Better faceoffs on Sharks agenda


Better faceoffs on Sharks agenda

SAN JOSE Theres a pretty good reason the Sharks were having trouble getting sustained pressure in the Phoenix zone during Saturdays 3-0 loss at HP Pavilion.

If you believe head coach Todd McLellans numbers, and, well, theres no reason not to, San Jose won just six of 24 offensive zone draws. That, combined with goalie Mike Smiths deft skill at handling the puck, was a major factor in the team suffering its second shutout of the season.

You take that lack of time in the O-zone because you lost the faceoff and combine that with Mike Smiths ability to play the puck out on our forecheck, we were never in their end, said the coach.

Overall, the Sharks are 11th in the NHL in faceoff percentage with 51.1 percent success rate. Thats not a terrible number, but its below where they were last season when they finished second in the league (53.7 percent) behind only Vancouver. That might not seem like much of a difference, but for a team that relies heavily on puck possession, its notable.

We need to get better at it. In the past weve been good, said Patrick Marleau, who is back centering the second line after starting the season as a wing on the top line. Were not where were used to being. The personnel hasnt changed, so it might be a little bit more of a mental thing and more focus from the players would help.

A quick glance at the individual numbers among Sharks centers says that Joe Thornton leads the team (54.4 percent), followed by Michal Handzus (52 percent), Marleau (49.5 percent), Logan Couture (48.9 percent) and Andrew Desjardins (48.4 percent).

Faceoffs are more about just the guy lining up in the middle, though.

There are two parts of it the centerman who takes the faceoff and everybody else knowing what to do off of it when you do win or lose, said Marleau.

To be fair, there isnt a huge difference in faceoffs between the top team in the league (Boston 55 percent) and the worst (Calgary 45.6 percent). Much of the time, faceoffs come down to simple dumb luck.

Still, that differential is controllable, according to McLellan.

Sometimes when the referee drops the puck it bounces a certain way or it hits a foot and theres nothing you can do about it. But, I do believe you can control that swing between 45 and 55 percent, and you should be able to swing it your way.

And just how do you go about that? It involves a whole slew of variables, according to McLellan.

Are we getting help from the wingers? Are we changing up our tactics when we go in? Are we doing the same things over and over again and getting the same negative results? Are we prepared to use or feet? Are we prepared to go to our forehand? Are we prepared to lose a faceoff on purpose and get the forecheck going?

We continue to work at it.

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’


Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

SAN JOSE — There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise's career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

"I've spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange," said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. "It's his birthday today too. It's a little weird, but he's going to do great up in Toronto."

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau's 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven't played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

"Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He'll be missed. ... Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That's what we'll need."

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau's 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

"When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think if we can stay healthy I think we've got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them."

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals — his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 — and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose's top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

"They feel real strong," he said of his legs. "I feel a lot of pop out there. They're probably as strong as they've ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much."

Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks


Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

The boys were back together in San Jose on Thursday for Sharks Media Day, with plenty of smiles and moments of levity. Check out the highlights...

Hey Jumbo, you dropped something. 👖🤷‍♂️

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Martin Jones is pretty good at photobombs 📸💣

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🤳 Media Day #SJSharks

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New season. New commercials. 🕉🚌📺 #ComingSoon #SharksForLife

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