Sharks outlast Flames in shootout 2-1


Sharks outlast Flames in shootout 2-1


SAN JOSE If you believe in such a thing as hockey gods, then youre probably convinced they were smiling down upon the Sharks just before the start of the shootout with Calgary.

After San Jose should have been credited with an overtime victory, Michal Handzus and Brent Burns scored in the breakaway contest to give the Sharks a 2-1 win over the Flames on Tuesday night at HP Pavilion.

After Torrey Mitchells third period goal tied it, Justin Braun seemingly gave the Sharks the win with 1:05 remaining in overtime. Joe Thornton set up Braun beautifully with a short drop pass and Braun fired in a wrist shot, but as the Sharks players poured onto the ice and the fans celebrated, referee Mike Leggo quickly waved it off.

Leggo ruled that Tommy Wingels interfered with Miikka Kiprusoff on the play, but replays showed the only one who touched the Calgary goaltender was Flames forward Olli Jokinen.

I thought it was a good goal, Wingels said. I bumped Kiprusoff earlier in the game and I think Leggo had that in mind when he saw it was me going to the net again.

What irked coach Todd McLellan is that Leggo was not even the referee who was standing beside the net.

First of all, they have a tough job to do. Let me start with the good stuff. After that, you have to make sure that if youre going to make that call you have to be 100 percent sure, McLellan said.

What I dont understand is the positioning of it. The referee thats 85 or 90 feet away makes the call when one is only 15 feet away. Obviously, we can come in here and look at the replay and see that it was not the right call. They dont have that luxury.

The Sharks were able to secure the two points anyway, but McLellan pointed out that a shootout win is not as valuable as an overtime win. The first tiebreaker after points when it comes to the playoffs and seeding, is the number of wins a team can secure without the benefit of the shootout, in which the Sharks are now 6-2.

We dont have one in the bank when we probably should have, said the coach.

Still, San Jose was able to win for just the third time when trailing after two periods (3-11-1), forcing overtime on Mitchells goal midway through the third.

After Burns pinched from the point and kept the puck in the offensive zone, he tapped it to Mitchell behind the Calgary net, and Mitchell quickly centered to Handzus in the slot. Kiprusoff made the original save on Handzus, but Handzus managed to swipe the rebound to Mitchell at the side of the net for a tap-in at 10:44.

For Mitchell, it was his fifth point in the last six games since he was a healthy scratch on Jan. 5 against Columbus (2g, 3a).

Im just trying to play hard and remind myself of little things that I do well. Its been going pretty good, Mitchell said.

You dont have to be a hockey expert to see that he got the message and that hes skating harder and is much more involved in the play, McLellan said. We talk about leaving a mark on the game. Its not always a goal or an assist, but you can actually have an impact on the outcome from a positive viewpoint. Mitchey, since that day, has had that most nights.

In the shootout, McLellan went with a regular in Handzus and a couple of surprise participants in Patrick Marleau and Burns.

Marleau and Burns hadnt had a shootout attempt for the Sharks all season. Marleau was stopped on the Sharks first opportunity, while Handzus and Burns converted their attempts. At the other end, Antti Niemi stopped Jarome Iginla while Mike Cammalleri shot high.

Burns backhander over Kiprusoff ended the game.

I thought Burns had a very good game tonight. He was on his toes and made some crisp plays, so we chose to use him, McLellan said. Weve been going with the same group of players, and sometimes teams can do a good pre-scout, so we decided to change it up a little bit.

Handzus has been a standard in the shootout, and for good reason. He converted his fourth goal in seven attempts as a Shark.

The Sharks won for the seventh time in the last nine games (7-1-1).

The Flames opened the scoring at 12:07 of the second period. Iginlas attempted pass missed Cammalleri in the slot, but bounced off of the far boards to Chris Butler at the point. Butlers blast sailed high over Niemis glove hand giving Calgary the 1-0 lead.

The Sharks, who entered the game with the league lead in shots per game, had just 14 through the first two periods.

Theyre a hard team to play against, Burns said. I think they play real strong against the boards, and theyre quick. They dump and chase real hard. Its not always a fun game to play, but those are the games youve got to win, especially after losing in Chicago on Sunday.

The Sharks were without the services of Ryane Clowe, who was scratched due to an upper body injury related to him going face first into the glass on Jan. 10 in Minnesota. Although he had been playing since then, Clowe missed his first game of the year against Calgary.

That forced McLellan to rearrange his lines. Jamie McGinn began the night with Thornton and Joe Pavelski, but was replaced by Wingels to start the second after a good first period by the rookie.

Logan Couture was with Marleau and Benn Ferriero for most of the night, while Frazer McLaren played for the first time since Dec. 26.

It was the reunited third line, though, that ended up with the only Sharks goal that counted.

Our game plan on the third line doesnt change, Mitchell said. If we can chip in a goal and play hard, and spend time in their end, its a job well done for us.

The Sharks host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday.

Odds and ends: Frazer McLaren, Joe Pavelski and Jason Demers all hit posts in the game. The Sharks were 0-for-2 on the power play, while Calgary did not have a single man advantage all night. The Sharks have not lost two straight games in regulation since Dec. 3 and 6 against Florida and Minnesota. Brent Burns recorded his 200th career point with an assist on Mitchells goal. The Sharks had 26 blocked shots, including four apiece from Dan Boyle and Douglas Murray. San Jose was 32 of 59 faceoffs (59 percent).

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


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


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.

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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.

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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.