Sharks-Blues: What to watch for


Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

ST. LOUIS The Sharks and Blues faced each other four times in the regular season, but the first period of Thursdays Game 1 at Scottrade Center still resembled two clubs feeling each other out a bit.

That will likely change in Game 2. The Blues cant afford to drop both of their home games before it shifts back to a raucous HP Pavilion for games three and four, and there is little doubt that will show early on. San Jose won Game 1 in double-overtime, 3-2.

We know theyll be better, so we have to be better as well, Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. Well have to match their intensity.

Todd McLellan would like to see his team match and overtake the Blues initial charge and energy.

I expect San Jose to come full bore. Thats what I expect from our group, McLellan said. I will say this they will have a push and they will come out hard. Theyre proud, theyre well coached, theyre a good hockey team. We have to expect that from them.

But, I want us to push. I want us to be the team that plays the first five or seven minutes in the other teams zone. Win faceoffs, and go to work. Thats what Id like to see from our group.

Blues changes: St. Louis will make three changes to its lineup from Game 1. In are forwards Matt DAgostini and B.J. Crombeen, and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. Chris Stewart, Ryan Reaves and Kent Huskins will sit.

San Jose doesnt expect the Blues game to change all that much even with the changes.

Vlasic said: Whoever replaces them is going to do the same thing. Theyre changing things up, theyll play the same way.

San Joses lineup isnt expected to change from Thursdays Game 1. Antti Niemi will face Jaroslav Halak in net.
Matching lines: The Sharks got a key goal from their third line on Thursday, when Andrew Desjardins marker tied it late in the third period. The top lines for each club essentially cancelled each other out, as Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau went scoreless while skating primarily against the David Perron, T.J. Oshie and David Backes trio which was also without a point.

McLellan didnt seem to mind that three of his top scorers didnt generate much offensively. They were, after all, effective on the other side of the puck.

When we went through our scoring chances for and against each line. Jumbos line didnt give up much, which was good, McLellan said. To play against that Backes-Perron-Oshie line is a job well done, also. Theyre very dynamic, quick, and do a lot of good things.

Perron, perhaps the Blues most dangerous threat, knows his line has to generate additional offense, too.

I thought we played a pretty good game last game but it was not enough, Perron said. We just need more, its as simple as that.

If the games come down to the bottom two lines needing to get on the board, it could be a huge advantage for San Jose, which has found a pair of effective combinations.

They have a speed element to them, and a bit of a grit element to them, as well, McLellan said of Desjardins, Tommy Wingels, Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi, Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell.

This is the most comfortable weve been this season with lines three and four.

Searching for shots: The Sharks finished the regular season with the second-most shots on goal per game (33.8), but are averaging just 27.6 per game in the five against St. Louis (including Game 1, which went into double-overtime).

St. Louis, of course, was the NHLs best defensive team all season long, finishing with a goals-against average under two (1.89).

San Jose would like to get a little more rubber to the net.

Theyre a tight defensive team. During the season we havent had many shots against them, and same thing in the playoffs, Vlasic said. Were going to have to get more pucks at them, and get more traffic.

Logan Couture said: Theyre got five in and around the net in their own zone at all times, and its tough to find holes. Weve got to find a way to get more pucks to the net.

Of course, in order to get more shots, the Sharks will have to spend more time in St. Louis zone. In Game 1 San Jose was hemmed in far too often, especially in the first overtime, although it played good team defense in minimizing the scoring chances against.

They forecheck hard, so theyll be in our zone quite often. We just want to keep everything to the outside, Vlasic said. I thought they were in our zone a lot more than we would have wanted to.

Wed enjoy it if it was spent more in their zone, Couture said. We spent a lot of time in our end last game, and thats obviously something wed like to change. Nemo was great for us. Were going to have to spend more time in their end tonight.

Odds and ends: Hitchcock on the Sharks: Since the series against Dallas, theyre dialed in. Theyll be a hard opponent for everybody, so we have to make sure were ready for this kind of competition. The Blues havent won a playoff game since April 12, 2004 against San Jose. Marty Havlat has 29 points in his last 29 playoff games. San Jose is 11-16 all-time in Game 2, including a 6-7 record after winning Game 1. The Sharks have won the first two road games of a playoff series just once: 1995 vs. Calgary in the first round.

Rewind: Sharks slow, sloppy and undisciplined in loss to Wings

Rewind: Sharks slow, sloppy and undisciplined in loss to Wings

DETROIT – The Sharks had just one scheduled practice on their 10-day road trip, set to take place on Friday in Detroit prior to the fifth and final game against the Red Wings. It was canceled, though, as the coaching staff opted for rest rather than work.

The result was a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings in which the Sharks were sloppy in their own zone, were smoked in the faceoff circle, surrendered a plethora of odd-man rushes, and took eight minor penalties. They just couldn’t keep pace with a Detroit team that was playing its second game in as many nights. 

San Jose looked like a club that has held just a single solitary practice since the season began on Oct. 12.

“Some breakdowns, guys not being above [the puck], some giveaways in our own end, we’re kind of leaving [the defensive zone] early,” Logan Couture said. “We just don’t seem like we’re dedicated to defense like we were at the end [of] last year.”

[KURZ: Instant Replay: Sharks blanked by Wings, end road trip with thud]

“It wasn’t very good tonight,” added Martin Jones, who lost his third in a row in goal. “Too many penalties, too many turnovers. Just wasn’t very good tonight.”

The start was actually a decent one, as the Sharks were attempting to put Thursday’s third period collapse in Pittsburgh behind them, but Detroit eventually took over. Gustav Nyquist broke the scoreless tie four minutes into the second period, and added to the Red Wings’ lead with a second marker about 11 minutes later.

On the first, Paul Martin was caught flat-footed in the offensive zone, leading to a two-on-one rush by Detroit. Nyquist abruptly stopped on the faceoff dot in front of Justin Braun, and rifled a shot though. On the second, Matt Nieto had control of the puck and was headed up the ice before he stumbled and turned it over to Ryan Sproul, who found Nyquist in the slot. 

A bad line change resulted in Andreas Athanasiou powering a slap shot to Jones’ far side six minutes into the third period, giving Detroit a commanding three-goal lead. 

“We were late everywhere tonight,” Pete DeBoer said. “When you’re a step behind a good team they expose you, and I think that was the story. We’ll have to go back and figure out why, and get our game back in a better place.”

“We played into their hands. They’re a transition team, a speed team, and if you’re going to play east-west and turn the puck over they’re going to make you pay for it. We talked about it, but we still fell into that trap. Obviously the penalties didn’t help, and we’re playing catch up all night.”

Among those penalties was a double minor to Joe Pavelski for spearing Steve Ott, just a few seconds after Athanasiou’s goal. The captain seemed agitated for much of the night.

Pavelski said he didn’t think he got a whole lot of Ott with his stick, but “it’s a play you don’t want to make.”

DeBoer didn’t take issue with the play which nullified what would have been a Sharks power play after a Drew Miller interference.

“Pav is a competitor. He was probably our best player tonight. He’s competing right until the final buzzer,” DeBoer said. “I don’t have a problem with that. It doesn’t bother me.”

The power play, though, is one area that the coach may need to focus on when the Sharks finally get a practice in on Monday at home. Despite being together for so many years, the top unit seems tentative with the puck and is misfiring on passes that are typically routine.

On one power play in the second period when the game was still scoreless, Pavelski was open in front of the net, but Patrick Marleau missed him on what would have been a tap-in goal. The Sharks finished 0-for-4 with a man advantage and have just one goal in a manned net this season during five-on-four play.

What has to change?

“Quite a few things,” Couture said. “We’re breaking in fine, [but] we’re too stationary, I think. I don’t know if we’re moving the puck well enough. Not attacking holes, not shooting the puck and getting it back.”

The Sharks will open up a three-game homestand on Tuesday with the Ducks. There is work to do before that.

“We’re 3-3. That’s the good news,” DeBoer said. “I think we’ve played some good hockey, but we have a lot of things we’ve got to clean up, too.”

Jones said: “Obviously it wasn’t the way we wanted to end the road trip. We’ll bounce back, and we’ve got a lot of games left.”

Instant Replay: Sharks blanked by Wings, end road trip with thud

Instant Replay: Sharks blanked by Wings, end road trip with thud


DETROIT – The Sharks organization made some good memories over the years at Joe Louis Arena. Saturday’s game, their final regular season game ever in the storied Detroit arena, wasn’t one of them.

Gustav Nyquist scored twice and Jimmy Howard made 30 saves in leading the Red Wings to a 3-0 blanking of the Sharks. San Jose’s record stands at an even 3-3-0 after it lost three of five games on its road trip, including the final two.

The Sharks open a three-game homestand with the Ducks on Tuesday.

Both of Nyquist’s goals came in the second period as Detroit opened up a 2-0 edge.

His first came on a two-on-one rush. Nyquist skated the puck into the Sharks’ zone, slammed on the breaks in the faceoff circle, and buzzed a wrist shot past Martin Jones at 4:14 of the middle frame.

On his second score, Nyquist squeezed a wrist shot through Jones from the slot at 15:10 shortly after Matt Nieto lost his footing – and the puck – in the Sharks’ defensive zone.

The Red Wings put the game out of reach when Andreas Athanasiou teed off on a slap shot from the circle at 6:05 of the third period, beating the Sharks’ starting goalie high to the far side.

San Jose was unable to score despite pulling Jones for an extra attacker with more than three minutes to go.

The Sharks again struggled on the power play taking an 0-for-4, and are 0-for-8 over the last three games.

Detroit will open Little Ceasar’s Arena at the start of next season. The Sharks finished with a 12-28-4 record all-time at The Joe.

Special teams

If there was one bright spot for the Sharks it was their penalty kill, which fought off all seven Red Wings power plays.

The power play, though, remains ice cold, as San Jose has scored just one power play goal this season during a standard five-on-four advantage. Overall, the Sharks are 3-for-20 on the season, including an empty net goal and another on a two-man advantage.

A bit of nastiness ensued shortly after the Red Wings’ third goal, as Joe Pavelski was given a double-minor for “attempting to spear” Steve Ott, who got an unsportsmanlike conduct minor.

In goal

Jones dropped to 2-3 on the season, losing his third straight start after beginning the season with a pair of wins. He allowed three goals on 32 shots.

Howard won for the second time in as many starts. He improved to 5-7-4 all-time against San Jose.


Brent Burns, who entered the game tied for the league lead in scoring with nine points, saw his five-game point streak to start the season come to an end.

Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader was scratched, so Athanasiou was inserted back into the lineup.

San Jose reassigned forward Ryan Carpenter to the Barracuda on Friday. He did not play at all on the trip.

Up next

The Sharks will play just their second home game on Tuesday against Anaheim. The Blue Jackets visit SAP Center on Thursday, and the Predators next Saturday.

Overall, five of the Sharks’ next six games are in San Jose.