Sharks-Avalanche: What to watch for

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Sharks-Avalanche: What to watch for

The Sharks made it a point against Dallas to play disciplined hockey. Theyll need to repeat that performance tonight against Colorado when the teams meet for the first time this season.

Colorado enters the game with the second best power play in the NHL at 26.1 percent, trailing only Vancouver. The Sharks penalty-kill, which improved to 28th in the league with its 3-for-3 performance against the Stars, could be in for a tough test.

Digging a little more into the stats, the Sharks enter the game as the third best five-on-five team in hockey scoring at 1.39-1 ratio. The Avalanche are 25th in the league at just .75 goals foragainst when both teams are at full strength.

Colorados Matt Duchesne and Milan Hejduk have four power play goals each.

The Sharks power play, which scored twice Saturday on goals from Brent Burns and Logan Couture, has risen to third in the league at 22.6 percent.

Two is better than one: The Sharks outscored the Stars 2-0 in the second period on Saturday night, and for the season, have a 28-11 advantage in the middle frame. Several times, their strong second periods have helped to erase a lackluster effort out of the gate.

Whatever were doing, I want us to keep doing, said McLellan after Saturdays 4-1 win in Dallas. Obviously, wed like to start better. I can answer all those questions over and over again, but until we solve it, well just keep working at it.

The Avalanche, incidentally, have been outscored 24-16 in the second period.

Goalie watch: The starting goaltenders for both teams were unclear as of Sunday morning. Antti Niemi is playing his strongest hockey of the season, though, and it wouldnt be surprising to see him start both ends of a back-to-back for the first time this year.

In each of the last two games, both Sharks wins, Niemi has faced plenty of rubber in the first period in holding his team in the game. He stopped 16 shots in the first period against Detroit on Thursday, allowing one goal, and all 14 pucks thrown his way by the Stars last night.

If theres one benefit to San Jose coming out flat, its that Niemi enjoys the early action.

Its easier if you get lots of shots in the first, especially if they dont score too many. Its easy to keep going after that, he said.

Colorado could go with Jean-Sebastien Giguere rather than starter Semyon Varlamov, after Giguere shut out the Stars on Friday, 3-0. The former Duck has impressive numbers in seven games, with a 1.68 goals-against average and .934 save percentage.

Varlamov, who was acquired this summer via trade with Washington, is winless in his last six decisions.
Odds and ends: The Sharks enter Sunday with the best win percentage in the NHL (.676), tied with the New York Rangers. San Jose scored first for just the sixth time on Saturday. They are 6-0 when doing so. Colorado is without center Mark Olver and winger Peter Mueller, each of whom have head injuries. The Avalanche will play the second of an eight-game homestand tonight, and have won just two of their last nine games overall. The Sharks host the Blackhawks on Wednesday.

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks' Vlasic joins Canada for World Championships

Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic will compete in the upcoming IIHF World Championships for Team Canada, it was announced on Friday.

The tournament runs from May 5-21 in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. 

Vlasic, 30, a native of Montreal, has played in the tournament twice before in 2009 and 2012. He also represented Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games, helping it to a gold medal, and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which Canada also captured.

In 75 games with the Sharks this season, Vlasic posted 28 points (6g, 22a) and a +4 rating. He was second on the team in shorthanded time on ice (2:04 per game) and blocked shots (146).

A pending restricted free agent in 2018, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson called getting Vlasic signed to a long-term deal an offseason priority for the club. The two sides can begin negotiations on July 1.

“Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league,” Wilson said. “[He] is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world.”

The Sharks lost in the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to Edmonton, although Vlasic and partner Justin Braun helped to keep Connor McDavid in check at even strength. The league's leading scorer had just one even strength point in the six-game series, an empty net goal with less than one second left in Game 6.

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.”