Sharks can't find their legs in another loss to Blues

Sharks can't find their legs in another loss to Blues

SAN JOSE – Playing their seventh game in 12 days against a team fighting for its playoff life was too much for the Sharks to handle on Thursday at SAP Center in a 4-1 Blues win.

Throughout the game, evidence piled up that the home team didn’t have its legs. Forwards weren’t supporting the defensemen on breakouts or through the neutral zone, the forecheck was ineffective, shots were getting blocked, and the rare ones that got through were easily cleared away from dangerous scoring areas.

Both Logan Couture and coach Pete DeBoer both indicated that the team might have hit a wall, for at least one night.

“They played well defensively, but for us, from looking at the game from the bench, I thought we looked tired,” Couture said. “I thought we looked slow, sluggish. We just didn’t have any jump up front. So, I think a lot of it was on us.”

DeBoer said: “They came in here desperate and they were really solid, and we weren’t. We’ve got to do more to help ourselves. I don’t know the reason. Is it fatigue? I don’t know. We’ll look at the tape and come up with some answers.”

These kinds of nights are bound to happen at points throughout the season as every team deals with the condensed schedule, right?

“Unfortunately, yeah, I think so,” Couture said. “This month is pretty nuts. But, every team is going through it this year. We need to find a way to be better. Tonight, we weren’t.”

It’s not like the Blues should have been any more energized, however. They were playing the second of a back-to-back, and third in California in four nights as they continue a five-game road trip.

But they’re at a different stage in their season. The Blues are trying to hold on to the final wild card spot, and may feel like they have something to prove after changing coaches six weeks ago and trading away key defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington.

Sharks forwards combined for just seven of the team’s 20 shots on goal, a good example of how hard the Blues were working to prevent San Jose from getting any good looks.

“If we did get a shot [through], they got to it probably a little quicker,” Joe Pavelski said. “It was kind of one and done. We weren’t probably on the inside enough. It’s hard to say. ... Obviously, that’s not us, we’ve got a lot better than that.”

Couture said: “The biggest thing tonight was we didn’t forecheck well, we didn’t sustain any pressure in their zone.”

The Sharks’ only goal was a lucky one, as Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s attempted pass deflected in off of Carl Gunnarsson’s skate in the first period to tie the game at 1-1. 

St. Louis got a goal from Scottie Upshall just prior to that to open the scoring, thanks to a sloppy pass from Brent Burns that went right to the Blues’ forward, another from Zach Sanford on a rebound off the end wall that held up as the game-winner, and two from Vladimir Tarasenko, on the power play and into an empty net.

Despite the loss, the Sharks will have a chance to finish off their season-long six-game homestand with eight of a possible 12 points if they can beat the Ducks on Saturday.

Friday will be a complete day off, and by the look of Thursday’s game, they could use it.

Paul Martin said: “Saturday will be a big game, obviously. Anaheim, and a lot at stake. I think after tonight’s performance we’re going to want to make sure that we tighten things up and have a better effort, and fix some things we should be able to correct.”

“Get rested tomorrow, and get our legs back and have some jump and force [the Ducks] to play in their end,” Couture said.

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

Marleau wants to return, but extension with Sharks could be tricky

SAN JOSE – Just like his longtime teammate and fellow pending unrestricted free agent Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau said on Monday that he would like to return to the Sharks next season.

“Yeah, it would be nice. We’ll see if that’s an option,” Marleau said. “A lot of time here before this decision needs to be made.”

When asked if there have been any talks yet about an extension, Marleau said: “Not really, no.” Marleau, who was actively exploring his options to leave the Sharks early in the 2015-16 season, would be eligible to sign with another team on July 1.

The 37-year-old forward said he still feels like he has “at least five good years in me, or maybe more.”

“I still think I can contribute and play,” he said. “Until I think I can’t do that anymore, I’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

Marleau has spent his entire 19-year NHL career with the Sharks. He’s the franchise leader in just about every offensive statistical category, including games played (1,493) goals (508) and points (1,082). Marleau became just the 45th player in NHL history to reach 500 career goals on Feb. 2 in Vancouver. In 82 games this season, he posted 27 goals (third on the team) and 46 points (fifth).

He was asked what it would mean to spend his entire career in San Jose.

“There’s only a few people who have ever done that in their careers,” he said. “That’s something special.”

If Marleau wants a multi-year contract, which is likely, it could make it tricky for Doug Wilson to keep him, though. Players such as Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are due sizable raises in their next contracts, as both will enter the final year of their current bargain deals in 2017-18.

Wilson called it “a priority” to get Jones and Vlasic signed before training camp. He can begin talks on July 1, per NHL CBA rules.

“Certainly Martin Jones is everything we expected him to be, and he’s crucial,” Wilson said. “Marc-Edouard Vlasic [is] arguably one of the best defensemen in the league. You saw what he did against one of the top players in the league (Connor McDavid). Marc-Edouard is still one of the most underrated players in the league in the outside world. 

“Both of them are extremely important to get under contract, and we can start those discussions in the next little while.”

Both Jones and Vlasic indicated they would like to stay in San Jose past next season, too, and it’s conceivable that the combined price tag for those players will be somewhere in the $13-$15 million range. Both made just a combined $7.25 million in 2016-17 ($4.25 million for Vlasic, $3 million for Jones).

“Oh, absolutely,” Jones said, when asked if he could see himself with the Sharks long term. “I love it here. The guys are great. It’s a lot of fun coming to the rink every day. City has been great. The fans are awesome, and we have a great team. I’m excited.”

Vlasic said on March 14 that he would like to play his whole career with the Sharks, and confirmed that sentiment again on Monday, although the timing of an extension gets seemed of little importance to the 30-year-old.

“When it happens it will happen. It doesn’t matter if it’s July 1 or during the season,” he said.

The Sharks also have several pending restricted free agent forwards this summer in Chris Tierney, Marcus Sorensen, Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi. It’s likely that they’d prefer to keep all of those players, and some multi-year contracts could be the result. Other players like Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc showed flashes of becoming solid NHL contributors, too.

Along with the salary cap (still yet to be revealed), Thornton’s future, and which player the Sharks lose in the upcoming expansion draft, there are plenty of factors both sides need to weigh before any decision on Marleau gets made.

“[Marleau and Thornton] have been cornerstones of this franchise for a long time, not only as players, but as people,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of variables that go into that decision, and the first one is me sitting down and talking with both of them. We haven’t had a chance to do that, so we’ll get there.”

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

DeBoer: Joe Thornton played through torn knee ligaments in playoffs

SAN JOSE – There was finally some clarification on Monday on what Joe Thornton was playing through, as the Sharks gathered one final time at their practice facility before the offseason.

And, it was significant, as the 37-year-old was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” in his left knee, according to coach Pete DeBoer.

“I don’t know if the injury report has come out yet, but I’ve never seen a player play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said. “Basically, his knee is floating there. It was as courageous an effort, him doing what he did, as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton was scheduled to have surgery on the knee later on Monday afternoon, according to general manager Doug Wilson. Prior to that, the longtime centerman met with the local media.

"I'm going to go see the doctors right after this and see what they say,” he said. “So, I'll know more about it today. I just know it was pretty sore playing."

Wilson said: “I’ve been in the business a long time. To see a player play with that type of injury tells you everything you need to know about him.”

As for a timeframe for Thornton to return, Wilson said: “Don’t know. We’ll know after [surgery].”

Thornton, an unrestricted free agent who has spent the last 12 seasons with the Sharks, said that he would like to return.

"Yeah, I want to come back. I think this is a Stanley Cup caliber team and I think I'm a little bit older and I realize how good this team is,” he said. “Of course I'd like to [return]. But, we'll have to see. I'm sure we'll be talking. But right now I haven't been a dad for a long time. I need to turn into a family man for a couple months."

Thornton said there have not been any talks yet about a contract extension.

“I just wanted to focus on hockey this year,” he said. “There's no hurry, but yeah, I want to be back. This team is a real talented team, and I love playing here."

Wilson said: “We have lots of time … We’ve got four-and-a-half months until we’re back at it.”

Thornton, who has been downplaying the injury since it occurred on April 2 – including when he said three days later that there was “no doubt” he would return for the playoff opener, and then missing the first two games of the first round series with Edmonton – struck the same tune on Monday when asked what he had to go through to suit up.

"Just the normal stuff that hockey players deal with,” he said. “It was just unfortunate, the time of the year, that it happened three games before the end of the season and the playoffs [and] you’ve got to deal with something like that. 

“Hockey players are a different breed. There's probably five or six guys that had to deal with different stuff. But it is what it is. I'll go get it checked out today, and go from there."

Although Thornton’s was the most severe, there were other Sharks playing through injury as is commonplace at the end of any NHL season. 

Tomas Hertl suffered a broken foot in the same game as Thornton on April 2 in Vancouver, while forward Patrick Marleau had a broken thumb. Logan Couture played through a mouth injury that he has already revealed will require extensive dental work this summer, while Joonas Donskoi separated his left shoulder twice over the second half of the regular season.