Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for

590976.jpg

Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Detroit Red Wings werent very pleased after their 2-1 loss on Tuesday in St. Louis. The Sharks didnt like their mental approach to Saturdays 3-0 shutout loss to Phoenix.

One of them still wont be content after tonight, when the rival clubs meet for the second time this season and first at HP Pavilion.

Neither of us played the game we wanted to in our last outing, said Todd McLellan. Somebodys going to fix it tonight, and somebody wont.

One thing the Sharks would like to do, especially at home, is score the first goal. In eight home games this season, San Jose has jumped out to a 1-0 lead just twice. Overall, the Sharks are 5-0 when they open the scoring.

Saturdays loss to Phoenix was a good example why it's a focus for the Sharks. After taking an early lead, the Coyotes were able to clog up the neutral zone and not take as many chances offensively, while playing in front of a strong goaltender that plays the puck well in Mike Smith.

Something we need to work on is our starts, said Logan Couture. We find ourselves behind too often, especially here at home. Its a tough rink to play in for other teams, so we have to start getting the first goal.

The stats, maybe more this year than any other year, bear fruit to scoring first and playing with a lead, said McLellan. We saw the other day how a team can quickly get a one or two goal lead, clamp down and play good defensively. The goaltending is superior, and its hard to come back in that situation.

The Sharks were able to score first against the Red Wings on October 28 on a Ryane Clowe power play goal, when they beat Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, 4-2.

Keep Wings' PP frustrated: The Red Wings have not won a road game since Oct. 15, although, to be fair, they have played just four games away from home in that span.

Still, a win at raucous HP Pavilion could be just what they need to put their early road struggles behind them.

As a player you circle these games in your mind. You feel the rivalry, especially with these guys playing them the last two years in the playoffs and us beating them, said Couture. Im sure in that dressing room they really want to beat us, and the feeling is mutual.

One big reason the Red Wings have only won two of six road games is the power play. When they arent at Joe Louis Arena, they have converted just two of 24 chances with a man advantage. Thats tied for 28th in the NHL.

Overall, the Red Wings' power play is just 14.3 percent, or 21st in the league.

It will come to life, I just hope that happens later on in the week and not tonight, said McLellan.

Conversely, the Sharks much-maligned penalty kill has been better its last two outings, killing off three chances apiece against Phoenix on Saturday and Minnesota last Thursday.

According to Michal Handzus, the penalty-killers are succeeding due to more play as a unit and not as many breakdowns, he said.

Like McLellan, Handzus isnt looking at the Red Wings lackluster power play stats.

They are very dangerous, it doesnt really matter what happened before, he said. They have great players and two good units. We have to worry about ourselves. The last two games weve been better, and we want to build on that.
Defensive changes: As mentioned in an earlier Sharks Talk post, Jason Demers will be inserted back into the lineup in place of Justin Braun. Demers hasnt played since Oct. 31 in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

RELATED: Demers nervous, but ready to return

For the Red Wings, they are still dealing with a broken cheekbone injury to Ian White, who did not make the trip. The recently recalled Brendan Smith, all of 22 years old, will play in his first NHL game and hes had plenty of time to watch San Jose as an observer.

I really enjoy watching the Sharks. They are such a great team, said Smith. Just knowing a little more of their tendencies and stuff is going to help me defensively and offensively.

Hitting the reset button: The Sharks had plenty of time to stew over their loss against Phoenix on Saturday, but it also gave them a welcome break in the schedule with four days off between games.

A veteran like Dan Boyle, who had a game to forget against the Coyotes with a -3 rating and turnover leading directly to a goal against, was glad to get some practice time and some rest.

For me, it was a reset button, said Boyle. We went through a pretty good streak and then had a pretty bad game against Phoenix. It was time to press the reset button here and start over.

Odds and ends: Joe Thorntons two goals led the way in the 4-2 win in Detroit on Oct. 28. The Red Wings had won four straight before losing to the Blues on Tuesday, in what was the first of a four-game road trip. The Sharks conclude a six-game homestand tonight, and are 3-1-1 through the first five. Patrick Marleau has five points in the last three games. Along with White, the Red wings will be without Todd Bertuzzi, who is on IR with a sinus infection that has caused dizziness.

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

braun-justin-sharks-teal.jpg
AP

Mailbag: Which Sharks player is most likely to be traded?

No one asked, but I’m going to begin this week’s mailbag with my prediction for the Stanley Cup Final – Preds in six. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to a few of your questions…

Most likely to be moved this off-season? (Nik @niknisj25)

If the Sharks do make a move – and I’ve argued here that I think it may be time for a shakeup – they’ll surely be looking for someone up front to boost the offense. In that case, they’d likely have to sacrifice a defenseman or two.

The Sharks defense is the strength of the organization at the moment, as they had one of the best one-through-seven groups in the NHL this season. But it’s also an expensive one. The Sharks have nearly $27 million committed to their top seven defensemen next season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic is due for a hefty raise beginning in 2018-19.

One name that could be intriguing to other teams is Justin Braun. The 30-year-old has been a part of the Sharks’ top shut down pair with Vlasic for several seasons now, and is signed for the next three years at a reasonable $3.8 million cap hit. The Sharks could potentially move him for offensive help, and slot in a guy like David Schlemko alongside Vlasic, while finally giving Dylan DeMelo a chance to play on a nightly basis on the third pair. A Vlasic-Schlemko pair could be more offensive than Vlasic-Braun, too, because as adept as they were at keeping the puck out of their own net, the Sharks didn’t get many goals from their defenders outside of Burns.

Of course, the upcoming expansion draft all but assures that nothing will happen until Las Vegas selects its team on June 21. If the Sharks lose a defenseman to the Golden Knights, they’ll be more reluctant to move another one. Still, with guys like Joakim Ryan, Tim Heed, Julius Bergman, Mirco Mueller and now Radim Simek in the pipeline, the club might be able to handle a couple departures.

How do we fix the power play next season? Bring in a coach that could help us? Change up the lines, or style of play? (adam smith @kickback408)

One thing that won’t be happening is a new coach, as Doug Wilson recently confirmed that Steve Spott would be back alongside Pete DeBoer. Bob Boughner could move on if he gets hired as a head coach elsewhere, but Boughner’s focus is the team’s defense and penalty kill.

Obviously, the future of the power play depends on who is on the roster, beginning with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Both saw their power play production dip this season.

Thornton went from 29 power play points in 2015-16 to 19 this season (he had eight power play goals in 2015-16, and just one this season). Marleau saw a decline from 25 power play points in 2015-16 to 16 last season. Even if both return, it may be time to try other bodies on the top unit.

Do you see Meier, Labanc and/or Sorensen having a breakout season next year? Or anyone else on the Barracuda? (Colin Dunn @ColinDunnACA)

Someone better had, because this team needs to start getting younger, and soon. One of the bigger disappointments of the 2016-17 season is that none of them apparently showed the coaching staff that they were prepared to play on a nightly basis at the NHL level.

Timo Meier and Marcus Sorensen, I would surmise, are at the top of the depth chart as far as forwards go. Their line in the playoffs with center Chris Tierney was the Sharks’ best through the early part of the series with Edmonton. As for Kevin Labanc, I think he’s fallen a bit since he had a brief run of success for the Sharks in December.

While the Sharks did a good job stockpiling some young players through the 2013-15 drafts, they’ve traded away a number of picks in recent years. In last year’s draft they didn’t have a first or third round pick; this year they don’t have any picks in the second, third or fourth rounds; and in 2018 they are already without their second and third round picks. 

It’s great to accumulate young players, but at some point they have to break through. Now is the time.

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

Sharks, Robinson parting ways after five seasons

After five seasons with the Sharks, Larry Robinson is leaving the organization.

Robinson, 65, spent the last three seasons as the club's director of player development. He served as an associate coach from 2012-14.

TSN in Montreal and the Montreal Gazette originally reported the news.

The Sharks confirmed that Robinson's contract would be expiring, and general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California that the divorce was amicable, and "because of geography." Robinson lives in Florida.

According to the Montreal Gazette

Robinson’s contract with the Sharks expires on July 1, but agent Donnie Cape said Thursday that San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has given him permission to speak with other teams. Robinson lives in Bradenton, Fla., and the long travel distance to San Jose is one of big the reasons he’s looking for a new team to work for.

Robinson seemed to ponder retirement in 2014, but signed a three-year extension to remain in the Sharks' front office. He worked mostly from his home in Florida the past two seasons, making occasional trips to San Jose, including during training camp.

In the summer of 2015, Robinson underwent surgery for skin cancer.

Recognized as one of the best defensemen in NHL history, Robinson won six Stanley Cup championships with the Montreal Canadiens as a player, and holds the NHL record for playing 20 straight seasons in the playoffs. A 10-time All-Star and two-time Norris Trophy winner, Robinson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1995.

Robinson was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1995-99, and the New Jersey Devils from 1999-2002 and again in 2005-06. He led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2000. Robinson has nine Stanley Cup rings as a player and coach.

* * *

The Sharks did not renew the contract of pro scout Jason Rowe, who had been with the organization for the past nine seasons. Rowe focused on eastern NHL and AHL teams.