Game 4 notes: Power play has found its groove


Game 4 notes: Power play has found its groove


Maybe their overall power-play numbers dont leave you warm and tingly all over -- not when youve got the Tampa Bay Lightning humming along at 24 percent -- but if you peek a bit closer at what the Sharks are doing to the Vancouver Canucks, you realize theyve had a decided power-play edge so far.

Todd McLellans power play has scorched the Canucks for six goals in 13 chances through three games.

Thats an amazing 46.1 percent efficiency and it includes a 5-for-5 run that ended late in the opening period of Game 3, which the Sharks won, 4-3.

Its funny, said Dan Boyle, whos on the first-unit PP. Two series ago, it was how bad we were. And we were. We just didnt have it that first series against Los Angeles. Now, so far, weve got going and its the same guys. We havent changed anything. Were executing, were finding ways. Were just being opportunistic. At the end of the day, youve got to score the goal. Were finding ways to put the puck into the net.

The Sharks were 3-for-10 with the man advantage in Game 3.

You get streaky, individuals get hot, Boyle said. Power plays get hot. And power plays get cold. Right now, were just finding ways. Were on a hot streak right now and weve got to take it and run with it.

Ryane Clowe, Patrick Marleau and Devin Setoguchi each have three power play goals in the playoffs.

In this series, Marleau has three power play goals.

RATTO: McLellan keeping doom in the air

Things are going your way and its definitely a game of inches, Marleau said. You just put in the work, keep going to the same areas, the hard areas and good things happen.

Snarling Joe Thornton?: Joe Thornton might be a lot of things to a lot of people. But intense? Snarly? You dont hear that very often from players when talking about Thornton.

Lets be real. He sometimes comes off as Joe the surfer dude in his t-shirt, blue jeans, and white sneakers.

Thornton leads all scorers in the playoffs with 17 points (three goals, 14 assists) and has been an impact player for the Sharks, while trying to eradicate a lot of past playoff failures both here and in Boston.

However, his buddy, Clowe, says that Thornton is a lot more intense than the public realizes when the puck drops.

Hes very competitive, Clowe said. He always has a snarl. You guys dont always see it. Hes a competitive guy, hes intense. He might not seem that way in all the interviews because hes pretty mellow.

Apparently, little things mean a lot to Thornton.

The little things that tick Joe off is if you dont open the gate quick enough on the bench or if the goalie is in the way when he tries to sit down on the bench, Clowe said.

Hes got funny ways that get him riled up. During the game, he is so fired up. A couple of years ago in Detroit, he got mad at me because I wasnt opening the gate quick enough. He tells me Im too slow on the gate. I told him, hes big enough to jump over the boards.

Tough skate: Most coaches take every opportunity to give players rest between games when the next game is an early afternoon start, such as Sundays noon start here.

Yet, McLellan took his players on the ice for a pretty brisk, maybe even intense skate, which we might add, the Sharks often do when they play a noon game.

The purpose was to reinforce among his players the hard skate work ethic McLellan believes has to carry over into Game 4 if the Sharks are to tie this series.

I thought it was important for our hockey club to skate today, McLellan said. We felt it was important to get back on the ice before the noon start just to feel it again, get our legs moving, feel the puck a little bit.

It wasn't an overly extensive practice. There wasn't a lot of exertion. We brought all of our black aces, if you want to call them that, on the ice, so the reps were down. It was more a cleaning-out process, resetting the mental part of the game again.

Canucks reaction: So Jamie McGinn avoided a suspension for his boarding hit that knocked defenseman Aaron Rome out of the series in Game 3.

Fellow defenseman Christian Ehrhoff, another victim of a McGinn hit earlier that game, is also out. But it was the Rome hit (suspected concussion) that was reviewed by the NHL on Saturday.

PANACCIO: Sharks need to stay physical in Game 4
Kevin Bieksa, himself no stranger to tough hits come this time of year, was asked whether a suspension to McGinn was in order.

I don't know, Bieksa replied. Obviously, my opinion doesn't matter a whole lot. You just look at the injury that happened from the play, and obviously Aaron was pretty banged up after that hit. The league did what they felt they had to do, I guess. There's your boring answer.

Vancouver is expected to replace Rome and Ehrhoff with Keith Ballard and Andrew Alberts for Game 4.

Both those players are coming in cold and that could present a communication problem behind the Canucks net for goalie Roberto Luongo, in terms of calling off guys on pucks coming into the back end, not to mention handoffs between himself and his d-men under pressure when the Sharks are forechecking.

Communication is always important, Luongo said. Also, it's going to be important for them to make sure they look at the video and see what the Sharks like to do when they have the puck behind the net, the plays they like to make.

We have to make sure we're on the same page of what we're giving up and what I'm expecting.

Tim Panaccio covers thePhiladelphia Flyers for and let him know what you think! Follow Tim @tpanotch.

Rewind: 'Elite' Martin Jones outplays Price in Sharks' win over Habs

Rewind: 'Elite' Martin Jones outplays Price in Sharks' win over Habs

SAN JOSE – The challenge for Martin Jones headed into 2016-17 was to repeat the kind of campaign he had in his first season as an NHL number one, when he helped the Sharks reach their first-ever Stanley Cup Final.

Having a strong season is one thing. Becoming a franchise goaltender is an entirely different animal. The Canadiens have one, of course, in Carey Price, viewed unanimously as the NHL’s best. 

Jones has some work ahead if he wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Price. But his latest performance – a 31-save effort against Montreal in which he slightly outplayed the former Hart Trophy winner at the other end in a 2-1 Sharks win – capped off a remarkable stretch for Jones, who is perhaps the team’s MVP as they sit in first place in the Pacific Division in the first week of December.

In his last 11 games, Jones is now 8-2-1 with a 1.46 goals-against average and .945 save percentage. His GAA for the season was lowered to a miniscule 1.99.

“We’ve got an elite goalie here,” Burns said. “We’re lucky to have Jonesy. He’s great to play in front of. He’s right up there to be the best goalie in the league. Every night he shows it.”

Dillon said: “He's just continuing to prove that he's an elite-level guy. For us, as defensemen, it's nice when he's back there. But at the same time, we want to do our best to eliminate as much as we can and help him out.”

Dillon, Burns, and the rest of the Sharks defense corps did a nice job against the Canadiens, who still lead the NHL standings even after the loss. But the Sharks wouldn’t have won this one without Jones, who made a number of stellar stops.

His best came in the first period with the Sharks enjoying a 1-0 lead, when Jones robbed Alex Galchenyuk after a sneaky pass from Paul Byron gave Galchenyuk all kinds of net to shoot at. Jones slid across and snatched it, freezing play. 

"I think at that point I was just kind of reacting to the play,” Jones said. “You're not going to see me pull that out too, too often. Just tried to get over and bring as much of my body as I could."

Later in the first, Jones stopped Brian Flynn on a breakaway with 2:53 to go. In the second period he again flashed the leather, this time on Max Pacioretty on a two-on-one with 14:53 remaining in the middle frame. Seconds later, it was his left lad that prevented Brenden Gallagher from cutting into the Sharks’ 2-0 lead, when Gallagher found himself alone in front of the net with the puck on his stick.

Facing Price, Jones knew he would have to be on top of his game. According to assistant coach Steve Spott, filling in for Pete DeBoer, that challenge gave Jones a boost.

“I think when he looked down 200 feet away and saw Carey Price – what a great challenge for Marty, and he was outstanding tonight, as was Price for them. That's as good a goalie duo as I've seen in a long time.”

Dillon said: “He just continues to rise to the occasion.”

The goals came from likely sources. Burns, firing the puck from all over the ice in the first, capitalized on a power play with a slapper from the top of the circle. Joe Pavelski finished off a rush with Joe Thornton in the final minute of the opening frame.

Thanks to Jones, that lead was maintained until late, before Logan Couture’s double-minor for high sticking Alexander Radulov left the Sharks shorthanded. They killed off the first two minutes without even allowing a shot on goal, but Montreal got on the board with a turn-around wrister by Artturi Lehkonen with 1:17 left and Price pulled for an extra attacker.

That spoiled the shutout for Jones, but not the night for the Sharks, who killed the rest of the clock and will now get some down time after 10 games in just 18 days. They don’t play again until Wednesday at home against Ottawa.

“Obviously it’s nice when you’ve got a little break to have that game going into it than something else,” Pavelski said.

Whether it’s a good time to take a break is up for debate, as the Sharks are playing their best hockey of the season, winning six of their last seven.

"You look at it 50/50,” Dillon said. “We're a confident group right now and I don't think come Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, we're going to be looking at it any differently. 

“We're going to take the positives out of [the time off], and try to keep this thing rolling.”

If Jones stays on the run he’s on, there’s a very good chance they will.

Washington waxes Colorado in Pac-12 championship game


Washington waxes Colorado in Pac-12 championship game


SANTA CLARA -- Taylor Rapp returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown and Myles Gaskin ran for 159 yards to help No. 4 Washington strengthen its case for a playoff berth with a 41-10 victory over No. 9 Colorado in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night.

The Huskies (12-1, No. 4 CFP) broke open a close game when Rapp intercepted Sefo Liufau's passes on the first two drives of the second half for a touchdown and to set up a field goal that made it 24-7.

Washington rolled from there to its first conference title since 2000 with a performance likely to keep the Huskies in the top four when the College Football Playoff bids are handed out Sunday.

It was a rough day for Colorado (10-3, No. 8 CFP) and Liufau, who was knocked out of the game after injuring his right leg on a sack on the Buffaloes' first drive of the game. He returned to start the second half and threw three interceptions, including one on the first play from scrimmage that Rapp returned 35 yards for a score.

Liufau threw another interception on the ensuing drive and Colorado could never recover. Even a circus kick return in the third quarter couldn't help the Buffaloes. Anthony Julmisse returned a kick to near midfield and fumbled. Phillip Lindsay scooped up and ran down to the 2 but Colorado was held to a field goal.


Colorado: From the opening kickoff that went out of bounds, little went right for the Buffaloes, who were unable to cap an impressive turnaround season with a conference title. Liufau's injury didn't help the cause. Steven Montez went 5 for 12 for 60 yards in the first half and was unable to generate any consistent offense and Liufau was even worse when he returned. He threw as many interceptions in the third quarter (3) as he had all season and was just 2 for 12 for 12 yards after coming back into the game.

Washington: The usually efficient Jake Browning struggled throwing the ball but it didn't matter as the Huskies dominated the game with 265 yards on the ground behind Gaskin and Lavon Coleman (101 yards). Browning went just 9 for 24 for 118 yards but did throw two TDs. His second touchdown was far from his prettiest throw of the season. With a defender draped all over him, Browning threw a ball up from grabs that John Ross caught in front of Chidobe Awuzie and ran in 19 yards for the score. Browning's 42 TDs are one shy of Jared Goff's Pac-12 record.


Colorado: The Buffaloes must wait to see if they will remain ahead of No. 11 USC in the playoff rankings and get a Rose Bowl bid if Washington goes to the playoff or likely head to the Alamo Bowl if they drop behind the Trojans.

Washington: A likely berth in the playoff.