Sharks finally play with a lead, make it count in rout of Oilers

Sharks finally play with a lead, make it count in rout of Oilers

SAN JOSE – Even after the Sharks were shut out in back-to-back games of their first round series with the Oilers, Brent Burns spoke about how enjoyable it is to compete in the Stanley Cup Playoffs even after some rough results.

“That’s the fun part, is earning it and going through that,” Burns said on Monday.

Game 4 was presumably a whole lot more fun for Burns and his brethren.

The Sharks smoked the Oilers, 7-0 on Tuesday at SAP Center, outplaying Edmonton from the opening faceoff to the final horn in tying the series at two games apiece.

It took just 15 seconds for the Sharks to break their 120-minute scoring drought, and the rout was on from there. Not surprisingly, it was captain Joe Pavelski who set the early tone, redirecting a Justin Braun shot past Cam Talbot.

That permitted the Sharks to play with the lead for the first time all series. In their Game 1 win they had to erase a 2-0 lead before Melker Karlsson’s overtime marker, and they hadn’t found the net since.

"It was critical,” Pete DeBoer said of scoring first. “That's an important piece, getting that momentum. We weren't able to do it last game. To get it early tonight and get that feeling was critical."

Pavelski said: “It allowed us to really stay with our game. … It was good to see the guys get that lead and not really sit back. We wanted more.”

They got more, alright. Pavelski added another, while Logan Couture scored twice and Patrick Marleau, Marcus Sorensen and David Schlemko also found the net in the Sharks’ most convincing playoff win in franchise history. Previously, the Sharks had never won a playoff game by more than five goals.

The power play, which prior to Game 4 had been about as potent as a North Korean missile test, also came alive. Four of San Jose’s seven goals happened with a man advantage, including the most important score of the night.

Just after Zack Kassian stepped out of the box early in the second period, turning a five-on-three into a five-on-four, Marleau whipped in a pass from Burns past Talbot’s far side at 2:02 of the middle frame.

Had the Oilers killed it off, they could have seized the momentum. Instead, Sharks continued to dictate.

San Jose’s power play was just 1-for-14 in the series through the first three games, after finishing 25th in the league in the regular season.

“We’ve been saying we have confidence in it,” Joe Thornton said. “It’s just a matter of time before we strike. Just keep to our fundamentals and we’d be fine, and you saw that tonight.”

DeBoer said: “They've tried to play physical and they've taken some liberties, and we haven't made them pay a price for that until tonight. I don't think it's a secret that as our key guys are getting healthier and feeling better we're starting to look better in that area."

Couture, who has shown nerves of steel in coming back from a severe mouth injury but hadn’t done much through the first three games, played his best game so far. Despite getting whacked by a high stick and requiring a between-periods visit to the dentist to get his teeth numbed, he was a force.

“I think he’s getting more confident as this series goes on,” Thornton said. “It was nice to see him have a game like he did tonight.”

Couture said: “I felt better tonight. I felt this was my best game of the series.”

His teammates, of course, can say the same as a collective group. But just like a disappointing loss, they’ll have to quickly move on for the all-important Game 5 back at Rogers Place on Thursday.

“It’s nice, but you win 1-0 [or] you win 7-0, it’s just one win,” Couture said. “It was nice to score some goals.”

Pavelski said: “We got a split there, they got one here. We have to go back and get one there.”

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

Boedker tops list of disappointing Sharks depth forwards

SAN JOSE – The Sharks didn’t make any blockbuster moves last summer, content to make another run in 2016-17 with largely the same group that came within two wins of capturing the Stanley Cup.

They still acquired a notable player, though, when Mikkel Boedker was signed on July 1 to add an element that the Sharks knew they needed more of moving forward – speed. Boedker was expected to make the team faster, after the Sharks were exposed for not having enough of that against Pittsburgh in the NHL’s final round, as well as play in a top six role. 

At the time, it was hailed as a slick, under-the-radar move that wasn’t going to change the dynamic of the club but could help push it over the top.

When Boedker was a healthy scratch in games three and four of the first round against Edmonton, the evidence became clear, though, that this was a decision that fell flat on its face. 

Frankly, Boedker – who is signed for three more years with a $4 million salary cap hit – brings back visions of Sharks bust Marty Havlat. You know the skill is there, but the desire to use it on a nightly basis while showing any semblance of a battle level is lacking. 

Should the Sharks give Boedker another chance next season, or should they do everything in their power to try and move him? That’s a question that will likely be debated in the front office over the next several weeks.

On get-away day on Monday, indications were that the Sharks were planning on sticking with the 27-year-old, who finished with 26 points in the regular season (10g, 16a) and added one goal and one assist in four games in the playoffs.

“He has the things we’re looking for: his career scoring average, his speed, [penalty killing] ability,” general manager Doug Wilson said. “Did he meet the expectations that he had for himself [or] that we had for him? No. Can we get that out of him? Pete [DeBoer] believes we can.”

DeBoer has known Boedker since he played for him in 2007-08 in Kitchener (OHL). Despite scratching him in the playoffs, DeBoer said he saw “huge improvement” in Boedker throughout the course of the season after the forward spent nearly all of his NHL career in Arizona.

“There was an adjustment. He’s played 6-7 years a certain way in the NHL,” DeBoer said. “We’ve asked him to play differently here, and there was an adjustment.”

Boedker still believes that he can be a fit in San Jose.

“I think it will be and it can be,” he said. “It’s learning period, but you’ve also got to look in the mirror yourself and see what you can change and what assets you need to bring. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m ready to do that.”

The list of Sharks depth forwads that had frustrating seasons hardly begins and ends with Boedker, though.

Veteran Joel Ward’s production dipped from 43 points last season to 29 in 2016-17, although that probably isn’t too surprising considering he’s 36. Tomas Hertl is proving to be a streaky player, too, although his season was interrupted by another a knee injury.

The bigger disappointment came from players like Chris Tierney and Joonas Donskoi, who both made big impressions in the 2016 playoffs but struggled to produce consistent offense this year. Both were mentioned by name by DeBoer on Monday.

There are some promising youngsters in the pipeline like Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Marcus Sorensen, but it’s still too early to project any of them as can’t-miss scorers at the NHL level.

“I think we’ve got a large group of guys that I like, but need to step up,” DeBoer said. “Is Sorensen [like] Donskoi next year, where he takes a step back, or [does he take a] step forward? We’ve got a lot of guys that there’s a lot of potential there – Chris Tierney. 

“There’s a lot of those guys, but they need to have big summers and take a step, and show that they’re not just one season or one month players.”

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

Facial fractures for Couture; Thornton undergoes surgery

SAN JOSE – Just in case there was any question as to the grisly nature of Logan Couture’s mouth injury, the Sharks forward shared a picture on his personal Instagram account on Monday.

If you haven’t seen it yet, proceed with caution.

The photo was taken the night of his injury on March 25 in Nashville, showing several top teeth missing in a mouth that can accurately be described as a bloody mess, after he was hit with a defected puck while standing in front of the net in a game against the Predators.

Couture revealed on Tuesday in a conference call that there was more to his injury that just damaged teeth. He also has some facial fractures, including one above his upper lip that extends to his nasal area, and another that is under the bottom row of his teeth.

The one that’s higher in his face is still painful. 

“Still struggle to eat and sleep. … It’s not a comfortable state to be in,” said Couture, who missed the final seven games of the regular season before returning for the six-game first round series loss to Edmonton.

As for the next step, Couture has yet to sit down with his dentist, although further work is on the horizon.

“There’s going to be some implants to get the teeth fixed,” he said. “Hopefully get it done in the next few weeks, and then I’ll head back to Canada.”

Couture doesn’t yet know how many teeth need to be replaced.

“All depends on how the teeth respond,” he said.

* * *

Joe Thornton had successful surgery on his left knee on Monday afternoon, NBC Sports California has learned, and according to a team statement released later on Tuesday he is expected to "make a complete recovery and be ready for the start of the 2017-18 season." 

According to a source, the damage to Thornton’s MCL was more significant than his ACL. The team declined to give any details about the surgery in its statement, including who performed it and where it was done. 

Thornton played four playoff games against Edmonton despite damaged knee ligaments, head coach Pete DeBoer revealed on Monday, when he said Thornton was dealing with a “torn MCL and ACL” after getting hurt in Vancouver on April 2.