Sharks can't turn it on and off at will anymore

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Sharks can't turn it on and off at will anymore

Darryl Sutter, who once roamed the halls at La Pavillon du HP, was asked what he hoped for from Sundays Dallas-Calgary, and his joking response was a perfectly sensible, Can they both get nothing?And because he could only be wrong, he was totally so. Dallas won, 3-2, so the Stars got two, and the Flames got one part of the NHLs unbearably flawed system of reward and punishment.But if he wanted zero, he could have found it in a familiar place.San Jose.
The Sharks are now nested in eighth place, a blade away from ninth, and on one of their occasional long-term walkabouts. Theyve lost nine of their last 12, are faced with one of those dance-or-get-off-the-floor moment, and their head coach may not be back in time for their next road trip.RELATED: NHL conference standings
Now thats pretty damned zero-esque.The problem of the Sharks has been diagnosed many ways by many folks, but it really boils down to this. They are playing as a sixth-to-eighth-place team playing sixth-to-eighth-place hockey good enough for the playoffs, but not good enough to make a deep run. You may cite injuries as the reason if you wish, but Bill Parcells wasnt lying when he said You are what the standings say you are. Neither was former Sharks coach Kevin Constantine when he said, Potential is synonymous with getting your ass kicked.The sentiment is the same. The winning and the losing is all the required data. But if you must know, the Sharks are where they are at because they still think they are what they are not a team that can turn it on and off at will.It is instructive that they just finished losing at home to St. Louis, which whether you like it or not is a better team than San Jose. The Blues score first, and then they watch you slowly choke on their game. Its so very Ken Hitchcock, which is why he will be a Hall of Fame coach when he decides to stop coaching.RELATED: Sharks sluggish in 3-1 loss to Blues
Losing to the Blues is not a shame for this team, but it was regarded as such because the Blues took San Joses skill away, and the only way to combat that is to out-ugly the game. When San Jose grinds, it wins. When San Jose wants to fly up and down without a care in the world, it doesnt.And because you all like numbers this early in the morning, another one. St. Louis is 33-0 when it scores three goals or more. Thats a team with a very good clampdown rate. It isnt the be-all and end-all Los Angeles, currently not a playoff team, is 22-2 but it matters.The Sharks, on the other hand, are a sad 24-11 when scoring three. only one team either in or within two games of a playoff spot, has a worse record, and thats Winnipeg, which is 21-11.In short, in the race to three, the Sharks get there as often as anyone, but often make the game a race to four or five, which doesnt work nearly so well.The point, as though you never thought we would get to it, is that San Jose can score (13th in the league, which is meh but tolerable), and it can defend (seventh in goals against, which is good), but it does not do both at the same time often enough to be a top-caliber team.It is as if the Sharks struggle with who they are on a nightly basis. Can they run up and down with the young Turks of the league? Not consistently. Can they shut down a team with defense and puck control? Theyre better than most at all. Can they be both? Yes, if you like middle-of-the-pack hockey that is neither consistent nor satisfying.Thus, this isnt a talent issue, or a coaching issue, the two most common culprits cited by message board genii and chat-show experts. This is an image issue, as in, Who do they think they are? The evidence suggests they are a defensive team with grit and meanness, but their inner desires suggest a team that can go firehouse shinny with the best of them. They can do both, but they cant do them at the same time.And until they reconcile those two competing interests, they will be as they are. They can be more like the Blues, and position themselves for a playoff run, or they can be like the Jets and sweat out the final 18 games. But this isnt working, not the way they think it should, and we know this because they are what the standings say they are. The matter of what they intend to do with it is the story of the final quarter of the season.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

In return to San Jose, McLellan emerges victorious, ends Sharks' season

In return to San Jose, McLellan emerges victorious, ends Sharks' season

SAN JOSE – To borrow a phrase from Chuck Woolery, Todd McLellan was back in two and two.

Saturday’s Game 6 between the Sharks and Oilers marked exactly two years and two days since the Sharks-McLellan love connection was broken up, as the coach and his staff were all essentially fired on April 20, 2015. But McLellan and assistants Jim Johnson and Jay Woodcroft quickly resurfaced with the Oilers a few weeks later, and now they’re moving on to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the expense of their former employer.

At what was his home for seven seasons, McLellan took the press conference podium at SAP Center as the victorious visiting coach after Edmonton’s 3-1 win clinched the series in six games. Asked what the moment meant to him, McLellan preferred not to focus on himself or his staff.

“It’s not about Todd, it’s not about Jay or Jimmy. It’s about the Oilers and the group of players there that are growing up in front of us,” McLellan said.

“We’re part of this team now. I obviously have a soft spot for a lot of the players that are here in San Jose. They gave us a hell of a series. They helped us grow up by pushing us, and we’re lucky to get through. That’s an important thing for us.”

Amazingly, the Oilers managed to prevail with just one even strength point from Connor McDavid, who led the league in scoring in the regular season. That point came with less than a second remaining on the clock on Sunday when McDavid converted on an empty net.

The focus from the outside, among many of the Edmonton and San Jose media, was that the Sharks were doing an admirable job of defending the 20-year-old, who had 30 goals and 100 points in the regular season. Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun, in particular, were keeping McDavid frustrated.

While that may be the case, McLellan said after Game 6 that he had no problem with the McDavid vs. Vlasic showdown. In his view, the Oilers could win the series elsewhere.

“There was a lot of talk in this series about us trying to get Connor away from Vlasic and Braun. Obviously we don’t want to talk about it during the series, but we had an eye on [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins] against [Joe Thornton’s] line, especially since they put them together. That was a match we were looking for.

“You can’t get everything. When you’re a coach, the media experts find something and they keep going to it. But coaches have different plans sometimes. Peter [DeBoer] had his plan, we had ours. Ours wasn’t about getting Connor away from Vlasic and Braun, ours was getting [Nugent-Hopkins] on the ice against [Joe] Pavelski and Jumbo and Patty Marleau. For the most part, it worked in our favor.”

It worked, because as the stars on both teams were essentially neutralized, the Oilers’ depth players contributed just a little bit more than the Sharks group did and at more opportune times.

Zack Kassian had a pair of game-winning goals in games two and three; David Desharnais was the Game 5 hero with a game-tying assist and game-winning goal; and Anton Slepyshev posted the game-winner with a breakaway in Game 6. Not exactly big names.

DeBoer was particularly disappointed with Game 3, a 1-0 loss on Kassian’s third period goal; and Game 5, in which the Sharks had a 3-1 lead that they couldn’t protect. That the Sharks only got one power play goal in 18 chances not counting the Game 4 blowout was also one of the reasons for their downfall.

“If you had told me before the series we would have held McDavid in check, we would have won the special teams battle on paper, I probably would have felt pretty good about our chances,” DeBoer said.

Instead, McLellan will take his up-and-coming team to the next round, where it will face off with the Anaheim Ducks.

“For our team, we’re watching them grow up right in front of us, which is a great thing,” he said.

 

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

Sharks rue 'key moments' as they are knocked out by Oilers

SAN JOSE – The clock said there was seven minutes and 48 seconds remaining in the third period. It was frozen there for a bit after Patrick Marleau’s goal brought the Sharks back to within a single score of Edmonton.

Filled to capacity, the Shark Tank came to life, ravenous for the equalizer. The next several minutes offered a reminder of the team’s thrilling 2016 playoff run, when the Sharks finished just two wins away from a championship while taking their fans along for a ride they had never been on in a quarter-century.

But those seven minutes and 48 seconds quickly wound down, leaving the Sharks worlds away from what they did just a year ago. The Oilers held on for a 3-1 win, ending the Sharks’ season in a first round series that lasted six games.

Other than Game 4, a Sharks blowout victory, all the games were competitive.

“There were just a couple key moments in the series,” Joe Pavelski said.

In Game 6, the key moments that won the game for Edmonton came early in the second period. Justin Braun’s point shot was blocked leading to Leon Draisaitl’s goal to open the scoring, and Chris Tierney’s pass to Paul Martin at the point was just off the mark, allowing Anton Slepyshev to glide ahead untouched for another goal. The scores both came within the first two minutes of the middle frame, and were just 56 seconds apart.

That was probably poetic justice in that the Oilers were the much more aggressive and hungry team in the first period, they just weren't rewarded on the scoreboard.

Joe Thornton agreed with a suggestion that the Sharks were “a little bit sloppy” early, “but we got better. I thought we played a great second period and pushed in the third period. Just not enough time left on the clock.”

The Sharks did seem to get their game going just after Slepyshev’s score, but couldn’t solve Cam Talbot more than once. Pavelski nearly tied it with 3:45 to go, but his backhander from down low glanced off of both the crossbar and the post.

Key moments.

“It felt good coming off the stick, it really did,” Pavelski said of his chance. “It was there.”

Connor McDavid’s empty net goal with less than a second on the clock capped the scoring, sending the Oilers and former Sharks coach Todd McLellan on to the second round. 

Other than Game 4, which they dominated 7-0, the Sharks managed just seven goals in the other five games. Brent Burns failed to record a point in five of the six games, while Pavelski had just a single assist outside of Game 4.

The depth scorers also failed to come through, no surprise after the Sharks got little from them for much of the season.

“They defended well, Talbot played well. They were all close games,” Pete DeBoer said. “You’ve got to find a way to win 1-0, 2-1 in the playoffs. It’s not realistic you’re going to get three or four every night. They found a way to win more of the close games than we did.”

Burns said: “Series was pretty tight. I think it’s like Pavs said, it’s just little moments here and there. So much is luck, just puck luck, creating that luck. It’s a tight series, back and forth.”

The Sharks face an uncertain offseason, as there is little reason to believe their current roster, as constructed, will be able to compete with an Oilers team that has not only proven to be better now but is only going to improve. Whether Thornton and Marleau return remains an uncertainty, too.

“This is a big summer. We’ve got some guys that are up, and the expansion draft and whatnot,” Logan Couture said. 

“Every year I’ve been in this league, the team has never been the same the next year. There’s always been changes. Unfortunately, that’s the way that this league works. We’ll see what happens this summer, and come back hungrier next year.”

In the meantime, the Oilers will continue their push for a Stanley Cup while San Jose’s visit to the final round last year will only become more and more of a distant memory.