Goalies have been good but Sharks, Oilers both lacking chances

Goalies have been good but Sharks, Oilers both lacking chances

SAN JOSE – If you’re just joining the Sharks-Oilers first round series ahead of Game 4 and you take a quick glance at the league stats, you might think that both goaltenders have been playing some lights-out hockey. Edmonton’s Cam Talbot has a 0.98 goals-against average and .964 save percentage through three games, while Martin Jones’ 1.66 GAA and .935 SP are also impressive.

But despite those numbers, goaltending hasn’t played a huge role in the series so far. Sure, Talbot and Jones have been excellent, but neither team has generated an abundance of outstanding chances. 

“I don’t think a goaltender has been asked to steal a game,” Pete DeBoer said. “Probably the closest was Talbot in Game 1. But, you’ve got two of the top goalies in the league. I think they’ve both been solid. It’s pretty much been a non-factor because they’ve both just been really solid.”

Todd McLellan said: “They’re both quality goaltenders. They’re at the top of their games right now. I think that’s a big part of it, but both defensive mindsets of the teams have been detailed. There haven’t been many chances.”

Both teams will try to break out in Game 4 on Tuesday at SAP Center, with the Oilers holding a two-games-to-one lead. 

The Sharks, of course, haven’t scored in either of the past two playoff games for just the second time in franchise history. They need to make life harder on Talbot, but they also have to stop missing the net. Their two best chances in the first period of Game 3 – arguably the only period in which they’ve outplayed Edmonton since Game 1 – came when Joe Pavelski missed an open net with a backhand from the slot, and Chris Tierney fired high and wide on a partial breakaway.

Getting enough bodies in front of and around Talbot, too, has been missing. The Sharks have just 39 combined shots in the last two games, and not many second chances. 

“[Talbot is] in a groove right now so that's on us to get traffic,” Logan Couture said. “There's definitely rebounds sitting around. I think [in Game 3] he was having trouble catching the puck in the first, and we just didn't get there for the rebounds. Their D did a good job boxing guys out. It's on us to get to the net, get to those tough places and score on those rebounds."

Pavelski said: “We haven't tested him enough.”

Jones has allowed five goals to Talbot’s three, but the Sharks’ netminder has seen the better of the Grade A chances. While Zack Kassian’s game-winning goal in Game 3 was probably a stoppable shot, Jones denied Connor McDavid on a wraparound with 3:38 to go in the second period when the game was still scoreless, and 30 second later quickly went from his right to his left to deny McDavid on a one-timer from the top of the circle.

After he was a rock for the Sharks in the 2016 playoffs, Jones has picked up right where he’s left off.

“He’s been solid,” Pavelski said. “There haven’t been any questions there about him for us. That’s what he’s always shown us.”

They just need to find him some goals, and they need to do it quickly.

“We’ve just got to give him some run support here going forward,” Justin Braun said. “Just got to get in Talbot’s eyes and whack home some rebounds here. I think the forwards are up to the challenge.”

Joe Thornton said: “It’s going to be those 1-0, 2-1 games. That’s just how our mindset is right now. … Just cash in what you get the chance.”

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.