San Jose Sharks podcast with Mary Lisa Walsh: Hitchcock and Oilers changed game plan on Sharks; Sharks host Vancouver Friday

Photo credit: @SanJoseSharks

On the Sharks podcast with Mary Lisa:

#1 How surprised were you that Edmonton Oilers (10-10-1) head coach Todd McLellan was fired before Tuesday night’s game in San Jose?

#2 McLellan served as head coach for the San Jose Sharks (11-7-1) from 2008-2015. What mistakes did he make with the Oilers?

#3 The Oilers called former NHL coach Ken Hitchcock out of retirement at 66 years old. He led the Oilers to an overtime win past the Sharks 4-3.

#4 Sharks’ Joe Thornton tied former Pittsburgh Penguin Mario Lemieux for 11th in all-time goals at 1,033.

# 5 The Sharks host Vancouver Friday night then go on the road for five games. How tough will the road be for the Sharks?

Mary Lisa does the Sharks podcasts at

San Jose Sharks Podcast with Mary Lisa Walsh: Sharks prepare for three-game road trip starting tonight in Edmonton

Photo credit:

On the San Jose Sharks Podcast with Mary Lisa:

1.The Sharks are coming off two wins out of their last four games. The Sharks got a 5-3 win past the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night. What a relief it was as San Jose recently struggled on home ice with losses to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals.

2. The Sharks improved their power play with a power play goal last Thursday against the St. Louis Blues after going 0-30 on their 32nd try they lit the lamp to snap the drought.

3. The Sharks face the Edmonton Oilers, a team they handled without a problem on Tuesday, February 27th, but after the convincing win past ex-coach Todd McLellan and company, the Oilers will be out for revenge on their home ice tonight.

4. The Sharks also have to contend with Connor McDavid, who dominates in Edmonton and leads the Oilers in goals. Will the Sharks’ double team him to slow down his offense?

5. The Sharks conclude their road trip Friday and Saturday with back-to-back nights in Calgary and Vancouver. How do you see these match ups this weekend?

Mary Lisa Walsh is the San Jose Sharks beat writer for


McLellan to Coach Oilers, Babcock Decision Soon

By Mary Walsh

As predicted by many, the Edmonton Oilers named Todd McLellan as their new head coach. McLellan and Oilers general manager Peter Chiarelli spoke in a press conference Tuesday. Of his decision to join the Oilers, McLellan said:

When it came down to it, there’s a number of tremendous opportunities that exist in the National Hockey League right now and there’s a great coaching pool out there. After meeting with Peter and asking him… well, we asked each other some pretty direct questions. I liked the answer and the direction that Peter was taking the conversation and obviously Peter liked my end of it so we took it from there.

A lot of times when you’re a coach and you’re going to join a team, the manager’s been in place for a number of years and he has and idea of the organization. We’re both in it together here brand new. And I think that’s a good thing right now. We get to leave our mark, and we get to formulate an identity without any preconceived notions of individuals or partners on the D or lines anything like that. It’s brand new, everybody gets a fresh start.

With a new general manager and new head coach, the Oilers can look forward to a change of fortune in the coming seasons. In one respect their fortunes have not changed at all, as they are expected to use the first overall draft pick this summer to choose Connor McDavid. McLellan will have a formidable offensive corps to work with, though the team has had some issues on defense.

Another team that has struggled over the past several seasons is the Buffalo Sabres. Reports have them meeting with Mike Babcock to fill their head coach position. Babcock was to talk to the Sharks this week, and the St Louis Blues have also been in play. It is still possible that he will decide to remain with Detroit. Babcock told Pierre LeBrun that he wants to make his decision by Wednesday.

The Sharks have also met with Dan Bylsma, who last served as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Another possibility is Peter DeBoer, who was head coach of the Florida Panthers and the New Jersey Devils. Another name that came up in TSN’s list is Dave Lowry, 2013-14 WHL Coach of the Year. Of his candidacy, he said “it is all rumors.” Read more about that here.

The list of coaching possibilities for the Sharks is no doubt longer than rumors can gauge. In some cases, like Babcock and Bylsma, permission has to be given by the coach’s previous employer to speak to them. In cases where no such permission is needed, it is harder for news to leak out.

It does seem that Wilson may decide on a hire sooner than later. It would be to everyone’s benefit if the new head coach were in place before the draft.

Todd McLellan at Top of Oilers’ List


By Mary Walsh

There is good reason to suppose that Todd McLellan will be the next coach of the Edmonton Oilers. At the end of the season, McLellan stated that his immediate focus would be his job as coach of Team Canada at the World Championships, so it is reasonable to assume he won’t announce a decision before that job is done. He did meet with the Oilers during the tournament, and there have been no reports of in person meetings with any other team.

McLellan has had a chance to work with some of the Oilers (Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle) this month. He has also been coaching some Flyers (Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier) and other players on NHL teams that are looking for new coaches. One could imagine that announcing his choice before the end of the tournament could be a distraction for his players. That would be regrettable, as the team is having a better tournament than they have had in years. Saturday, they defeated the Czech team 2-0 for a spot in the gold medal game Sunday. It was Canada’s first shutout of the Czechs in the world championships since 1958.

Coaching Team Canada has been just the ticket for McLellan. He anticipated a positive experience, and he is having one. He told the Edmonton Sun’s Terry Jones:

When I went through my departure with the Sharks in San Jose it was emotional and it was empty. To come here, it was like getting refreshed again. With a different coaching staff, different people, a different approach, and a different country has been a really good experience.

As for what comes next, back in Aprils McLellan explained what he is looking for in his next head coaching position:

I would like to coach a great group of hockey players next year. And Connor McDavid, everybody is talking about him and his ability to come and have an impact. I’m assuming that the Oilers will pick him number one. But. one thing that I have learned: you can have the best player and still not have the best team. It’s about team, it’s about a group, it’s about the whole organization, the culture of the organization and Connor is going to be a very exciting player to watch, again I’m assuming in Edmonton, and he’ll have an impact on the league for years and years to come. But it’s often bigger, the bigger story is the group as a whole.

Edmonton may not seem like everyone’s idea of an ideal destination, but McLellan might be the coach to turn that around. The Oilers have a lot of forward talent and they have a new arena in the pipeline. Edmonton is also a little closer to California and McLellan’s family is staying in San Jose for the time being. Being a time zone or two closer to home can make a difference.


Also in Prague this weekend, defenseman Brent Burns was named one of Team Canada’s bext three players of the tournament. Claude Giroux and Mike Smith were the other two. Ben Smith has two goals for Team USA in the tournament. Tomas Hertl has been conspicuously absent from the Czech bench, twice listed in the lineup only to not play. He was listed in the lineup for the games against Latvia on May 2nd and on May 14th against Finland, but saw no ice time in either game. In the bronze medal game Sunday, Hertl was not in the lineup.

Playoffs Over For Sharks, World Championships Underway

By Mary Walsh

The dust has settled around the Sharks’ 2014-15 season, Todd McLellan will be choosing another team to coach, Doug Wilson will continue as San Jose general manager. Brent Burns was named a finalist for the NHL Foundation Player Award, for his work with Defending the Blue Line. The Sharks are negotiating an extension with the City of San Jose, so rumors that the team plans to leave town should die down.

The Worcester Sharks played their final game on Friday against the Hershey Bears. The Sharks lost in fairly spectacular fashion, giving up ten goals to the Bears while scoring four. Barclay Goodrow, Nikolay Goldobin, Daniil Tarasov, Brian Lerg and Chris Tierney were all on the playoff roster for Worcester. In the series, Tierney had a goal and two assists, Tarasov had three assists, and Goodrow and Lerg each had one assist. Rookie goaltender Aaron Dell started three of the four games, while Troy Grosenick started one. It was a regrettable final appearance for the Worcester Sharks. Next season, they move to San Jose to play at SAP Center as the San Jose Barracuda.

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner published a statement of confidence in his GM, in which he addressed the fans directly. Plattner also expressed disappointment with the team’s recent failures. The letter came soon after Doug Wilson’s press conference, where he was asked if Plattner would be available to the media. Someone did suggest Plattner might address fans directly, maybe the letter was a response to that. In any case, Plattner continues to have little interest in discussing his decisions with the press.

Offseason changes that Sharks fans can expect will probably include a new starting goaltender. That Niemi was not resigned before the end of the season is strong evidence of that. Hardly any Sharks veteran gets this close to free agency and returns to the team.

In the choice of a new coach, Wilson has said that he will take the time he needs. It is odd that he did not even suggest he would like a new coach before the draft. He might not necessarily need his head coach’s input for drafting prospects. What one would expect the coach to participate in would be trade activity that happens around the draft. Perhaps Wilson has no intention of making any trades for players. Some might consider that an ill omen for next season.

Todd McLellan is currently in the Czech Republic coaching Team Canada at the world championships, with Brent Burns on his roster. For those wondering, Burns is listed as a defenseman for Canada. Canada has played two games so far, winning 6-1 against Latvia and 10-0 against Germany. Burns had an assist in the game against Latvia, and against Germany.

Tomas Hertl and Ben Smith are there too, playing for the Czech Republic and the USA respectively. The Czechs lost 6-5 to Sweden and defeated Latvia 4-2. Hertl had a goal in the game against Sweden.  The USA has won their two games, beating Finland 5-1 and Norway 2-1.

Sharks prospect Nikita Jevpalov was named to the roster for Latvia. Poor Latvia has not won yet, losing to the Czechs and the Canadians as listed above. Jevpalov has not played yet.

Sharks and McLellan Agree to Part Ways

By Mary Walsh

After seven season, the San Jose Sharks announced that they were parting ways with head coach Todd McLellan. From Monday’s press release:

The San Jose Sharks and Todd McLellan have mutually agreed to part ways.

In related moves, Assistant Coaches Jim Johnson and Jay Woodcroft, and Video Coordinator Brett Heimlich have been relieved of their duties. Associate Coach Larry Robinson moved into his full-time role of director of player development at the conclusion of the 2014-15 regular season.

‘I want to thank Todd and his staff for their years of service to the San Jose Sharks organization,” said Wilson. “Sometimes a change is best for all parties involved but nothing will take away from what Todd and his staff ccomplished here over the last seven seasons.’

It seemed like time for Todd McLellan to move on last summer, so it is hardly surprising that he is doing so now. It is equally understandable that the Sharks did not ask him to go last season. The Sharks have the more difficult work ahead: finding a new coach will be harder than finding a new situation for McLellan. His options are probably not limited to those teams that have already fired their coaches likeToronto, Philadelphia or Buffalo. Several teams might consider firing their current coach if they can convince McLellan to join them.

In a conference call Monday morning, McLellan was asked if he has given thought to where he will go next:

Today is an emotional day, as I mentioned, with family, and my mind is in a lot of different places right now. I think finishing off what was happening here in San Jose, and getting ready for a new adventure is something I’ll be looking forward to. I don’t know what will happen over the next week but I do know Friday my son and I are getting on a plane … and Jay Woodcroft I should include in that, are going to get on a plane and we’re going over to Europe to make a real strong committment to Team Canada and its effort over there. I look forward to meeting new players, new people, new staff. I think it’s exciting and a little bit refreshing or invigorating for me to be doing that now. Where I go from here, I guess I somewhat control but there’s other people out there that have to make decisions. I’m comfortable with my career as a coach so far, I don’t have any regrets here in San Jose and I feel good moving forward.

Was this really a mutual parting of the ways? Did the Sharks ask McLellan to leave? “I participated in the decision, I definitely did.” He continued:

The hardest part for me was the players and the staff, because they’re like family members, and then at home, my family. At the end of the year I mentioned that I have to come home and discuss it with my family, get my family together. When we sat down it wasn’t about loading up the moving truck and leaving. We like San Jose, we’re passionate about the community, we have a lot of good friends here. My youngest son is deeply entrenched in his high school and is involved in a number of programs there. So our discussion was can we do this being apart from each other, not packing the moving van but can we be apart. That was a huge priority for me. So my wife and two boys sat down and we really talked about it and we made a decision that we thought we could do this.

McLellan was asked by various reporters about his next destination. I thought that the most telling answer was to Edmonton’s Jim Matheson. Matheson asked if he would like to coach Connor McDavid:

I would like to coach a great group of hockey players next year. And Connor McDavid, everybody is talking about him and his ability to come and have an impact. I’m assuming that the Oilers will pick him number one. But. one thing that I have learned: you can have the best player and still not have the best team. It’s about team, it’s about a group, it’s about the whole organization, the culture of the organization and Connor is going to be a very exciting player to watch, again I’m assuming in Edmonton, and he’ll have an impact on the league for years and years to come. But it’s often bigger, the bigger story is the group as a whole.

Sharks Start Strong Again, Win 3-2 in Philly

By Mary Walsh

The San Jose Sharks lost two defensemen and had to go to a shootout after outshooting the Philadelphia Flyers 44-18, but they won 3-2. The shootout winner was scored by Brent Burns. Matt Irwin and Joe Pavelski scored the regulation goals for the Sharks, while Michael Raffl and Claude Giroux scored for the Flyers. Goaltender Al Stalock made 16 saves on 18 shots from the win, while Steve Mason made 42 saves on 44 shots for the Flyers.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic sustained a lower body injury during the first period and is not expected to play in Pittsburgh. Scott Hannan was also injured later in the game and is also likely to be out Sunday. Of finishing the game after so many injuries, head coach Todd McLellan said:

When you get to four, it’s pretty easy, you just keep saying “next.” You know, at five, which happened fairly early in the game, I thought our D did a really good job and our forwards protected them. We played enough in the offensive zone to not have them too taxed in our end. Where we ran into trouble is a little bit on the penalty kill against a very good power play but we managed the game well once they got hurt.

As they did in Detroit on Thursday, the Sharks had a very strong first period in Philadelphia. On those good starts, Joe Pavelski said:

We had a good practice the other night in Detroit. The same thing happened, we were pretty good all night, we weren’t really … it wasn’t that taxing of a game I don’t think in our own end and I think that probably helped a little bit.

The Flyers took an early penalty that let the Sharks warm up with a power play, but it was not until that power play had expired that Matt Irwin put the Sharks on the board. Jakub Voracek made an ill-advised clearing attempt up the middle, which Irwin caught and threw right back at the net. Assists went to Chris Tierney and Tommy Wingels.

The lead only lasted a couple of minutes. The Sharks had spent a long shift in their own zone when they finally cleared the puck. Unfortunately, Flyers’ Nicklas Grossmann brought it back in more quickly than expected. The tired Sharks defenders could not stop a shot from the blue line that hit a couple of players on the way in. The goal went to Michael Raffl, with assists going to Grossmann and Voracek.

Grossmann went to the box at 15:06 for holding. The Sharks power play held the zone pretty well, and the Flyers had to thwart several shots from the blue line. With 21 seconds left on the power play, Joe Pavelski threw the puck at Steve Mason from behind the goal line. The puck went under Mason and then trickled into the net. The referee blew the whistle early, and a review in Toronto deemed the whistle to be “irrelevant to continuous play.” No one had touched Mason and he did not seem to realize the puck was underneath him. Assists went to Logan Couture and Brent Burns.

During the first period, the Sharks lost Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who was deemed questionable to return at the start of the second period. At the end of the first period, the shots were 15-7 Sharks. By the middle of the second period, the Sharks had added five shots to their tally, while the Flyers had added one.

The Flyers got their first power play at 9:45 of the second, when Matt Nieto went to the box for interference. The Flyers had one shot during the power play, and Logan Couture ate up some time with a short-handed breakaway in the second half of the power play. Mason stopped the back-hander without much trouble but the Sharks got an offensive zone faceoff out of that.

With six minutes left in the second, Philadelphia’s Ryan White hit Tommy Wingels from behind and a little high. Wingels was slow to get up and White went to the box for boarding. The Flyers again handled hard shots from the blue line, and made plays near the net very difficult for the Sharks. The Sharks did manage three shots but they could not extend their one goal lead.

The second period ended with the Sharks leading in shots 22-12 and in faceoffs 26-20.

The Flyers mustered some good offensive pressure to start the third period, but despite a couple of close calls they were still being outshot 2-1 in the first five minutes.

Scott Hannan went to the box at 7:00 for hooking. The Flyers started their power play with a couple of chances at an open net when Stalock was caught out of the blue paint. They missed and it looked like the Sharks’ penalty killers had dodged a bullet. When the Flyers next attacked, Claude Giroux tied the game. He caught a cross-ice pass from Voracek and beat Stalock from the faceoff circle. Ryan White and Brayden Schenn were both screening Stalock and it is surprising that the puck did not touch either of them. Assists went to Voracek and Michael Del Zotto.

A scrum stopped the action with 7:23 left, after Nick Cousins hit Scott Hannan, sending the Sharks defenseman into the boards. Cousins’ hit seemed to catch Hannan’s arm from behind, so that Hannan could not protect himself as he might have. He went face-first into the glass. Hannan left the game and Oliver Lauridsen went to the box. The penalty was a result of the scrum, not the hit. Lauridsen then went to the dressing room, as did John Scott, both with ten minute misconducts.

At 15:43, Joe Thornton was called for tripping Jakub Voracek. The hit could have been called kneeing, as the players connected knee to knee when Voracek skated past Thornton at the Flyers’ blue line. Though they were missing Thornton and two defensemen now, the Sharks killed the penalty off.

Each team had good chances in the final minute. The Flyers’ Voracek gave the Sharks a scare when he skated into the zone and evaded three defending Sharks. At the last moment, Matt Irwin knocked the puck away from him and sent it to Matt Nieto, who took it the other way. Chris Tierney and Nieto gave the Flyers some grief that ended with Justin Braun getting a shot that just went wide of the net. With that, regulation time expired.

The Sharks started overtime well, with a lot of offensive zone time for defensemen. Braun, Dillon and Irwin all spent some time below the faceoff circle, supporting the forwards. It was in the Sharks’ zone, however, that Matt Irwin took a hit from Brayden Schenn and put the Sharks on the power play. The power play looked very good, and the Flyers had a tough time trying to clear the puck. At one point, Brent Burns seemed to be everywhere on the blue line, keeping a couple of pucks in that looked bound to get out. The Flyers did finally get the puck out just past the minute mark of the power play, but the Sharks were back in quickly. The Flyers had to work very hard for that kill but they got it.

The Sharks had a couple more chances and near misses but time expired before anyone could score.

Jakub Voracek shot first for the Flyers and scored with a late shot from almost at the goal line. Logan Couture shot next but hit the post.

Claude Giroux shot second for the Flyers but Stalock caught his slapshot. Joe Pavelksi shot next but his shot went off of Mason’s skate.

Matt Read tried some misdirection followed by a shot through the five hole but Stalock was not fooled. Melker Karlsson followed with some stick handling and a shot to the top right corner. He tied it up.

Sean Couturier shot next but Stalock stopped his backhand shot. Patrick Marleau shot low but Mason stopped him.

Vincent LeCavalier lost the puck before getting a shot off. Brent Burns went next for the Sharks. Skating in at a moderate pace, he faked to the right then shot backhand into the top left corner for the win.

The Sharks led the game in faceoff wins 38-35. Joe Pavelski led the Sharks with seven shots, and Logan Couture came in second with six. John Scott and Tomas Hertl led with three hits each. Brent Burns led with four blocked shots. Burns also led the Sharks in ice time with 27:33.

Claude Giroux led the Flyers with three shots. Zac Rinaldo led his team with eight hits. Nick Schultz and Chris Vandevelde led their team with four blocked shots each. Michael Del Zotto led the Flyers in ice time with 30:18.

The Sharks next play at 4:30 PT on Sunday against the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

Sharks Lose to Kings, Hockey Wins at Levi’s Stadium

By Mary Walsh

SANTA CLARA– The San Jose Sharks were defeated by the Los Angeles Kings 2-1 in the NHL’s 2015 Stadium Series game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, CA. The Sharks’ Joe Pavelski summarized his team’s disappointment over the loss: “You want to push towards that second season and right now we’re not there. There’s nothing given to us and we gotta go earn it.”

While the game was very important for the standings points, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan was not disappointed with his team:

We were disappointed in the outcome. I’m not disappointed in the effort and what our group put into the game. We would have preferred to win. It was a hard-fought game by two good teams that played a pretty even match. So the outcome is very disappointing, but everything else we’re proud of. I think our city and Northern California has to be extremely proud. You take Mr. Gund 25 years ago had a vision of bringing a team here, and brought it here, and a quarter century later we’re playing an outdoor game with 72,000 people in a brand-new football stadium. Who would have ever thought that could happen?

“We’re still not even close to being secure in a playoff spot, we have a lot of work left to do.” That was Drew Doughty after the game, but it would have been a true statement from a player on either team in Saturday night’s game. This is what made the game so important to both teams– the race for a playoff spot in the west will be a dog fight for the rest of the season. Calgary and Vancouver are crowding the top of the Pacific Division behind the Ducks. The wild card slots are over subscribed with Winnipeg and now Minnesota pressing. No contending team is secure or is likely to be until the last buzzer goes.

If the Los Angeles Kings wanted to ruin the Sharks’ big party in Santa Clara, they made a good start of it. Just 2:46 into the first period, a Jake Muzzin shot from the blue line went by Niemi on the short side. It was tipped by Kyle Clifford and it was deflating for the 709,000 plus stadium crowd.

Near the seven minute mark, the Kings drew a penalty from Brenden Dillon for holding. The call was delayed and the Kings took advantage of the extra time to make the Sharks look harried. It took the Sharks several seconds to finally touch the puck and get a whistle. The Sharks’ had a tv break to regain their composure and their penalty kill came out looking more settled. They evicted the Kings from the zone several times before the power play ended.

The Sharks had less success at five on five and by 13:30 of the first, the Sharks were trapped in their own end and counting on Niemi and luck to keep the puck out of their net. The shot clock read 9-3 Los Angeles.

Near the sixteen minute mark, John Scott corralled the puck and carried it through the neutral zone where he, Joe Thornton and Melker Karlsson made things interesting for Jonathan Quick. It was the crowd’s first reason to cheer in a while.

They had another chance with just over a minute left. the sharks had been creeping back on the shot clock when, right off an offensive zone draw, Brent Burns took the puck, skated a little and shot it from the half-boards to tie the game. The assist went to Tommy Wingels.

By the end of the first, the Kings were still leading in shots but just barely. The Sharks had pushed all the way back to 12-10, holding the Kings to just three shots in the last seven minutes of the period.

The Sharks started the second period where they left off in the first. They caught and passed the Kings in shots, though both teams were hanging back a little, keeping extra bodies by the blue lines to compensate for some pretty rough ice. Even from the press booth (way up high) you could see how not smooth the zamboni left the ice during intermission. There were no puddles but the puck’s trajectory vaguely resembled that of a bumble bee.

At 7:24, Robyn Regehr went to the box for hooking, giving the Sharks their first power play of the night. The Kings could not get the puck out for more than a minute, but aside from an early sequence featuring exceptional saves by Quick, the power play generated nothing concrete.

The Kings had another power play at 13:06 of the second, when Matt Irwin went to the box for hooking Kyle Clifford in front of the San Jose net. The kings held the zone for over a minute too, and one shot by Jamie McBain from the blue line looked pretty dangerous but beyond that the Sharks handled the Kings’ power play well.

The Sharks had their second chance on the power play soon after, when Jake Muzzin went to the box for delay of game after sending the puck over the glass. This Sharks power play was less sharp. The Kings sent them out, chasing the puck into their own zone, then Quick’s net came off its moorings and the power play minutes were eaten up fruitlessly. A few too many passes were attempted in hostile conditions. The only things that seemed to get through were some hard blasts from the slot.

By the end of the period, the Sharks were ahead in shots 25-18 but the game was still tied at one.

The Kings came out strong in the third, with an early shot going through Niemi but just wide. That may have given the Sharks a scare because they did push the game the other way in the minutes after that. But it was the Kings who scored next.

Marion Gaborik used a hard shot from the slot to beat Niemi. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was trying to come across to stop him but at least two Sharks were caught flat-footed and watched Gaborik go by. Jeff Carter got an assist on the goal.

At the midpoint of the third, Joe Thornton drew a tripping penalty from Dustin Brown. The teams were tied at 26 shots each, and neither team had scored on the power play. The Sharks’ third power play was their least effective of the game. They tried too many passes and took too few shots.

The Sharks were unable to tie the game up again and the final score was 2-1 Kings. The Sharks won 33 faceoffs to the Kings’ 31. The Sharks had three power plays to the Kings two, both teams had perfect penalty kills. The hits were 45-49 Sharks, the shots blocked 18-14 Kings. The biggest imbalance in the game was in giveaways (18-7 Sharks) and takeaways (13-5 Sharks), though those stats really should balance each other out. Perhaps not, in a game that requires more simplification than anything else.

The Sharks’ lines looked a little different on Saturday, with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau reunited on a line, with Melker Karlsson as the third member. Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture and Tommy Wingels formed the other half of the top six. Tomas Hertl, James Sheppard and Matt Nieto formed the third line, and John Scott, Tyler Kennedy and Andrew Desjardins forming the fourth line.

Tommy Wingels led the Sharks in hits with 11, while six Sharks had four each. Brent Burns led the team in shots with six. Antti Niemi made 27 saves on 29 shots faced.

Drew Doughty led the Kings in shots, Trevor Lewis led the team in hits with six. Jonathan Quick made 31 saves on 32 shots for the win.

The Sharks next play on Thursday at SAP Center against the Detroit Red Wings.

2015 NHL Stadium Series: This Will Be a Big Game

By Mary Walsh

Saturday’s NHL Stadium Series game will be more than a spectacle, it will be an important game in terms of playoff standings. As of Wednesday night, the Kings, who were on the verge of being written out of the playoffs, have supplanted the fast-falling Sharks for the last wild card spot. The Sharks have one more game to play before Saturday, but it is clear that these teams both need a win Saturday.

Make no mistake, the first outdoor NHL game to be played in Northern California will be a unique spectacle. Performances from Melissa Etheridge, John Fogerty, Kris Allen and Symphony Silicon Valley are scheduled for the pregame show and intermissions.  Those performances will include a special cell phone show that will rely on audience participation. The NHL described it as follows:

During the pre-game show and intermission, fans will be asked to use their mobile device to activate a special section of the Levi’s® Stadium App that will connect everyone’s phone. Once connected, the phones will blanket the stadium with a  synchronized, multi-colored visualization of the live musical entertainment on the field. During the first intermission, there will be a special laser light show accompanying Fogerty’s performance.

The pregame show will feature a tribute to California hockey and former Sharks players. The tribute will include over 100 youth hockey players from the Bay Area. The former Sharks expected at the celebration are: Jamie Baker, Murray Craven, Jeff Friesen, Igor Larionov, Rick Lessard, David Maley, Bryan Marchment, Kyle McLaren, Owen Nolan, Tom Pederson, Mike Rathje, Mike Ricci, Steve Shields, Mark Smith, Marco Sturm and Scott Thornton. Additionally, the NHL press release noted that the Sharks are forming their first formal alumni association for their 25th season next year.

The NHL recently announced that tickets to the Levi’s Stadium game are sold out. Of course, tickets are probably still available through resale. Last season, the NHL scheduled six outdoor games, including the Winter Classic in Michigan, and two games in New York. Without saying that six was too many, the NHL scheduled just this one outdoor game and the Winter Classic this season. They have already announced two stadium games and a Winter Classic next season, so perhaps the NHL is experimenting with how many games the market can stand.

The game at Levi’s Stadium will not present the challenges that the Winter Classic in Michigan did. There will be no blinding blizzard, no strong winds to tilt the ice. There may be ice problems if it is too humid, and it will probably be warmer than players are used to working in. Glare has been a problem for some fair weather games but since this will be an evening event, it should be a good showcase for how hockey can work, indoors and out, in warmer climates.

It is a local but unfamiliar setting for the Sharks. The Kings played Anaheim last season in their outdoor game, the Sharks have not done it before. To call it a home game for the Sharks seems a little bit unfair. Odd games like this one, and strong competition like the Kings is exactly why those bad losses to not very strong teams hurt so much earlier in the season. Those games were bound to come back to bite the Sharks, and here they are.

As the Sharks plummet out of the Pacific Division top three, the Kings are making a late climb in the standings. Such behavior is not uncommon for Los Angeles, it has almost become a habit for them to claw their way into the playoffs and then go on a deep run. With two games in hand on the Sharks, a win on Wednesday put the Kings in the Sharks’ wild card position and bump the Sharks out.

The Kings are 6-4-0 in their last ten games and as of Wednesday night are on a six game winning streak. The Kings’ leading goal scorer is Tyler Toffoli (19g), with their points leader Jeff Carter (18g, 45p) right behind him. But they are pretty evenly balanced as Marion Gaborik, Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams are tightly packed in the goal-scoring count. The Kings have not been their formidable defensive selves this season and are ranked 10th in the league in goals against. The Sharks, on the other hand, are down at 23rd in that category.

The Sharks are 3-5-2 in their last ten games and, going into Thursday’s game against Dallas, have lost their last two. The onus really is on the Sharks to pull their game together. Joe Pavelski leads the team in points and goals, and here the gap between best and next best is a little greater than with the Kings. Pavelski has 31 goals, while Logan Couture is second with 21. On the plus side, the Sharks points leaders have better numbers than their Los Angeles counterparts, with Pavelski at 53, Couture and Joe Thornton both at 51. Yes, the Sharks can score, the question remains: can they remember how to defend?

In goal, the Kings’ Jonathan Quick has been raising his game with his team. He made 44 saves in Denver Wednesday. One has to wonder about the Sharks’ Antti Niemi. When the Sharks went down 3-1, in Nashville, one would have expected head coach Todd McLellan to replace his goaltender with Niemi, no matter whose fault the goals were. Changing goalie is a classic way to shake a team up. Instead, Stalock finished the 5-1 loss. Niemi’s last game was Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Tampa Bay. In short, neither San Jose goaltender is on a roll right now.

The Kings will be coming off a two day layoff, after a dominant win over the struggling Colorado Avalanche. The Sharks lost Tuesday to the top-ranked team in the NHL. What they do in Dallas could give us a clue to their state of mind, but as we have seen, the Sharks are unpredictable.

With some of their best players returned to the lineup (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun and Tommy Wingels have all made their way back from injury), the Sharks are clean out of excuses, real or imaginary. San Jose has reached a new level of inconsistency this season. Their good games have been really good, while their bad games have been shocking. Is it time for a new coach? Are they just not good enough? Are those wins against top teams just their opponents playing down to them, as they do to weaker teams? Have they just found a new level of underperforming?

Sharks Struck Down By Lightning

By Mary Walsh

SAN JOSE– The San Jose Sharks lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday, by a score of 5-2. The loss was badly timed, right in the middle of a tight divisional race . But as losses go this season, it was not one of the Sharks’ worst. Brent Burns and Logan Couture scored the Sharks’ two goals. The game winner was scored by Tampa Bay’ Ondrej Palat, a back breaker of a goal only ten seconds into the third period. Antti Niemi made 28 saves on 32 shots for the Sharks while Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop made 33 saves on 35 shots for the win.

Tampa Bay came into San Jose ranked second in the Atlantic Division, with Detroit just two points behind them with a couple of games in hand. The Sharks were second in the Pacific Division, with Vancouver just one point behind with a couple of games in hand. It was a game that was set up to be close and in some ways it was, but not on the score sheet.

Logan Couture expressed how frustrating losses like this are for the Sharks:

The mistakes we’re making are things that we work on, things that we do in practice, things that we watch on video. I mean nobody’s going to be perfect in a hockey game but when you’re constantly making the same mistakes every single night that’s when you need to take a look in the mirror, you know, wonder what you’re bringing, if you’re mentally prepared every night, if you know what you’re supposed to do.

Todd McLellan had a more layered assessment of the team’s performance:

We thought we did some good things tonight, but not enough of them. That’s probably what Cooch is talking about. There were moments where details got away from us and you don’t beat first place teams like that. You have to be alert all the time. A couple of the goals were, in particular the third one, a bounce off skates but we win a draw and seven seconds later it’s in the net. That’s a tough pill to swallow.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic was back in the lineup. That good news merited a front page mention in the game preview at After the game, the media spoke with both Vlasic and Burns, but neither had such harsh words as Couture shared with us.

Vlasic saw some positives in the Sharks’ game, while acknowledging that they cannot give up five goals and expect a win: “Even in the third we had some good looks too. The first two periods were really good, it’s too bad we didn’t come out with the lead.”

Burns said: “It’s the game of hockey. There’s mistakes on every goal. I think we played pretty hard. I think it’s going to happen, it’s a game of mistakes.”

The Sharks were not very sharp to start the game. It showed in little bounces, just-missed passes, a sign that their timing and focus was off by just enough to thwart clean zone entries or exits. Plagued as they were by such miscues, it was like a boon when Joe Pavelski finally caught a puck in his skates at the Tampa Bay blue line. Instead of getting a scoring chance, he was hauled away from the puck and Ryan Callahan went to the box for hooking.

The Sharks power play was as frustrating as their even strength play. One shot seemed to rim around the net opening, as if touching all three bars before bouncing back out. The Sharks did not look like a team that was not trying. If anything, they looked like a team trying too hard and playing tense.

Past the half way mark of the period, this puck luck seemed to change. The change was signaled when Joe Thornton won an offensive zone faceoff, then made a clean pass across the ice, though his stick was outstretched in one hand. It looked so awkward but was so precise. Sharks passes started connecting, they started intercepting Tampa Bay passes and getting a little lucky with bounces.

None of this resulted in a goal for the Sharks. On the contrary, Steven Stamkos scored at 19:44 of the period to give the Lightning the lead. During a delayed penalty, his shot deflected off of Tommy Wingels’ stick. Assists went to Anton Stralman and Valtteri Filppula. By the end of the first, the teams were almost tied on the shot clock with the count 12-11 Sharks.

At 7:12 of the second, another fit of failure to control the puck left the Sharks trapped in their own zone. Marleau, Couture and Nieto, with Hannan and Dillon, could not clear the puck and Tampa Bay made them pay. The goal was scored by Andrew Killorn from the slot, where he had a moment to pick a corner and beat Niemi. Assists went to Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman.

The forward line of Chris Tierney, Tommy Wingels and Tomas Hertl came out after the goal and had a couple of good shots but could not score. A couple of line changes later, the Couture line came out and cut the lead in half. From below the goal line, Matt Nieto found Couture high in the slot and wide open.

At 10:57 Patrick Marleau went to the box for delay of game. The Sharks penalty kill was so effective that one could only complain that they could not get a good short-handed rush going.

The Sharks held their own for the rest of the period and in the last minute they hurled the puck at the net at least half a dozen times in a row but could not make any more progress on the scoreboard.

The third period started less well. Right off the faceoff, Tampa Bay pushed into the Sharks’ zone and made a beeline for the net. Ondrej Palat added to the Lightning lead only ten seconds into the period.

To their credit, the Sharks went the other way after the next faceoff and spent a good long shift attacking the Tampa Bay net. It took the Lightning over a minute to get back in the Sharks zone.

Melker Karlsson drew an interference penalty, being sent head first into his own net at by Jonathan Drouin at 3:36. The Sharks power play was not as formidable as their penalty kill had been and it ended without a San Jose shot on goal.

They had another chance on the power play at 10:26, a high-sticking call on Nikita Kucherov. The Sharks’ third power play started better than their second. They held the zone nicely, were just ejected the one time by a tired crew of penalty killers. On their second tour in the offensive zone, the Sharks looked almost trapped along the left wall with three of them playing catch around Lightning defenders. Finally, Patrick Marleau shot the puck hard at the net and found the stick of Brent Burns for a deflection. The Sharks were back within one.

It did not last long. Cedric Paquette and Valtteri Filppula outmaneuvered the Sharks at their blue line and Paquette took a quick shot from the top of the circle. The puck went over Niemi’s shoulder and in to give the Lightning their two goal lead back.

McLellan pulled Niemi for an extra skater almost immediately, with over three minutes left in the game. It did not take long for Callahan to take advantage of that and give the Lightning a three goal lead. The Sharks spent the rest of the period mostly in their own zone. A brief scuffle in front of the net sent Jonathan Drouin and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to the box for roughing at 19:19.

Brent Burns led the Sharks in shots with seven (though Marleau was right behind him with six.) Tommy Wingels led the team in hits with six.

The Sharks play their next game on the road in Nashville against the league-leading Nashville Predators on Tuesday. Their next home game will be a home game in name only, as it will be played Saturday at Levi’s Stadium.