Sharks shut out by Blues in road-trip opener


Sharks shut out by Blues in road-trip opener


ST. LOUIS -- In what was their second and final appearance in St. Louis this season, the Sharks are probably hoping they dont have to think about any more visits to the Scottrade Center until next years schedule is revealed.San Jose was frustratingly scoreless in its two games here, including Sunday nights 3-0 loss, in which the Blues scored a pair of five-on-three goals and an empty-netter in the closing seconds. Overall, San Jose has been held off of the board for the last 124 minutes and 56 seconds in The Gateway to the West.The Sharks have been silent on the power play here, too, finishing 0-for-4 on Sunday and a combined 0-for-10 overall, including an 0-for-6 effort in a 1-0 loss on Dec. 10.

Sunday night's failures with a man advantage brought their recent momentum in that department to a screeching halt, giving the Sharks their third regulation loss in the last four games (1-3-0). Three of the four power plays on Sunday night were in the third period, leaving the Sharks an open door to cut into what was a 2-0 Blues lead. Instead, St. Louis suffocating style not only prevented the Sharks from getting on the board, but San Jose didnt really have any notable scoring chances, either.Our power play was horrible, so they won that battle, Ryane Clowe said. We didnt even get one real good opportunity, actually, on the power play to even get a scoring chance. That was disappointing, especially the way our power play has been going.Not much, said Brent Burns, when asked what he saw from the Sharks power play. Theyre a great team, and they havent lost too much at home, so obviously theyre good. It was probably a combination of things.The Sharks were 10-for-22 in their last eight games with a man advantage before Sunday, and had scored at least once in seven of those.Todd McLellan gave the Blues credit for their penalty kill, but added: we just couldnt get it out of the crap, is what we call it. We didnt win enough battles in the corners, we werent stick-strong, we didnt get our eyes off the boards and never had a chance to establish any type of momentum in their end to wear them out. They would clear it, get fresh guys on the ice, and do it again. It was a frustrating night that way.What might have been just as frustrating although no one was willing to admit it were some of the penalties that gave the Blues their two-man advantage in the second period, leading to a goal by David Perron. Brad Winchesters elbowing call, in particular, seemed questionable at best.Winchester chose not to comment on the penalty after the game.McLellan simply said: We had eight minutes of power play time and did nothing. Im not going to question anything.The Blues have gained points in 19 consecutive home games (16-0-3), and recorded their league-leading 11th shutout behind 25 saves from Jaroslav Halak.The game was the first stop on a season-long nine-game road trip for the Sharks, who visit the Washington Capitals on Monday night.The Sharks had the early energy, which wasnt unexpected after the Blues had a hard-fought 3-2 overtime home win over Colorado the night before. Clowe nearly tipped in a pass from Joe Thornton early in the game, but couldnt quite find the handle.Three consecutive penalties later in the first cost San Jose the momentum, as well as the first goal. A careless delay of game penalty by Andrew Desjardins gave the Blues a two-man advantage, and they capitalized on a blast by Alex Pietrangelo from inside the blue line after the defenseman had time to wait for traffic to develop in front of Antti Niemi at 15:03.I liked our start, McLellan said. We played the right kind of game, at least for the first 10 minutes until we took the penalties. After that, they got a little momentum back and started to play their game.We were skating well. I thought we had good jump, and the start we wanted, Clowe said. We obviously didnt score, but we were thinking it was going to lead to a goal.Desjardins penalty was preceded by a Burns interference call that gave St. Louis its first two-man advantage of the night, albeit for just nine seconds. Dan Boyle was in the box for a hooking penalty at the time, which the Sharks nearly had killed before Burns infraction.San Jose went more than 11 minutes without a shot on goal in the first after storming out of the gates. Halak stopped Burns attempt with 12:18 left in the period, and wasnt tested again until a wrist shot by Joe Pavelski with 41 seconds to go.The second period was devoid of much action at all as neither team was able to sustain anything in the others offensive zone. That changed late when Winchester was called for elbowing and Clowe was whistled for tripping, both behind the Sharks net at 15:43.The Blues went on their third two-man advantage of the night, this time for a full two minutes, and increased their lead to 2-0 on Perrons goal. T.J. Oshie skillfully kept the puck in at the blue line and sent it to Pietrangelo for a point shot. Perron was able to slip it by Niemi at 17:16 for his third goal in the last two games.The goal nullified what had been a very good penalty kill by Pavelski, Burns and Douglas Murray up to that point, including a diving save by Burns on Perron, who was looking at an open net.Our penalty kill in that situation wasnt that bad, McLellan said. Especially that last one, we did everything we wanted to do, but it finally wore us out and they put it in the net.Pietrangelo finished off a three-point night by adding an empty net goal at 19:54 of the third to give St. Louis their third regulation win in as many tries against the Sharks.This team, if theyre in the playoffs, thats how youre going to have to beat them is probably, 2-1, 1-0, Clowe said. We havent found a way to do it yet.Odds and ends: Jim Vandermeer skated as a forward while John McCarthy was scratched. Jason Demers (lower body) and Tommy Wingels (left shoulder) remained out, but both are skating and could return soon. The Sharks were 26-for-54 in the faceoff circle. Alex Pietrangelo and Dan Boyle tied for a game-high four shots each. Each team had 18 blocked shots. Antti Niemi finshed with 25 saves on 27 shots. The Blues welcomed back forward Andy McDonald, who missed 51 games with a concussion suffered in October. Logan Coutures eight-game point streak ended, as did Joe Thorntons five-game streak.

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.