Hot-handed Pavelski pushes Sharks to rare win over Sabres

Hot-handed Pavelski pushes Sharks to rare win over Sabres

SAN JOSE – One of the biggest differences in the Sharks’ play under the former coaching staff as compared to the current one, now in its second season, is their ability to routinely get up for any opponent no matter where that opponent may be in the standings. 

Entering Tuesday night San Jose had an impressive record of 24-4-6 mark against teams not in the playoff picture, after playing down to the level of the competition was a real problem under former coach Todd McLellan.

Of course, there was a leadership change in the dressing room, too. Joe Pavelski took over as the captain in a move that might have been just as vital to the Sharks’ recent success as the hiring of Pete DeBoer.

Determined to get past a rebuilding Sabres team that still had the Sharks’ number despite the regime change, it was Pavelski who led the way with a pair of goals in a 4-1 victory. Yes, the Sharks can even beat the Sabres now, too, after getting just one overtime win against them in the previous 11 meetings before Tuesday.

The surging captain, who has seven goals in his last five games, drove the bus.

While the time off during the bye week at the end of February likely helped Pavelski, “in the short time I've known him, he cranks it up this time of year,” DeBoer said. “Those type of guys see the finish line here, and the playoffs, and they start to get really excited. I think you're seeing a little bit of both of those things."

Pavelski added, “the bye week was great,” but he’s “definitely [getting] some confidence. Shooting the puck, finding it in good spots recently.”

Dylan DeMelo got the primary assist on Pavelski’s second goal, when his slap shot bounced off of Josh Gorges’ rear end to the Sharks captain’s tape.

"He's got the hot hand. He does it every night, though,” DeMelo said. “If it's not scoring goals, he's doing something. He works hard all the time in practice. They maybe weren't going in as much as he'd like to early on, but he stays with it, and he's got such great talent around the net. We knew he'd break through, and he's playing huge for us right now."

Beyond Pavelski’s performance was that the Sharks kept their foot on the gas against the Sabres for the duration of the evening. Even after they managed 20 shots on goal in the first period without beating Robin Lehner, including getting a goal waved off, they kept coming in the second and third periods. 

They are the types of efforts have become a staple under the DeBoer/Pavelski partnership – they’ll put forth an honest game on a nearly nightly basis. 

Of course, there was motivation to beat the Sabres, too, considering they are a club that has had the Sharks number of the years, including this one. They erased a three-goal third period deficit to stun San Jose on Feb. 7 in upstate New York, 5-4 in overtime.

It helped that the Sharks got a few bounces. On the game-winning goal that made it 2-1, Micheal Haley got a slight piece of a Cody Franson pass to Jack Eichel, and the sophomore sensation booted it into his own goal at 19:10 of the second period. Logan Couture added third period insurance when he pushed a puck off of Lehner’s stick after the goalie’s ill-advised poke-check attempt, making it 4-1.

“That’s one of those ones, you can’t plan that. It was lucky,” Haley said of his second goal of the season, and first game-winner of his career. “I thought we played pretty well, and luckily we got some bounces.”

Regardless of the hockey gods looking favorably on the Sharks, they deserved to win this one based on their effort.

“We didn't win because of a bounce. We won because we earned that win, and we were the better team all night right from the drop of the puck,” DeBoer said. “I think we knew the history, and we wanted to put an end to it."

Especially Pavelski.

“Buffalo's always found a way to kind of get one on us, for the most part,” Pavelski said. “It's encouraging to see guys really stay with it.”

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of emotion in the game, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?

 

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

Sharks need to 'figure it out pretty soon' after another thrashing

NASHVILLE – Apparently, one wake up call wasn’t good enough for the plummeting San Jose Sharks.
 
Just one day after suffering what was arguably their worst game under coach Pete DeBoer, Nashville put up a touchdown on the Sharks in a 7-2 win, giving San Jose its sixth straight defeat – all in regulation.
 
After getting outscored 13-3 the last two nights, including Friday’s 6-1 loss in Dallas, where do they go from here?
 
“In two years, last year and this year so far, we haven’t had one night like this almost. Now we have back-to-back nights,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think it’s just a reality check. A gut-check time.
 
“It’s on us as players. Bottom line is we haven’t put the effort in that we need to have right now, and it snowballed on us a little bit at times. I think we’ve got to take a deep breath and really take a look in the mirror, refocus a little bit and understand there’s hockey out there, but it’s not going to fix itself.”
 
What has to be fixed immediately is the defensive structure that has been so vital to the Sharks’ success in the Pete DeBoer era. Even when the club was going through stretches of struggling to score, as it was earlier in the season, it was still collecting points in the standings with its ability to limit the opposition’s scoring chances.
 
While the game against the Predators was actually a little better in that regard, believe it or not, it was still nowhere near the level it needs to be for the postseason. Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s absence was partly to blame for that, but the Brent Burns-Paul Martin pair has been a disaster lately. Both have a minus-nine rating during the six-game losing streak, and that number is indicative of how they’ve looked, too.
 
“We’re giving up some goals. It’s a combination of things,” DeBoer said. “Obviously it’s not good enough to win games, so we’ve got to figure it out. I don’t have an answer standing here for you, but I know our group. Every team I’ve ever coached has a tough part of the season. This is obviously ours. We’ll regroup, and figure it out.”
 
Burns, who admitted to a “bad read” on Nashville’s second goal when Roman Josi sped around him, said: “It’s a tough league when you’re not executing little things.”
 
The Sharks actually looked strong early, poised to put the Dallas disaster behind them. The first few shifts, they had the puck in the Nashville end.
 
But Tomas Hertl was outmuscled behind the net by Colin Wilson on Colton Sissons’ goal at 4:14, Burns got beat on the second, and the Sharks never recovered. Patrick Marleau’s second period power play goal offered life, but that was extinguished 24 seconds later when James Neal answered with a power play goal of his own. The Sharks never got closer than two goals after that.
 
“When things are going bad, those are the things that are happening,” Burns said of Neal’s response to Marleau’s marker. “So, you’ve just got work through it."
 
Will they be able to work through it with just seven games left in the regular season, though? That this cold spell is happening in late March doesn’t speak well to the Sharks’ chances in the postseason, which begins in just two-and-a-half weeks.
 
Burns said: “Right now we should be just tightening up everything. … We've got figure it out pretty soon.”