One week in, Hansen fitting in seamlessly on Sharks' top line

One week in, Hansen fitting in seamlessly on Sharks' top line

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ brain trust was already confident that Jannik Hansen would be a good fit on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but that impulse was reinforced shortly after a trade with Vancouver brought the 30-year-old forward to San Jose.

According Pete DeBoer, assistant Johan Hedberg “got a note from one of the Sedins” that Hansen “would be a real good fit with those two guys. That just reinforced it,” said the coach.

The Sedins are obviously aware of the type of player that Hansen is, as he was frequently on the wing with brothers Henrik and Daniel. It was that familiarity and experience with those two players that seem to have a sixth sense with one another that’s allowed Hansen to transition so seamlessly to the Thornton-Pavelski line – two other players that can also display that type of chemistry, even if they’re not blood related.

And, it has been seamless. The Sharks’ top line has generated one even strength goal in each of the four games Hansen has been in the lineup, winning three of them. The season-long quest to find a fit for the two Joes looks like it’s finally over, and it’s happened at just the right time with only four weeks to go before the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“Joe and Joe play the same way as a couple guys in Vancouver,” Hansen said, referring to the twins. “They want the puck, they want to hold on to it, they want to make the plays. For me, it’s fairly simple as to how I’m playing. It’s the same thing – digging pucks out, going to the net, getting pucks back for them.”

Pavelski can see how playing with the Sedins could be similar to playing with himself and Thornton.

“Obviously those guys are on a [high] level passing and knowing where each other are,” he said.

You and Thornton are too, though, right?

“Yeah, we’ve always got an idea of what we want to do,” Pavelski said. “Over the last few years we’ve been able to figure that out even more. [Hansen] just compliments it well. He gets in there, he’s around the puck, if something’s loose he’s right there. He’s not out waiting for anything, he’s right in the mix.”

The instant chemistry has been a bit surprising to both of them. There aren’t a whole lot of off-ice meetings happening, because they just haven’t been necessary.

“The system is the system. There’s [only] so much you can do, and then after that it’s about winning some one-on-one battles, getting pucks back and making plays in tight areas with each other,” Pavelski said. “That’s actually been one of the nice things, is we haven’t had to talk much.”

Make no mistake, the Sharks were searching for a top line left wing ahead of the March 1 trade deadline. There were other names out there, like Jarome Iginla, Shane Doan, Tomas Vanek or Patrick Sharp (before it was revealed he was hurt), but Hansen was a player that the Sharks already knew could have success skating on a line with top offensive talent.

It was “absolutely” the plan to put Hansen on the top line to start, according to DeBoer. But if that didn’t work out, the coach was confident Hansen could play somewhere else, too.

“When you’re looking at that list of who can help you, there’s guys that were available that if we had acquired it was feast or famine,” DeBoer said. “They either fit [on the top line], or they might not fit anywhere else. This guy, the attractive part about him was we were real comfortable that he would fit somewhere for us.”

Based on his first week, though, it doesn’t look like Hansen will be moving down the lineup anytime soon. In his first experience changing teams, Hansen said the transition has been “a lot easier” than he expected.

“Obviously it’s a team that knows what they want, what direction they’re going,” he said. “I don’t need to come in and do anything special, just play my game and the rest will take care of itself.”

 

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

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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. At this point, 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.

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 fire, 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. 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.”