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.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

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AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

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The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.