Sharks defensemen find shooting lanes in win over Chicago

Sharks defensemen find shooting lanes in win over Chicago
February 2, 2014, 1:00 pm
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We’ve got to provide offense from the back end, and we’ve got to help the forwards out. Whether it’s us scoring, or just getting it there and letting them whack away, that’s what we’ve got to do.
Matt Irwin

Programming note: Coverage of Flyers-Sharks starts Monday night at 7:00 on Comcast SportsNet California with Sharks Pregame Live

SAN JOSE – When a team is in a scoring slump, as the Sharks still are after a 2-1 shootout win over Chicago Saturday, the focus turns to the forwards. And, San Jose has a long list of players up front that have simply not been producing at an acceptable rate.

The defensemen, though, play a central role in generating offense, too, and Todd McLellan suggested before the Blackhawks game that his blueliners needed to do a better job of contributing in that regard. Specifically, he wanted to see them get more shots through to the goaltender.

They did.

“The combination of forwards and D created more opportunistic pucks to the net,” McLellan said on Sunday. “Less blocked. Allowed us to play in the other team’s end a little bit more. That was a positive sign.”

In three regulation losses to the Kings, Oilers and Flames, Sharks defensemen took 35 shots on goal, but had another 28 blocked by opposing sticks, skates or bodies.

Against the Blackhawks on Saturday, defensemen had 13 shots on goal and just three blocked, and the team generated 39 shots total. In fact, the Blackhawks’ two highest shots-against totals have come against San Jose, including 42 in a game on Jan. 5 at United Center.

It's even more impressive as the Sharks did it without an injured Jason Demers, who leads the team in scoring among defensemen with 24 points.


“I think we all had some looks,” said Matt Irwin, who accounted for five shots on goal with just one blocked. “I think it was better. I think we had the shoot-first mentality, rather than trying to finesse it through.

“Teams are really good at blocking shots. It’s hard to do from the point. You’ve got the forwards coming out, and the d-men, and even your own forwards in front of the net. It’s tough to get it all the way through, but if you shoot it before they are ready, chances are you’ll get it through.”

The majority of goals scored these days come from close range, so just getting the disc towards the net for the purposes looking for a rebound or a fortunate bounce is paramount.

“Just try to get pucks on net,” Justin Braun said. “Keep plays alive on the blue line. Do your best just not to get shots blocked. ... If we just get it down to the net, good things are going to happen.”

Irwin said: “We’ve got to provide offense from the back end, and we’ve got to help the forwards out. Whether it’s us scoring, or just getting it there and letting them whack away, that’s what we’ve got to do.”