Schlemko error costs Sharks in Game 3, but no offense the real issue

Schlemko error costs Sharks in Game 3, but no offense the real issue

SAN JOSE – The raucous home crowd and the return of their emotional leader helped to give the Sharks the start they were looking in their attempt to regain the lead in their first round series with the Edmonton Oilers.

In the first playoff game at SAP Center since last June’s Stanley Cup Final, and with Joe Thornton back on the ice, San Jose was skating, hitting and making plays as they hemmed the Oilers into their defensive end for most of the opening frame. 

What they needed, though, was a goal. That never came, and the Oilers steadily improved after the intermission. Unlike the Sharks they scored on one of their chances, when Zack Kassian intercepted a careless David Schlemko pass midway through the third period and slipped it through Martin Jones to give the Oilers a 1-0 win in Game 3.

Had the Sharks beaten Cam Talbot in those first 20 minutes, the game against the inexperienced Oilers might have taken on a completely different trajectory. They didn’t, though, and they now find themselves trailing for the first time.

An early goal “definitely would have given us another extra jolt,” said Chris Tierney, who shot the puck high on a partial breakaway in the first on one of several chances that were squandered. “I think Jumbo playing gave us a good jolt right off the bat, and I thought our legs were good. We had chances, we just couldn’t find the goal.”

After getting outshot 13-6 in the first period, the Oilers flipped the tables with a 12-4 advantage in the second period. Still, it remained scoreless.

In the third, though, Schlemko tried getting the puck ahead to Tomas Hertl in the defensive zone only to have Kassian knock it down in the circle. He was free to glide towards the crease and push a backhand through Jones’ five-hole at 10:45 of the third, before a diving Schlemko could recover.

What happened?

"Just going back to get the puck and tried to bypass a couple of guys,” Schlemko said. “I don't know if it hit his skate or leg. It's a tough bounce. It's a game of mistakes, and that one ends up in the net.”

While Schlemko’s blunder was the biggest moment of the night, the Sharks failure to score for a second straight game is the larger issue. It’s just the second time in franchise history the Sharks have been blanked in consecutive playoff games (Games 1 and 2, second round at Dallas, 2000).

Talbot has now stopped 77 of 80 shots he’s seen (.963 save percentage). In Game 3, the team in front of him blocked just as many shots (22) as it allowed on its goalie. 

”It doesn’t matter how well a goalie is playing, you have to find a way to get to him,” Joe Pavelski said. “We need a little bit more there. We’ve got better, flat out. We do.”

Logan Couture said: “I don’t think we generated enough Grade A chances. … I thought we had the puck in their zone, we just got stuck in corners. They block shots. Got to find a way to create some more offense.”

The power play also had another miserable night, going 0-for-2 and failing to record a shot on goal. The Oilers had just one advantage, though, so special teams didn’t play much of a role.

Still, the biggest difference between this year’s Sharks team and the one that made its way to the Stanley Cup Final last season is its inability to score with a man advantage. Somehow, the Sharks look worse on the power play in this series than they did in the regular season, and that was even with Thornton back out there.

“You’ve got to shoot the puck. You’ve got to score some goals. We know that,” Couture said. “Obviously that’s been a concern for us all season, our power play hasn’t been where we need it to be. We need to be better. It’s simple to say, it’s easy to say, but we’ve got to be better.”

Their backs will be against the wall in Game 4 on Tuesday. Lose that one, and the series and season may be all but over going back to Rogers Place.

“These are momentum battles,” DeBoer said. “Last year on our run we found a way to be on the right side of those games and get that goal, and we didn't tonight. So we've got to get that the next time.”

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.