 50.7 % than the Sharks at 46.2%. Both teams were better during the regular season, but the Blues were a little better there too at 51.3% to the Sharks’ 50.7%. Thornton and Hertl are the only Sharks who have won better than 50% of their faceoffs in the first two rounds, and Hertl has only taken 20 draws. For the Blues, Paul Stastny, David Backes and Jori Lehtera took the lion’s share of faceoffs in both the regular season and the playoffs, and all three are over 50%. Paul Stastny won an impressive 59% of his draws in the first two rounds.

Could it come down to goaltending? Brian Elliott gives the Blues and edge in save percentage (.929-.918), Jones has the edge in goals against average (2.16-2.29), and they each have one shutout. Elliott is the more seasoned starter, but he has never gotten so far in the playoffs. Jones has seen his team win a Cup, but was only there as a backup. Both teams have above-average backups, but only the Blues’ Jake Allen saw any ice time in the first two rounds. Again, and again and again, the Sharks and the Blues look so close on paper that neither clearly has an edge.

The victor will be the team that bests their best first.

Missing Sharks Don’t Explain 7-2 Loss to Blues

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– It was Joe Pavelski’s 600th NHL game. As an indicator of how the San Jose Sharks play without their not captain Joe Thornton, Saturday’s 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues was something of a worst possible scenario.Thornton did not seem to the be only Shark missing, and no one had a sound explanation afterwards.

The game start was eerily similar to the last time these teams played, on December 20th. The Blues came out fast and furious, outshooting the Sharks badly in the first ten minutes. From there the two games diverged sharply. Instead of a turn around for the Sharks, things went from bad to worse as the game wore on.

After the game, Logan Couture summarized the Sharks’ performance:

Right from the first shift, we weren’t even in that game. We were kidding ourselves, if two two was the score at the end of the first period. We were never in that game. It’s very disappointing to do that in any game, especially in your home building, to let a team that played last night come in and dominate you from the very first second of the game.

Every part of our game was bad. Nemo bailed us out, made a lot of big saves in the first period.

Did the Sharks think Thornton’s absence was to blame for their lackluster performance?

Joe Pavelski:

It’s happened before. Seasons are long, there’s guys going in and out. Obviously he’s a great piece of this team, so there’s a little absence but it doesn’t change anything we do as a group, system-wise. There’s no talk about anything. So it’s solely on the guys in here. It probably starts with me out there in the power play. We had chances to get in the game, to get going. We just didn’t do a good enough job.

Logan Couture:

If you can’t win missing one player then you’re not going to go very far. Injuries happen, it’s part of the game. You still have enough players on your team, in your organization to compete at an NHL level and we didn’t compete at an NHL level, I don’t even think we were close.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic:

When you lose anybody, when you lose one of your top guys, every team loses a top guy. You’ve got to find a way to win without him. We’d love to have him, we’d love to have him back next game, but that’s not an excuse.

So, no, Joe Thornton’s injury does not explain the utter lack of anything good that the Sharks showed Saturday. The above players also agreed that the Sharks did everything wrong, nothing well… except for Niemi, who was pulled in the third period after keeping the team in it for the first.

The first period did not end like it did in the first game. A flurry of scoring from both teams gave the Blues a goal at 11:40 from T.J. Oshie, followed by two quick goals from the Sharks at 17:42 and 18:22, then another from Steen at 19:16. Melker Karlsson, assisted by Barclay Goodrow and Matt Tennyson, scored the first Sharks goal. Joe Pavelski, assisted by Tomas Hertl and Brent Burns scored the second.

Early in the second period, the Blues’ Jori Lehtera went to the box for hooking. The Sharks had some trouble getting through the neutral zone, never mind getting set up for any good power play time. the Sharks did get credit for two shots but never looked dangerous.

A couple of shifts after the power play ended, the Blues took another lead with another goal from TJ Oshie. The Blues looked more confident and in command of the game, making the first period tie seem like a fluke.

As the midpoint of the game approached, the Blues had outshot the Sharks 4-2 in the middle period.

At 10:38, Scott Hannan was called for interference. It was the Blues’ first power play, despite a quartet of penalties called in the first period that had not resulted in a power play for either team. Forty seconds into that, Kevin Shattenkirk was called for high sticking Matt Nieto, who was zipping around the Blues zone short-handed. Four-on-four, it took the Blues a little longer to push in to the Sharks’ zone but they got there and continued their attack.

With the 30 or so seconds they had of power play time, the Sharks started by icing the puck, and could not seem to complete a pass in the neutral zone or anywhere else. San Jose appeared utterly overwhelmed. The only Shark not playing well below par was Antti Niemi.

At the end of the second, the Sharks got another power play as Jaden Schwartz went off for hooking. The Sharks’ third line of James Sheppard, Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson drew that penalty with good forechecking and refusal to be evicted from St. Louis territory.

The Sharks spent much more time outside of their own zone during that power play, but when Brent Burns tripped at the blue line it epitomized the Sharks’ game: inexplicable, hapless. The Sharks ended the period with four shots, and gave up another goal as soon as their power play ended. Jaden Schwartz, after grappling for the puck behind the goal line, passed the puck out front to Kevin Shattenkirk, who was wide open.

After two periods, the shot count was 24-14 Blues, the score 4-2 Blues.

The Sharks started the third period with a spark, making a good early push. Unfortunately, that fizzled to an icing call which became another penalty to Scott Hannan. The resulting St.. Louis power play took only five seconds to score, with a shot from the blue line tipped by Jaden Schwartz. Assists went to Alexander Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk.

The Next Blues goal was the last for Niemi. A long-distance shot from Dmitrij Jaskin ushered Alex Stalock into the Sharks net.

The Blues had another power play at 8:26 when Barclay Goodrow was called for holding. The Blues played it very cautiously, hesitating to shoot. The Sharks did not do much to change that, hanging back on their penalty kill and not challenging the Blues. Finally, TJ Oshie threw the puck in from the goal line and bounced it off of a body in front of the net. That gave him a hat trick, and gave the Blues their seventh goal. Swaths of the sellout crowd started to leave SAP.

It was the first sellout the Sharks had seen in a while.

The Sharks’ last power play of the game saw Wingels, Karlsson, Sheppard, Tennyson and Braun start. That power play only lasted 32 seconds before Wingels was called for holding. The score did not change, ending in a 7-2 final.

With Thornton injured and John Scott suspended, it was all hands on ice Saturday. Tye McGinn started on the fourth line with Desjardins and Micheal Haley, with Tomas Hertl on a line with Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto. For most of the second and third periods, McLellan swapped McGinn and Hertl, but it did not seem to improve matters. In the last six or seven minutes of the game, they were both back where they started the game.

TJ Oshie and Patrick Berglund led the Blues in shots on goal with five each. Oshie and Ryan Reaves led the Blues in hits with four each. Alex Pietrangelo led the team in time on ice with 20:47. Brian Elliott made 18 saves on 20 shots.

Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels led the Sharks in shots with three each, and Wingels led in hits with five. Brent Burns led the team in ice time with 23:35. Antti Niemi made 21 saves on 27 shots. Alex Stalock made two saves on three shots.

The Sharks hit the road to play the Jets on Monday in Winnipeg at 5:00 pm PT.

Sharks Beat Blues in Final Seconds

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks won a nail-biter of a game Saturday, defeating the St. Louis Blues in overtime 3-2. The game went to the last minute of overtime before a Brent Burns blast from the blue line ended it. Andrew Desjardins and Marc-Edouard Vlasic also scored for the Sharks, while Steve Ott and Patrik Berglund scored for the Blues. It was the Sharks’ fifth win in a row, and eighth home win in a row.

It took the Sharks more than thirteen minutes to get a shot on goal against St. Louis. That shot came off of Barclay Goodrow’s stick. The Sharks saw several shots blocked, but the Blues also kept the Sharks hemmed in their zone for faceoff after faceoff, not allowing the Sharks to make much of the zone time they did get. For all the zone time the Blues had, they did not get all that many shots on net either. They were at four when the Sharks’ first shot registered.

Nonetheless, the Shark saw the Blues take the first penalty of the game at 13:31, for too many men on the ice. The Sharks did not get a shot on goal through the power play. Their second shot came in the last two minutes, from Patrick Marleau.

McLellan must have liked the way the Sharks started the first period, since he put exactly the same guys out to start the second: James Sheppard, Melker Karlsson and Barclay Goodrow up front, with Brent Burns and Brenden Dillon on defense. Whatever the plan was, it looked like an improvement. The Sharks tripled their shot count before three minutes elapsed in the second period.Five minutes in, the Sharks were outshooting the Blues 5-1. Shots came from Goodrow, Tye McGinn, John Scott, Marleau and Logan Couture.

The Blues took a second penalty, at 5:47 of the second. Jori Lehtera went to the box for high sticking. While the Sharks had trouble sustaining an attack, the power play was an improvement over the first period one. They had four shots through the two minutes, and a few very good chances. The Sharks took over the shot lead at the end of the power play.

Still, the teams remained tied 0-0.

Andrew Desjardins changed that at 10:47 of the middle frame. He carried the puck in and shot from a bad angle for his second of the season. Assists went to Justin Braun and Tye McGinn.

It took them several minutes but the Blues answered with a goal from Patrik Berglund at 14:29. The puck came off the back boards pretty hot, and Niemi stopped the resulting shot but he delivered the rebound right to Berglund and could not recover to stop his shot. Assists went to Alex Pietrangelo and Dmitrij Jaskin.

The Blues took the lead with 2:39 left in the period. After some very good pressure form the Sharks, the Blues got out of their zone by way of a breakaway for Steve Ott. His shot went under Niemi and assists went to Ian Cole and Maxim Lapierre.

The Sharks finished the period with some wild chances in the Blues’ zone but could not even the score. They did, however, get credit for 17 shots in the period.

The third period was mired in heavy mud, with the Sharks racking up shots and the Blues stopping them. By the end of the period, the Blues had only added three to their game tally, while the Sharks got credit for nine. In the final minutes, the Sharks were attacking furiously, but it was only in the last 20 seconds that they finally tied the game.  The goal was Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s fourth of the season, with assists to Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson.

With three minutes gone in the five minute overtime, neither team had recorded a shot on goal. Thirty seconds later, Patrick Marleau took the first, after a spectacular rush up the ice that showcased his exceptional speed.

With 1:03 left in overtime, Alexander Steen was called for hooking, giving the Sharks a man advantage for the final minute. They did not need the full minute. A few touches, several passes, and Brent Burns shot it in from the blue line for the win. Assists went to Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture.

Patrick Marleau led the Sharks in shots with 5. Tommy Wingels led the team in hits with 8, and Brent Burns had the most ice time among San Jose skaters with 26:07. Burns laso led the team in blocked shots with 4. Antti Niemi made 18 saves on 20 shots. The Sharks’ power play went 1/3 and they took no penalties.

David Backes led the Blues in shots with 4, and blocked the same number. Steve Ott led them in hits with 7. Jay Bouwmeester led the Blues in ice time at 26:03. Barret Jackman led his team in blocked shots with 5. Jake Allen made 27 saves on 30 shots.

The three stars of the game went to Brent Burns, Jake Allen and Andrew Desjardins.

The Sharks’ next game is in Anaheim on Monday against the Ducks at 7:00 PT.