Sharks continue to take mental breaks


Sharks continue to take mental breaks

SAN JOSE There are fewer than 20 games remaining in the NHLs regular season, and the Sharks are far from a sure thing to make the playoffs. San Jose (33-23-7, 73 points) is in seventh place in the Western Conference, with the surging Dallas Stars (71 points) and improving Los Angeles Kings (70 points) nipping at their heels.

Its not a position the four-time defending Pacific Division champions are used to.

Yet, for whatever reason, the Sharks seem to take mental breaks for long portions of games. Its been exactly one month, in fact, since the team put together back-to-back wins on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. San Jose is 4-9-1 in its past 14 games since then, and if the playoffs started today, a first round flame out would be all but a certainty.

Against Buffalo on Thursday, it was the entire first half of the game. In the loss to Minnesota last Sunday, the team fell asleep late in the third period in surrendering a lead and a win. The night before against Nashville, the Sharks gave up a pair of odd-man rushes and were down 2-0 on the Predators first two shots of the game.

And thats just in the past week.

I think every year is different, and this year its definitely been a struggle, Joe Thornton said.

The brutal road trip in which the Sharks went 2-6-1 was obviously one the team would like to forget. There have been signs they are coming out of their funk at home, with a 1-0 win against the Flyers on Tuesday and a strong third period against the Sabres on Thursday in a 1-0 loss. Defensively, with one goal against in two games, its an improvement.

At the same time, one has to wonder why the urgency wasnt there at the start of the Buffalo game. The Sharks are in desperate need of a winning streak of some sort, and were trying to build off of a victory over a very good team on Tuesday. On Thursday, they were up against a club that, despite recent improved play, is likely to the miss the playoffs and was coming off of a hard-fought win in Anaheim the night before.

The Sharks had the day off on Wednesday, but 30 minutes into the game, they were the ones who looked gassed and lacked energy rather than the other way around.

Id like us to take control of games right away, but the truth is were playing an opponent. Theyre usually doing the same thing, Dan Boyle said.

So what can you do?

The one thing you can control is work. Thats the one thing weve got to elevate. Weve got to work hard. We cant cheat. Weve got to work, and then the talent takes over after that.

You look around this locker room, we have as much talent, if not more, than most teams in this league, but weve got to work. When we do that, were okay.

Boyle later clarified that he wasnt questioning the teams work ethic, despite insinuating that the Sharks do, in fact, need to work harder.

Sometimes its just a stride, man. Guys want to win. I dont see anybody in here that doesnt give a bleep. Sometimes its a stride. Its small. But, weve got to work.

Ryane Clowe thinks the team may have gotten a little bit comfortable earlier in the year, and thats why bad habits crept into their game during that February road trip.

Its not hard to see why. When the trip began on Feb. 12 in St. Louis, the Sharks had a three-point lead on the Kings and four-point advantage over Phoenix. They also had four games in hand on both clubs. It looked like a fifth consecutive division title was going to be a breeze.

Maybe we got a little comfortable there, Clowe said. Phoenix went on a hot streak and we found ourselves behind the eight ball, and then kind of decided to pick it up. Its tough to say.

But, the urgency now feels like its there. You dont want to wait until you get to 10 games left, or seven games, and feel like youre in the same position. You want to make a move now.

Clowe was adamant when asked point blank if the Sharks are too relaxed at a time of year they should be anything but.

No, not at all. Were ready, were focused. You dont want to go walking around on eggshells or anything, youve still got to be loose and play loose.

I think we realize weve got to get on a streak here, because were in no position to let anything slide.

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

* * *

DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

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The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”