Sharks fall to Canucks 3-2 in overtime


Sharks fall to Canucks 3-2 in overtime


SAN JOSE Browsing the stats before Wednesday nights Sharks-Canucks game at HP Pavilion, a couple in particular stood out. Vancouver entered with the leagues best overall power play, while the Sharks owned the worst penalty killing percentage at home.In what ended up as a 3-2 Sharks loss to the Canucks in overtime on an Andrew Ebbett deflection, San Jose ended up even in the special teams battle with one power play goal for and one against - a minor victory in itself. But it was a pair of late man advantages in the third period in which San Jose had a golden opportunity to beat its nemesis, that had the players and coach shaking their collective heads afterwards.You get two power plays down the stretch in the third period in a tie game, you need to win, Logan Couture said.With the game tied 2-2, Daniel Sedin was whistled for high-sticking Marc-Edouard Vlasic at 15:29 of the third period. Joe Thornton, standing in front of the net, nearly put in a pass from Joe Pavelski early in the advantage, but just missed a tip-in. Shortly after that, Roberto Luongo stopped Ryane Clowes rebound attempt.

Once Sedin's penalty expired expired, Kevin Bieksa was sent off for high-sticking Jamie McGinn after a strong move to the net by the Sharks winger at 18:23. San Jose was unable to get any prime scoring chances during that two-minute advantage, though, and Ebbett redirected a low wrist shot from the high slot by Bieksa at 3:23 of overtime to win it for Vancouver.You just have to find a way to get the puck on the net and I dont think we did that, Dan Boyle said of the late power plays. Pucks were just bouncing all over the place, and we spent half the time breaking it in or fighting it. I think late in the period like that, in that game, the ice is pretty bad. You have to shoot the puck and get an ugly goal, and we didnt get the shot we needed.Todd McLellan said: The power play probably got us a point tonight, and left one on the table, as well.Despite the loss, the Sharks have to be given credit for erasing a two-goal deficit and controlling play for much of the second half. San Jose ended its six-game homestand with points in five (4-1-1).The fans got their moneys worth, too. Not only was the game competitive and fast-paced, but emotions were evident in the third period when McGinn and Ryan Kesler tussled in the corner which led to a full on five-on-five scrum. Kesler and McGinn were given coincidental minors at 14:35.I thought it was a heck of a game. It had a lot of emotion in it, more emotion than any other of the games weve played lately, McLellan said. Between both teams, on our bench, officiating, the whole nine yards. Playoff style, playoff atmosphere, and you dont expect anything different from the two teams.Vancouver jumped out to a 2-0 lead before a pair of second period Sharks goals tied it at the intermission.Patrick Marleau played a big role in both. First, on a two-on-two rush with Couture, Marleau hesitated just long enough to draw Bieksa towards him before passing to Couture to his right. Couture unleashed a laser at 11:01 that cleanly beat Roberto Luongo for his team leading 16th goal of the season.Patty made a great play. It started in our d-zone, Couture said. Sedin fed one to me, and I beat him up ice. Patty made a great play to find me and I was able to beat Luongo high.Later in the period with the Sharks on a power play, Marleau pushed defender Alex Edler off of the puck after a defensive zone faceoff win by Henrik Sedin. That allowed Thornton to pick it up in the corner and circle around before beating Luongo high to the glove side at 16:12.The Sharks outshot the Canucks 16-4 in the third period, but couldnt find a way to take a lead. Overall, San Jose has lost five of the last six regular season meetings to Vancouver, including four in a row at home. That doesnt count the five-game defeat in last years Western Conference Final.Theyre a good team. They have a bunch of lines who can play, their d-men can move the puck, two great goalies, Couture said. We've just struggled against a good team. We need to get out of it, though.Theyll have another chance on Jan. 2 at Vancouver. The Canucks will play two games prior to that date, in Los Angeles and Anaheim, while the Sharks have the next four days off.Even though our record is real bad against them the last 10 games or so, I think for the most part we play them pretty tight, Boyle said. It could have gone either way tonight. I dont think either team stole it one way or another.Vancouver opened the scoring at 11:12 of the first period, when Daniel Sedins quick wraparound beat Antti Niemi.My pad should be on the post there, every time. I thought he might do a different play from there and maybe get it in front of the net, said Niemi, making his 15th start in the last 16 games.The Canucks power play made it 2-0 after a Brent Burns was called for an unnecessary hold behind the Sharks net. Kesler deposited the rebound of a shot by Edler less than three minutes into the second period.Douglas Murray returned to the Sharks lineup from a right wrist injury that kept him sidelined for 10 games. He was paired with Justin Braun, rather than his regular partner Boyle, who remained with Vlasic.Vancouver improved to 14-3-1 in its last 18 games. The Sharks have gained points in seven of their last eight (4-1-3).Odds and ends: Thomas Greiss was the backup goaltender while Antero Niittymaki has yet to dress. Patrick Marleau played in his 200th consecutive game, becoming the fifth Shark to do so. Colin White missed the game with a lower body injury. The Sharks won a whopping 66 percent of faceoffs (37-19). Joe Pavelski was 13-4 in the circle. Both teams were 1-for-4 on the power play.

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

Analysis: Scoring winger a need for Sharks ahead of trade deadline

SAN JOSE – There are no glaring holes for the San Jose Sharks to fill ahead of next week's NHL trade deadline on March 1.

Still, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson is a notorious tire-kicker, and he’s surely working the phones these days to see if there’s anything out there that could help his hockey club, which has a comfortable five-point lead on the Pacific Division midway through its bye week.

“We’ll see, but we do feel really good about this group,” Wilson told CSN earlier this month. “We believe in our players and we believe in our guys on the Barracuda, because they’ve earned that.

“Having said that, our history speaks for itself. If there’s a way to help this hockey team or add something, we’ve always done it, and we’ll always explore it.”

So, what might the Sharks be exploring? There are two areas that make the most sense – a backup goaltender, and a scoring winger.

* * *

No question Aaron Dell has exceeded expectations in his first NHL season. He’s 7-3-1 with a 1.95 GAA and .934 SP in 12 games, and his .953 even-strength save percentage is tops in the league among goalies that have played at least 10 games.

Still, it’s unknown if Dell would be able to handle the day-to-day grind, if anything were to happen to Jones. Even in the minors last season when he earned the number one job with the Barracuda, he wasn’t playing three and four games a week due to the AHL’s Pacific Division having fewer games than the rest of the league. He’s also not been overly tested at the NHL level – of Dell’s 10 starts, only one has come against a team currently in playoff position, and the Calgary Flames are only barely in the second Wild Card spot.

There are some goalies thought to be trade bait as pending unrestricted free agents. They include Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop, Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavalec, the Islanders’ Jaroslav Halak, or Philadelphia goalies Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth. All could likely be gotten for some combination of young players and/or draft picks.

But is it worth it for the Sharks to make a move for a player that might not even be needed in the postseason? According to one NHL analyst, the Sharks should just take their chances with the inexperienced North Dakota product.

“I probably wouldn’t put a whole lot of resources in [finding a backup goalie],” NBCSN analyst Keith Jones told CSN on the latest Sharks Insider Podcast. “If Martin Jones was injured you’d have a real problem, it would be tough to find a goalie to replace what he brings to the table. I know they tried James Reimer last year, and the book is out on him. … I’m not sure that that’s a major upgrade on Aaron Dell.”

That said, Keith Jones would like to see Martin Jones – who’s on pace to play 69.5 games – get more time off after the schedule resumes. That means increased playing time for Dell.

“I think you might just want to take a chance with your backup a little more frequently,” Jones said. “You may want to sacrifice a few games along the way. [Dell] gains some experience, and Jones gets some rest.”

The impression here is that the Sharks will probably stick with Dell. Sharks coach Pete DeBoer has been nothing short of glowing in his reviews of Dell lately, as well he should be. The goalie has earned his place on this team, and none of the other goalies that the Sharks could acquire would be obvious upgrades at this stage of the season.

* * *

A much stronger case can be made that the Sharks are in need of another scoring winger. 

While the offense has been more dangerous in recent weeks than it was over the first half of the season, it still doesn’t look as effective as it was last season going into the playoffs, when it finished fourth in the league. Yes, the power play has been relatively power-less, but there’s more to it than that.

Mikkel Boedker has been a disappointment after signing a four-year deal as a free agent, and was benched yet again on Sunday. Joonas Donskoi, still out with what looks like a shoulder injury, hasn’t taken that next step after his strong playoff run last season. Joel Ward is off his scoring pace from last year. Patrick Marleau has been outstanding, but remains streaky. Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier have done some nice things as rookies, but neither of them has “arrived” yet, to borrow a word commonly used by DeBoer. Nikolay Goldobin failed in his two-game tryout last week, too.

Finding a winger to play on the Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski line should be a priority, as DeBoer has tried seven different wingers there this season without finding a permanent fit. 

Among the veterans that could be available are Dallas’ Patrick Sharp or Patrick Eaves, Arizona’s Shane Doan, Colorado’s Jarome Iginla, Detroit's Thomas Vanek, or even Vancouver’s Alex Burrows or Jannik Hansen, if the club is looking for a more agitating type.

Sharp is perhaps the most intriguing name on that list. Although he’s been hurt off and on this season and his numbers are down on a bad Dallas team, he’s a veteran scorer that has won three Stanley Cups as part of Chicago’s dynasty. He’s an obvious upgrade over the players that have rotated through the Thornton line.

Bringing in one of those aforementioned forwards would require some salary cap juggling (especially Sharp, who carries a $5.9 million cap hit) and perhaps a salary from the current roster going the other way, as the Sharks don’t have a whole lot of room right now. But it’s worth exploring, as a consistent offensive attack should be this team’s biggest worry right now with seven weeks until the postseason.

* * *

If the Sharks don’t make a move, DeBoer and company are still confident with the team in the dressing room. After all, most of those players were a part of the team’s run last season, when the Sharks were just two wins from capturing the Stanley Cup.

“For us, it’s not whether a piece comes in or whether we don’t bring any pieces in, I think we’re confident in our group,” DeBoer said. “It’s about us…playing to our identity for as long a stretch as is possible, because that’s what wins in the playoffs. Whether we don’t do anything or whether a piece comes in here, I don’t think that mindset changes.”

Justin Braun said: “Management is going to do what they’re going to do, but if they don’t do anything, we have confidence with everyone in here to get the job done.”

Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week


Despite loss, Sharks 'in a good spot' headed into bye week

SAN JOSE – Despite what was technically their sixth loss in the last eight games, the Sharks seemed to put more stock in the point they gained in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Bruins on Sunday night at SAP Center, rather than the one they left on the table.

They have that luxury. 

The Sharks will enter their bye week five points ahead of Edmonton and Anaheim for first place in the Pacific Division, and figure they’re due for some time off after a short summer followed by a World Cup for some, and a brutal condensed NHL schedule for all.

“[We’ve] showed up and played hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “We’ve been in a lot of games. Games we’ve lost, we’ve battled. There hasn’t been any cheat in [our] game. Defensively, we’ve been strong. There’s a lot of good areas in our game that we like right now.”

Playing in the second of a back-to-back against a Bruins team had was coming off of its own bye week, the Sharks fell behind 1-0 on a first period goal by Ryan Spooner, but notched a Patrick Marleau equalizer in a second period in which they outshot the Bruins 16-9. An evenly played third period gave way to overtime, where Brad Marchand scored on a breakaway to give the Bruins their fourth straight win since changing head coaches.

The Sharks spoke before the weekend about finishing the final two games strong before the respite. They ended up gaining three of four points, including Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona, and were pleased with their effort against the Bruins as they capped off 10 games in 20 days since the All-Star break.

“It was an important push into this break,” Pete DeBoer said. “To go in up [five points] on the next closest team is a real testament to our group.”

Paul Martin said: “I thought we played pretty well, considering the back-to-back with some travel, and a team that was waiting for us.”

Perhaps the most encouraging performance came from Martin Jones, who was one of a number of Sharks players that was looking particularly fatigued lately. The goaltender entered the game with a 1-0-2 record, 4.46 goals-against average and .837 save percentage in his last four starts, including getting pulled after the first period in Boston just 10 days ago.

Jones was impressive, though, making a vital pad stop on the dangerous David Pastrnak in front of the net midway through the third period to keep it a 1-1 score.

“It was a good game. Two teams playing hard,” Jones said. “We can take a lot of positives from that one. It was a good hard game, just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Overtimes have been an issue lately, though. The Sharks have lost their last four games decided during the three-on-three, all coming within the last two weeks. As satisfied as they are with their cushion in the division, it could have been cushier.

Against the Bruins, Tuukka Rask denied Brent Burns on a two-on-one in overtime, and Marchand scored off of the ensuing faceoff, blowing the zone past Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic and corralling a long toss from Torey Krug before sliding it home.

“We get to overtime, shootouts – we expect to get that extra point,” Pavelski said. “We haven’t found it lately. We’ll just keep looking for it.”

DeBoer said: “The points are critical, they’re valuable. I don’t read a lot into [overtime decisions], we’ve won our share over the time I’ve been here. We had a chance to win tonight, too. … I concentrate on the effort, and I thought we got better as the game went on.”

Being focused and energized, as they have been most of the season to this point, shouldn’t be a problem when the season resumes next Saturday in Vancouver. The Sharks are in prime position to win their first division title since 2010-11, and a return trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a distinct possibility.

Losing six of eight won’t be nearly as acceptable coming out of the break as it apparently is going into it, but that’s not something to worry about now, even after another defeat. 

“There are some games you wish you could get back and get those points, but we’re still in a good spot,” Marleau said.