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.

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

Brent Burns working through offensive dry spell

DALLAS – Brent Burns hasn’t altered his routine, despite his name not showing up on the scoresheet for a little while.

“It’s not like I stopped eating the same meal or I’m not sleeping anymore,” Burns said on Thursday, after a rare Sharks road practice. “It’s the same. I do the same thing every game.”

What he hasn’t been doing every game, like he seemed to be for the first three-quarters of the season, is racking up points. The Norris Trophy frontrunner hasn’t potted a goal in his last 14 games, and is scoreless in his last seven. He still leads the Sharks with 70 points, and has four more points than Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for the most among NHL defensemen, but there’s no denying he’s hit a cold streak. Previously, he hadn't gone more than three games without a point.

He’s not the only one, of course, as the Sharks have managed just four goals in their last four games, all regulation losses. But when a team is struggling to put the puck in the net, it’s often the top guys that have to lead the resurgence. And no one has been better or more important to the Sharks this season than the 32-year-old blueliner.

Could it be that as Burns goes, so do the Sharks? The team is 33-9-3 when Burns finds the scoresheet, and just 9-15-4 when he doesn't.

Coach Pete DeBoer doesn’t think so, though, pointing to the Sharks putting up plenty of offense at the start of Burns’ dry spell, including nine combined goals in wins over Dallas and Buffalo last week.

“I don’t think we only score when Brent Burns is on. I think we’re deeper than that. I think we’ve shown that,” DeBoer said. “He hasn’t scored in awhile, and up until a few games ago we were putting up some significant goals and numbers and offense. 

“I think even the nights he’s not scoring, we’ve generated lots of chances. Other than the St. Louis game (a 4-1 loss on March 16), the last three games we’ve lost, we’ve generated enough chances that on a lot of nights that’s three or four goals. But, that’s not just [on] Burnzie…It’s some other guys bearing down and sticking it in the net. It will come.”

Joe Thornton believes that the forwards can also do more to help Burns, who has become the team’s most valuable offensive weapon with his ability to get shots or passes through from a distance with velocity and precision like few players in the NHL can.

“He’s obviously a dominant player, and I think we just need to help him out,” Thornton said. “It shouldn’t always be on one guy, I think we’ve got to give him better opportunities to put him in better spots. It shouldn’t all lay on his shoulders. We’re not doing a good enough job to kind of work away from him, and getting him opportunities.”

Burns, of course, is a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. During practice, his hooting and hollering can typically be heard echoing throughout the rink. Simply put, no one has more fun than this guy.

So, is the cold streak weighing on him? Maybe a little bit.

“I think it weighs on him, for sure,” DeBoer said. “We have good dialogue, there’s a lot of communication, especially with him and [assistant coach Bob Boughner]. And also, him and his teammates. The guys know how much responsibility he takes on himself – sometimes too much. Guys are good with that, they recognize that.”

Thornton said: “When you’re a d-man and you get so many goals and so many assists, you kind of expect it’s going to happen every night, but that’s just not the reality of it. He’s doing something that hardly [any] d-men do in the history of the game. … He’s capable of just getting out of that quick, and pouring it on like he has in the first 65 games of the year.”

For now, Burns is taking every new day and new game as it comes, and said: “It’s no different if you’ve won four in a row and you’ve got 10 points.”

And if he did have 10 points in his last four games?

“You want 12. If you’ve got zero, you want one. Then 12,” he said.

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

Notes: Injured Sharks Hansen, Karlsson return to practice

DALLAS – Injured Sharks forwards Jannik Hansen and Melker Karlsson both returned to the ice for Thursday’s practice in Dallas, in what Pete DeBoer called “a good first step” in their recoveries.

The coach left open the possibility that one or both could play against the Stars on Friday night, even though neither was skating on a set line for practice.

“We’ll have to wait and see how they feel [Friday] morning and what the recovery is,” DeBoer said. “I’m not prepared to say they’re in tomorrow, but it’s a good sign they’re on the ice and participated.”

Hansen has been out for the past two games since getting a stick in the head from defenseman Brandon Montour on Saturday against Anaheim. 

“Took a couple days [off] to make sure everything was aright,” Hansen said. “Getting better, back on the ice today.”

Officially, it’s an upper body injury. When pressed if it was a concussion issue, Hansen said: “I don’t know. It’s tough to say to begin with, but obviously you do all the precautionary things that [are] involved now.”

Although he has just one assist in his first six games with the Sharks, Hansen seemed to spark the Sharks’ top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski, as the line generated one even strength goal in each of the first four games Hansen played.

Karlsson has missed the last six games with a lower body injury. He has 19 points (9g, 10a) in 60 games with a plus-nine rating.

* * *

The lines remained the same for Thursday’s practice. Patrick Marleau was with Thornton and Pavelski; Logan Couture centered Joel Ward and Mikkel Boedker; Tomas Hertl was between Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen, while the fourth line sweaters were worn by Chris Tierney, Micheal Haley, Timo Meier and Danny O’Regan.

San Jose stayed over in St. Paul on Tuesday night and flew to Dallas on Wednesday morning on their day off.

The Wild game, a 3-2 loss, was the Sharks’ fourth straight. They’ve generated just four goals over that span.

That game also capped off a stretch of seven games in 11 days for the Sharks, who now have just a two-point lead on Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division – a lead that was nine points before the losing streak began.

Was the day off good?

“Yeah. We’ve been kind of struggling scoring goals, so just to kind of relax yesterday and then kind of get back and refocus today,” Thornton said. “But sometimes you just need a little time away from the rink. I think yesterday was needed.”

DeBoer said: “I think our group is pretty mature. I don’t think we’re overeating to the situation. No one’s happy we’ve lost a few, but we also know that we’ve done enough good things that we could have won two or three of those games. We’ve just got to stick with it, clean up a couple things, and score some goals.”

* * *

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic skated after missing Tuesday’s game with the flu. Tierney missed Monday’s game in Dallas, also due to illness.

Is that all gone now?

“Knock on wood. Nothing today. Hope so,” DeBoer said.