Sharks

Sharks come on strong at end of road trip to stop losing ways

Sharks come on strong at end of road trip to stop losing ways

NEWARK – Sharks defenseman Brent Burns isn’t just outscoring all of his blue line counterparts in the NHL this season. In some cases, he’s outscoring entire teams.
 
A legitimate Hart Trophy candidate, Burns entered Sunday’s afternoon game in New Jersey with 22 goals. The Devils, as a team, had just 22 goals all season from their group of rear guards.
 
Burns added two more, though, while New Jersey got just one from forward P.A. Parenteau in a 4-1 Sharks win at Prudential Center. Both of Burns’ goals came on wrist shots that glanced the iron on their way into the net, as the Wookiee played with the puck high in the zone and eventually found a shooting lane, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 Sharks lead that they would not relinquish.
 
"His shot is unbelievable,” Logan Couture said. “The ability he has to get his shot through, there's nobody in the league that does it better.”
 
Burns said: “Both [goals were] kind of the same. Good work down low, getting it up by the forwards, and then just traffic and shooting.”
 
The Sharks conferred about getting more traffic in front of goalie Cory Schneider after the first period, when they registered 19 shots on goal but none that went in. Despite that inflated total, they didn’t have many great scoring chances while going 0-for-4 on the power play, too.
 
Martin Jones saw just three shots in the first period, allowing Parenteau’s score at 11:42.
 
“The talk is just you’ve got to come out and you’ve got to put that effort in again,” Joe Pavelski said of the first intermission discussion. “We came out, we get a little bit more traffic – that was one of the things we wanted to do. Those shots, you could kind of tell [Schneider] couldn’t really find them, and they got by him.”
 
Jones said: “When pucks started going in, we were in front of the goalie. [Burns has] got a great shot, both are off the bar and in. But, you need to have bodies at the net to score from that distance.”
 
Joe Thornton capped off a strong second period stretch with his second goal in three games, as the Sharks scored three times in 8:55 to take control of the game. 
 
“We got on a little run there,” Thornton said. “We felt we were going pretty good. Our forecheck was working pretty good. It probably sealed the game right there.”
 
Jones still had some work to do, though. He made some key stops on Taylor Hall and Stefan Noesen late in the second period to keep it a two-goal lead at the second intermission, and made seven saves on seven shots in the third as the Sharks locked it down.
 
His brief cold streak, starting with the third period in Buffalo last Tuesday and continuing in Boston when he was pulled after one period, appears to be over.
 
“I thought we managed the puck pretty well tonight,” Jones said. “We didn’t turn the puck over, we didn’t give up odd man rushes. That was a big difference, especially in the third period against Buffalo and against Boston, we were giving up some odd man rushes, some looks that we don’t normally give up. Tonight, we did a really good job.”
 
San Jose snapped its winless streak at four games, capturing four of a possible eight points on its road trip.
 
“We feel like we've played a little better than our record so far on the trip, and we wanted the two points,” Pete DeBoer said. “Back-to-back, not having success in the first – it would have been easy to get down, but we stuck with it."
 
Pavelski said: “To end the trip with a win – a good, complete performance – it makes for a nice flight home.”

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

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Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

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Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

* * *

Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

* * *

Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.