Sharks

Sharks leap to 3rd spot in West, defeat Colorado 5-1

714742.jpg

Sharks leap to 3rd spot in West, defeat Colorado 5-1

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE The San Jose Sharks took over sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division with convincing 5-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night at HP Pavilion.

Joe Pavelski scored twice while Andrew Desjardins and Torrey Mitchell also added goals as San Jose greatly improved its playoff probability while severely impairing the Avs chances. San Jose and Colorado both got some help in that the Dallas Stars and Los Angeles Kings both lost in regulation to Calgary and Vancouver, respectively.

The game marked the first time San Jose scored four goals in a regulation or overtime game since Feb. 16 in a 6-5 loss in Tampa Bay, a span of 21 games. It was the first time they won a game by at least four goals since Jan. 31 vs. Columbus, 6-0.

San Jose (39-27-10, 88 points) now leads the Stars by a single point. Both teams have played 76 games, and have two more head-to-head meetings in the final six games of the regular season.

The Sharks were the beneficiaries of some fortunate bounces in taking a 3-1 lead in the second period, after a scoreless first.

Pavelski opened the scoring at 3:50 of the second. A slap shot by Justin Braun hit Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda in the slot and bounced right to Pavelskis stick for an easy goal by the Sharks winger.

Desjardins first goal in 40 games made it 2-0. After a good shift by his line, which included Tommy Wingels and Daniel Winnik, Desjardins deposited his wrist shot from the circle on a backhanded feed from behind the net by Wingels. It was a goal Semyon Varlamov should have stopped at 9:19.

Colorado got back into the game with a goal at 11:47. On an odd-man rush, Shane OBrien easily slammed home a pass from Ryan OReilly after San Jose got caught deep in its own zone.

The Avalanche swarmed the Sharks a bit immediately following the goal, but were unable to get anything else past Niemi. The Sharks' goalie finished with 31 saves in his 15th straight start.

Mitchell managed to pop in a loose puck from the slot after a wraparound attempt by Michal Handzus at 15:44 of the second.

On the ensuing shift, Colorados David Jones rang a shot from the circle squarely off of the post. Thornton hit a post, too, trying to slip a loose puck into a wide open net with two minutes to go in the middle frame.

Pavelski got his second of the night early in the third on a carry-over power play. Colorado allowed Pavelski to walk towards the net from the corner boards and poke one through Varlamov at 35 seconds.

Ryane Clowes empty-net goal at 16:23 capped the scoring, as Avalanche coach Joe Sacco pulled his goalie for an extra attacker with about four minutes left in regulation.

The first period resembled a match between two teams fighting for their playoff lives. It was physical, fast paced and nasty from the outset.

Former Shark Jamie McGinn, playing in his first game back in San Jose since a trade on Feb. 27, crashed the net in the opening minutes and was quickly pushed away by a swarm of Sharks. Later in the period, Colorado rookie Gabriel Landeskog violently shoved Marty Havlat after the Sharks winger was digging for a puck in the crease. The result for Landeskog was a facewash and headlock from behind by Clowe, who immediately came to the aid of his linemate.

The Sharks have six games remaining, including four on the road. They visit the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday and Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday.

Odds and ends: Dan Boyle recorded his 500 and 501st career points with assists on the first two Sharks goals. Desjardins last goal before Monday was on Dec. 21 vs. Tampa Bay. Colorado has allowed the first goal 45 times, the second highest total in the league. Joe Pavelski recorded his 300th career NHL point with his third period power play goal.

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

couture-us.jpg
AP

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

meier-timo-white-face.jpg
AP

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.