Niemi skunks Bruins, Sharks 2-0 on road trip


Niemi skunks Bruins, Sharks 2-0 on road trip

Kevin Kurz

BOSTON As the top two teams in the NHL in shots on goal, and with both offenses firing on all cylinders lately, the Sharks-Bruins Saturday afternoon matchup at TD Garden was primed to be an end-to-end affair with scoring chances aplenty.Or, maybe not.San Jose managed just 18 shots, a season low, and Logan Couture scored the only non-empty net goal of the game in a 2-0 Sharks victory. It extends their streak to 7-0-1 in the last eight games, and they have won the first two games on their seven-game road trip. The win also moved the Sharks into a tie for fourth place in the Western Conference with 62 points, just three behind Dallas for the Pacific Division lead, pending Saturday night's action.
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While Couture coming through with a big goal is nothing new, the circumstances of his solid play were. The rookie was thrown onto a newly christened line with players that werent even wearing teal a month ago, as forwards Kyle Wellwood and Ben Eager skated on either side of Couture in what was San Joses most energetic and effective line of the afternoon.That may not be saying a whole lot considering the other forward lines were pretty ineffective, but its a good sign nonetheless, and Couture was pleased with their chemistry.Wellwood really can make plays with his patience and his vision. He found me a couple times where I could have scored, he said. Eager is a big body down low and he can control the play, and hes good on the forecheck.We had some good movement, and carried the play in their end a few times, Wellwood agreed. We got some pucks at the net, and against a team like Boston on the road, thats hard to do.Coutures goal didnt come with his new linemates, though it came on the power play, an area in which the Sharks have been thriving during their recent run of success.He took a pass from Ryane Clowe and patiently waited for daylight before backhanding the puck past Tim Thomas at 7:22. The Sharks power play is an impressive 9-for-28 in the last nine games (32.1 percent).That was all of the scoring in the game until Devin Setoguchis goal with 2.1 seconds left with Thomas pulled for an extra attacker.While the Sharks were struggling to put the rubber on net, the Bruins werent doing much better. Boston was playing for the first time since a six-goal explosion in Thursday's emotional win over Dallas, which featured three fights in the first four seconds of the game.
REWIND: Bruins outslug Stars for 6-3 victory
Perhaps suffering from an emotional hangover, the Bruins lacked energy and cohesion from the start. The few scoring chances they did get, Antti Niemi was there to turn them aside in recording his third shutout of the season.Todd McLellan used one word when asked about Niemi, who was making his eighth straight start.Solid, said the coach. He saw the puck, made the first save, and was there when we he had to take care of the second. He made the team in front of him feel very comfortable.Dan Boyle, who played a game high 24:25, thinks the teams defense as a whole is trending upward.Were trying to become a better defensive team than we have in the first half, and its a combination of guys blocking shots, and defensemen doing a better job in front of the goalie, he said. Tonight our offensive game was not very good, but defensively we were pretty strong.With San Jose riding its hot streak, McLellan decided to leave his top two lines alone despite Coutures return, meaning that Clowe skated with Setoguchi and Joe Pavelski while Joe Thornton was with regulars Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau.While Couture was busy generating scoring chances, Eager, in particular, found himself the center of attention a few times in the game. The big winger dropped the gloves with Bostons Adam McQuaid early in the second (and picked up an extra roughing minor in the process), but it was his contact with the Bruins goaltender later in the period that led to the most controversial call of the afternoon.With the Sharks applying pressure in the Boston zone, Eager tried to establish position in front of the goal crease. He bumped shoulders with Thomas right before a shot by Douglas Murray from the faceoff circle found the far top corner of the net. Referee Dennis LaRue immediately waived off the goal at 7:37 due to incidental contact.The explanation that Dennis gave me was exactly how I saw it in the video, said McLellan. Its a decision he has to make instantly, he went with it, and we have to live with it.Fortunately for the Sharks it didnt end up being a factor in the outcome, and a win in a tough building against a division leader is in the books.The Sharks resume their road trip on Tuesday night in Washington against Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals.Were in fourth place now, so its not a bad position to be in, said Thornton. Were chugging along pretty well.

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

Kaval: A's must 'swing for the fences' in choosing ballpark site

MESA, Ariz. — After spending a few days at spring training, A’s president Dave Kaval heads back to the Bay Area on Tuesday to continue work on the team’s search for a ballpark site.

There are so many factors to consider — location, public transportation access, parking, government obligations to be fulfilled, etc. — it’s easy to understand why it’s such an all-encompassing process.

Kaval shared some detailed thoughts on all of the potential sites the A’s are considering during a visit on the A’s Insider Podcast. Here’s some highlights:

The A’s have narrowed down to four locations in Oakland to build a privately financed ballpark: Brooklyn Basin, Howard Terminal, Laney College and the current Coliseum site on which they play.

Are these four all uniquely different from each other or do they share some common traits?

“I think all of them can fulfill our long-term vision of this urban area around the ballpark,” Kaval said. “Think of Fenway, Wrigley … all of them can achieve that vision. We want to make sure with such a big decision that we swing for the fences. … I think the Coliseum is probably the hardest to create kind of an urban village, but I think it’s possible, and we’re not ruling it out.

"But all the other locations can have neighborhoods around the ballpark where people can live and you can just have a really intimate experience around the ballpark.”

There hasn’t been the same buzz about Brooklyn Basin as Howard Terminal. Located close to the water, does it offer similar attributes as Howard Terminal?

“It’s very close. There’s a couple different places the ballpark could go down there,” he said. “You’re closer to the water, which is exciting, and I think being on the water provides the ability to have water taxis, ferries, other transit options that kind of lower the requirement for parking, lower the requirement for walking or biking. And that actually can be a really great thing for the fan experience.”

Howard Terminal offers a big potential payoff with the terrific views available. But there are some substantial hurdles, not the least of which are the government regulations and approvals required to build right along the water.

“If you want to actually develop something in there, you need to have legislation from the state of California. That’s just something that has to happen,” Kaval said. “So when we think about the steps to get the individual sites (approved) and break ground, it’s just another one you have to do at that site. So you have to weigh, is it worth the time, effort, political opposition that might come up to pursue that type of effort? The site is so iconic that we’ve been keeping it in the mix because, wow, it could just be something that is a game changer.”

That’s just a sample of the many topics Kaval touched on over the course of the podcast.

Lynch: Armstead, Buckner fit 49ers' new defensive scheme

Lynch: Armstead, Buckner fit 49ers' new defensive scheme

Trent Baalke’s final two seasons as 49ers general manager brought defensive linemen to the organization with the club’s top draft picks.

And, for that, new 49ers general manager John Lynch said he is grateful.

Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner may have been chosen when the 49ers’ base defensive alignment was a 3-4, but Lynch said the two Oregon products are versatile enough to thrive in the new system defensive coordinator Robert Saleh will install.

“I think they fit very well,” Lynch said Tuesday on 95.7 The Game. “And that’s one thing I think I want to make sure (to say) because I really believe it, I think Trent Baalke did a great job of getting guys that, yes, they were picked for one system, but I think they transition very well to our system.”

Buckner appeared in 15 games as a rookie after Baalke selected him with the No. 7 overall pick. He ranked second in the NFL among defensive tackles with 73 tackles and was fourth among rookies with six sacks. Buckner was chosen to the All-Rookie team by the Pro Football Writers of America.

Armstead, selected with the 17th overall pick in 2015, recorded 2.5 sacks in eight games last season. He sustained a shoulder injury during training camp and finally underwent season-ending surgery in November.

Buckner and Armstead may be asked to play different positions but they will also be taught to play a different styles this season, Lynch promised.

“They were very much in a read-and-react posture last year,” Lynch said. “I’m excited to cut them loose. When we say ‘aggressive,’ it doesn’t mean that we’re blitzing every play. It means we’re getting off the ball. At the snap, we’re taking the fight to them. And I think these are guys who fit what we’re going to do very well. We’re excited about it.”

The 49ers last week hired defensive line coach Jeff Zgonina, who played 17 seasons in the league. Zgonina served the past four seasons as an assistant defensive line coach with Houston (2013-15) and the New York Giants (2016).

“They’re going to be coached hard,” Lynch said of the 49ers’ defensive linemen. “They’re going to be asked to sprint to the football, wherever it is. That doesn’t just come natural. Those are habits that you have to pick up.”

Every defensive player currently on the 49ers’ roster was brought to the organization to play in a 3-4 defense. Lynch downplayed the practical importance of the team’s defensive label because of extra defensive backs being deployed against three-receiver personnel groupings.

“Seventy- to 75-percent of this game now is played in sub or nickel,” Lynch said. “At that point, that’s kind of out the door. It’s can you stop the run and, then, can you go get the guy throwing the football and bring him down? We think both of those guys have great potential to do that.”