Sharks score three straight to beat Avs, 5-4


Sharks score three straight to beat Avs, 5-4


SAN JOSE -- After consecutive games blowing third period leads, the Sharks decided that it was time to turn the tables.Trailing 4-2 entering the final frame, San Jose roared back and scored three times in just four and a half minutes in beating the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night at HP Pavilion, 5-4.In between periods, we said teams have done this on us, why dont we just turn it around for once? said Joe Thornton. Just shift after shift we came at them, and it paid off.The comeback began on a goal by Brent Burns at the seven-minute mark of the third, although the Sharks had been pressuring the Avalanche in the several minutes leading up to the goal.The Sharks were rewarded for their early tenacity when Marty Havlat created a turnover by the Avs Jan Hejda. Havlat got his stick in the way of a Hejda pass, found Burns charging towards the net, and Burns managed to put his own rebound past Semyon Varlamov.

It was a great play by Marty. Great forecheck and a good play to make that pass. I kind of came in a little early," said Burns.Just 1:29 later, the Sharks tied it. Thornton, from behind the net, made a no-look pass to Jason Demers in the circle. Varlamov stopped Demers snap shot, but Joe Pavelski was there to deposit the loose puck.After the Sharks killed off a boarding penalty to Justin Braun the only kill in three attempts for the leagues worst PK San Jose took the lead back for the first time since the first period on Logan Coutures deflection of a Patrick Marleau wrist shot at 11:29. That held up as the game winner.The Sharks hope a strong third period will put their December woes behind them, as the win was just their second in regulation in the past 10 games (3-5-2). It also ended a three-game losing streak, as San Jose posted an 0-1-2 record on its recent road trip, including a 4-3 shootout loss to the Avalanche on Tuesday.Right now were a fragile hockey team, said Couture. We need the confidence, and I think this third period will go a long way.Pavelski, who scored his 13th of the season, took another valuable lesson from the final 20 minutes after the Sharks regained the lead.Were down, we tie it up and take the lead. The talk is, lets keep going, he said. Were still going to play this game the right way and get this next one, where maybe we havent done that previous games where weve had leads in the third.The Sharks also managed to get goals from each of their top three lines, as 11 players finished with at least one point. McLellan has been switching his lines frequently lately, trying to get his top players on the scoresheet, and thinks he may have found a combination that works. Thornton skated with Pavelski and Torrey Mitchell; Havlat with Michal Handzus and Jamie McGinn; and Couture with Ryane Clowe and Patrick Marleau.Scoring was spread out, which was nice to see, said McLellan. I thought Logans line was our best line right from the opening drop of the puck. I thought Marty and Michal Handzus had a great combination going. McGinn did a lot of work for them. Jumbos line probably wasnt our best line tonight, but at the end of the game, they tie it up.Colorado took the lead with a pair of second period goals to break a 2-2 tie.Less than two minutes after Handzus tied the game early in the second, Paul Stastny gave the Avalanche the lead back, when Matt Duchesne managed to throw the puck towards the front of the net despite being harassed by Dan Boyle. It deflected to Stastnys stick and he beat Antti Niemi at 3:01.Later, Daniel Winnik got position on Demers in front of the net and flipped in a pass from Stastny from behind the net at 18:21, and the Sharks retreated to their locker room at the second intermission amidst a sea of boos.Fans were booing there, and deservedly so. We werent very good in a lot of areas at certain points of the game, said Pavelski.Once again, San Jose lost the special teams battle, surrendering two power play goals to Colorado, both in the first period.First, it was Stastny. The center won an offensive zone faceoff to Erik Johnson at the point, and then deflected Johnsons blast past Niemi at 5:51 to make it a 1-1 game.The Avalanche took a first period lead late, with Burns off on a high sticking call. Niemi left a juicy rebound on a Stefan Elliott blast, and Ryan OReilly easily scored on an open net at 19:49.The Sharks have surrendered a goal on the penalty kill in six of their last seven games. Conversely, they have scored just two power play goals over that span, and were 0-for-3 tonight.Still, the penalty kill came up big with the game tied at 4-4 in the third.It was time to get it done, said McLellan of that particular moment in the game. Obviously, the confidence level on that penalty kill was probably a little lower than it should have been after the first period, but it got the job done. Thats the bottom line.The Sharks have an opportunity to get more points as the six-game homestand continues. The next four games include a pair against sub-500 teams in Tampa Bay and Anaheim, and two struggling clubs that are barely above .500 in Los Angeles and Edmonton, which visits on Saturday.Hopefully, this gets us back on the right track to winning some games and getting a streak going, said Thornton.Odds and ends: Antti Niemi finished with 23 saves, while Semyon Varlamov had 29. Colorados Paul Stastny had a game-high three points, while Daniel Winnik had a Gordie Howe hat trick in the second period alone, including his fight with Ryane Clowe. The Sharks won 36 of 66 faceoffs. Brent Burns, Patrick Marleau and Logan Couture were each a 3. Couture (1g, 1a) and Marty Havlat (2a) had multiple-point games. Brad Winchester and Cody McLeod fought in the first period, perhaps stemming from McLeods boarding penalty on Jason Demers on Tuesday in Denver. Michal Handzus has six points in his last eight games (1g, 5a).

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.