Sharks must find discipline against Blues

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Sharks must find discipline against Blues

SAN JOSE Their miserable penalty kill notwithstanding, the Sharks were among the most disciplined teams in hockey this season. In fact, the club finished the regular season with a league low of just 2.88 times shorthanded per game.

You wouldnt know that watching the four games against the Blues, though. The Sharks left an abundance of skate marks leading to the doorstep of the penalty box, and it was a major reason they failed to record even a single point in the standings against St. Louis. That was especially so at Scottrade Center, where San Jose was shorthanded 11 times in two shutout losses and where they begin the postseason on Thursday.

Overall, the Sharks were shorthanded 19 times in the four games against the Blues, almost a full two per game more than their season average.

Simply put, that will have to be remedied if the Sharks have any hope of advancing to the second round.

Ryane Clowe said: Thats something mentally thats all a part of the playoffs.

San Jose failed to score a single goal in St. Louis this season, suffering a 1-0 shutout loss on Dec. 10 there followed by a 3-0 defeat on Feb. 12. Of the four goals they surrendered, three came during a two-man advantage for the Blues, and one was an empty-net goal.

In all, just five goals were scored during five-on-five play in the four games (discounting empty-net goals).

Special teams play is already magnified in the playoffs, but in this series, it could be even more so.

We got into a lot of penalty problems, Thornton said. I dont know how many five-on-threes they scored against us. Just stay out of the penalty box, thats probably number one. We werent disciplined in their building, or here.

I think with us, it wasnt so much the penalties but the timing of some of the penalties, putting us down five-on-three, Clowe said. A lot of them are penalties, so you cant really complain about them too much. Weve got to be better in that area. Obviously, our PK has got to be strong. St. Louis is a disciplined team, so I dont see them taking a whole lot of minors. A lot of it will be five-on-five.

What should also be of concern is that the Sharks got away from their disciplined style in the final two games against Los Angeles. San Jose surrendered six power play goals in nine chances to the Kings in the final two games, yet remarkably found a way to win them both.

They cant expect that to happen against the stingy Blues, who finished the season as the NHLs best defensive club.

I thought we started to sneak in some penalties that we didnt need to take, Todd McLellan said of the Kings games. We werent an overly penalized team during the year, so we were reminded down the stretch.

It will be a factor against St. Louis. They improved their power play immensely under Ken Hitchcock, they have a lot of confidence, so well have to be aware of marching to the penalty box.

As for the power play, the Sharks finished just 1-for-15 against the Blues in the season series. On paper, thats one area the Sharks had a distinct advantage over St. Louis San Jose had the second best percentage (21.0 percent), as compared to the Blues 16.7 percent (20th in the NHL).

The goals against came in unique ways, and we can clean that up, McLellan said. The goals for, we didnt score enough. So thats going to be a focus of ours.

Clowe expects the team to clean up its lack of discipline both down the stretch and against St. Louis. Kind of.

I think every guy knows whats on the line, he said, before adding, its easier said right now, than when youre not getting fired up when someone punches you in the face, or cross-checks you in the back.

When you look at playoff series when they start, its always special teams, Joe Thornton said. If your penalty kill is good and your power play is good, youre probably going to win the series. Theres no exception here.

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Bruins in final game before week of rest

NHL Gameday: Sharks host Bruins in final game before week of rest

Programming note – Sharks-Bruins coverage starts today at 5:30 p.m. on NBCSN

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 35-18-6, 76 points, 1st Pacific Division
Bruins: 29-23-6, 64 points, 4th Atlantic Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***The Sharks will be playing their second of a back-to-back, and final game before the bye week, in a rare matinee start time at SAP Center against Boston. Saturday’s 4-1 win in Arizona was just San Jose’s second in its last seven games, although they have points in six of those (2-1-4). San Jose is 4-2-4 since reeling off six straight wins from Jan. 16 – 24, and has a four-point lead on Edmonton for first place in the Pacific Division.

***Boston will be playing for the first time since its bye week, which may not have come at a good time. The Bruins reeled off three straight wins after changing coaches from Claude Julien to interim Bruce Cassidy, the first of which came against the Sharks at TD Garden on Feb. 9. The Bruins haven’t played since last Sunday, a 4-0 home win over Montreal.

***Joe Thornton brings a five-game point streak into tonight’s game (2g, 4a). He sits two assists shy of becoming the 13th player in NHL history to reach 1000 assists.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Melker Karlsson. The fourth line winger was the star of last night’s game in Arizona, posting one goal and two assists, and getting credit for the game-winning goal. Karlsson, second on the Sharks in shorthanded time on ice per game, has two goals and three points in three career games against the Bruins.

Bruins: Patrice Bergeron. The three-time Selke Trophy winner posted four points (1g, 3a) against the Sharks in Boston 10 days ago, and is third on the team in scoring with 33 points (14g, 19a). The 31-year-old is just one assist shy of 400 for his career, and is eighth on the Bruins’ all-time scoring list.

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Kevin Labanc – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Patrick Marleau – Logan Couture – Mikkel Boedker
Nikolay Goldobin – Tomas Hertl – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Melker Karlsson

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell

Bruins
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Backes
Peter Cehlarik – David Krejci – David Pasternak
Frank Vatrano – Ryan Spooner – Jimmy Hayes
Tim Schaller – Dominic Moore – Riley Nash

Zdeno Chara – Brandon Carlo
Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid
Kevan Miller – Colin Miller

Tuukka Rask
Anton Khudobin

INJURIES

Sharks: Joonas Donskoi (upper body) and Dylan DeMelo (broken wrist) are out.

Bruins: Austin Czarnik (lower body) is out.

QUOTEABLE

“He’s having an MVP season. He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.” – Pete DeBoer on Brent Burns after Saturday’s Sharks win in Arizona, in which Burns had two goals

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

Three takeaways: Fourth line leads the way for Sharks in Arizona

For the first time in five tries this season the Sharks managed to secure a regulation win over the last place Coyotes, 4-1 at Gila River Arena on Saturday. They keep their four-point lead over Edmonton, and are assured of going into the bye week in sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

Here are our three takeaways from the win…

1 – Burns turns the tide…again

For the second time in a week, Brent Burns changed the momentum of a game with his deadly wrist shot. The Sharks were on their heels early – Arizona had a 16-9 shot advantage in the first period, perhaps jolted be a pregame ceremony – but Burns’ shot through traffic staked the Sharks a 1-0 lead and they were on their way.

“We kind of weathered their storm early,” Joe Pavelski told reporters. “There was a lot of energy in the building.”

It was similar to a game in New Jersey last Sunday, when Burns had a pair of second period goals, erasing a 1-0 deficit and putting his team on the track to victory.

According to Elias, Burns – who added a third period power play goal, too – is the first defenseman to score 18 goals on the road since Paul Coffey’s 22 in 1983-84. His 26 goals equal his total from last season, tying his franchise record.

“He’s having an MVP season,” Pete DeBoer told reporters. “He’s been that good for us all year and it’s every night. I don’t know what else to say. In my mind right now he’s the best player in the league, and we’re happy to have him on our team.”

Burns remains in third in the league in scoring with 63 points, four points behind Edmonton’s Connor McDavid.

2 – Dell gets the job done…again

Getting his second start in a week, Aaron Dell made a new season high (and, thus, career high) with 36 saves. His best stop was early in the second period on Radim Vrbata, when he managed to snag a pin-balling puck from crossing the line, keeping the Sharks ahead 2-0. Had that one trickled over, the Coyotes might have been able to seize the momentum.

“I think I had it the whole time,” Dell told reporters. “I kind of saw it for a second and then when I turned back I was able to find it and scoop it underneath me.”

DeBoer said: “He’s been good every time we’ve put him in there.”

Dell, whose goals-against average is down to 1.95, outplayed Sharks nemesis Mike Smith, who had stopped 121 of 127 San Jose shots in three games this season.

“We got to Smitty in the first period, which was great,” Pavelski said. “We kind of know what he’s done to us the past few games, stopping a lot of pucks. … That was a big key for us.”

3 – Fourth line magic

Through two periods, the Sharks’ top two lines had generated a total of three shots on goal – one each from Joe Thornton, Kevin Labanc and Patrick Marleau.

Fortunately for the big guys, the fourth line was there to pick up the slack. Melker Karlsson posted three points (1g, 2a), Micheal Haley had one goal and one assist, and the fourth line generated all three of San Jose’s goals through 40 minutes.

One goal from the fourth line is a bonus. Three is virtually unheard of. 

“They showed up and played the right way,” DeBoer said. “Right from the drop of the puck they put pucks behind the other teams defense, they had good support, they created a lot of chances, and got rewarded for it. I think Dell and them were the difference in the game early through the first half, until we got going a little bit.”