Brent Burns, Connor McDavid getting held in check

Brent Burns, Connor McDavid getting held in check

SAN JOSE – When offenses are struggling to produce, attention naturally turns towards the superstars. Edmonton’s attack plainly relied on 100-point scorer Connor McDavid during the regular season, while the Sharks counted on Norris Trophy favorite and leading scorer Brent Burns to dent the scoreboard.

Through the first three games of the Sharks-Oilers first round series, though, neither has done a whole lot. McDavid has been held to one shorthanded goal and a secondary assist on the power play, and has just six shots, while Burns has been kept from the scoresheet completely. 

There have been just eight total goals, with Edmonton, which leads the series two games to one, getting five of them.

“It’s just [the] playoffs. That’s what happens every year, I think,” Burns said. “It’s hard to create.”

At some point, though, Burns will have to find a way to do just that if the Sharks are to have a chance at advancing. In Game 1 he was in top form, generating eight shots on goal and a whopping 18 attempts. In games two and three, though, Burns has been held to a combined five shots and 11 attempts.

The Oilers’ ability to nullify Burns in games two and three is the primary reason why the Sharks haven’t scored in 120 minutes since Melker Karlsson’s overtime winner in Game 1.

What are they doing right?

“I’m sure their coaching staff and everyone scouting, [like] we would do on McDavid, they’ve done on Brent,” partner Paul Martin said. “They know he’s got a great shot and is able to get it through. They’re playing him high and taking away that middle of the ice for those shots, whether they be tipped or to the net, and blocking shots.”

Logan Couture said: “They're doing a good job on our D-men. Obviously they know that our D-men create a lot of offense for us and they shoot the puck a lot. They're playing our D high, and it's three-on-three down low on the forwards, so the forwards have to do a better job of creating offense."

Burns didn’t express any frustration on Monday after an optional practice.

“That’s the fun part, is earning it and going through that,” he said. “This is the time you want to play. It’s fun. Every game is so tight, and one bounce – it’s working to create that bounce. That’s why it’s fun.”

While the Sharks need more offense, whether it’s from Burns or elsewhere, they’ll attempt to keep doing what they’ve been doing against McDavid. The unparalleled bursts of speed often seen from the 20-year-old haven’t been nearly as numerous as they were during the regular season, especially late when McDavid posted a 14-game point streak headed into his first career playoff run.

Martin mentioned the obvious objective of keeping McDavid in his defensive end, but when he has the puck, the Sharks are “trying to clog the middle with him there. Our D have been doing a good job of managing the puck. If we were turning the puck over…the more we give him the more chances he’s going to make something good happen.”

DeBoer was coy when asked what the Sharks have done to limit McDavid’s chances.

“I’ll tell you after the series is over, if we can keep doing it. That’s a big if,” he quipped.

It could very well be that the first team that gets more from its biggest star will end up advancing to the second round. 

If McDavid breaks out in Game 4, it could be curtains on the Sharks’ season. If Burns is able to replicate his Game 1 performance, though, and maybe get a few fortunate bounces that never came that night, the Sharks will reclaim the momentum.

Burns said: “I think both teams are playing really tight. … You’ve just got to work for those bounces and stay confident. And pray to the hockey gods, I guess.”

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.