Sharks shut out by Smith, Coyotes

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Sharks shut out by Smith, Coyotes

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE Mike Smith and the Phoenix Coyotes had opening night fresh in their minds.

In their second visit to HP Pavilion of the season, Smith made 31 saves and the Coyotes shut out the Sharks on Saturday, 3-0. Phoenix used two goals in the first period and one in the third and then stymied the Sharks offense and power play in securing the victory.

On Oct. 8, Smith allowed six goals and the Sharks cruised to a 6-3 win that wasnt as close as the score indicates, in what was the first game for both clubs.

We remembered the first game of the season, said forward Radim Vrbata, who tallied his sixth goal in the first period. We definitely talked about it.

They did more than talk about it, as the Coyotes continually clogged up the neutral zone and employed a bend-but-not-break approach to their penalty kill after going ahead. The Sharks had the advantage in zone time for much of the second and third, but were unable to cut into the two-goal Phoenix advantage.

Were obviously asleep at the start, and bang-bang. The first period is over and were down 2-0 against a team that loves to play with the lead, said Ryane Clowe. It was uphill from there. It wasnt like the first game, was it?

San Jose had a number of opportunities to score, especially in the third period. On a power play, Joe Thornton had the puck alone in front of the net, but Smith dove to snuff out the shot at the point of contact with about 13:30 left.

Later, with about nine minutes remaining, Patrick Marleau chipped the puck ahead to a charging Joe Pavelski, who got behind the Coyotes defense. Pavelski lifted the puck high over the net.

Shortly after Pavelskis chance, Jamie McGinn took the puck strong to the blue paint and his shot from close range bounced off of Smiths pads high into the air. Torrey Mitchell had an opportunity to whack the puck into an open net, but swung and missed.

The Coyotes, who were getting outshot 12-2 in the third at that point, essentially put the game away with 7:05 left in regulation. On a complete defensive breakdown by San Jose, OSullivan and Kyle Chipchura were both in front of Thomas Greiss with no Sharks within 10 feet, and Chipchura fed OSullivan for an easy tap-in.

Todd McLellan assessed the performance, saying: I thought we were lethargic between the ears, to begin with. Some of the things that we talked about, even in the first five minutes of the game, we were in the wrong spots. That tells me that they werent there mentally, and when youre not there mentally, usually the physical part doesnt follow.

That was our game tonight. We played right into their hands.

The game was the first regulation shutout for the Coyotes in San Jose since Dec. 26, 1997, and ended their six-game losing streak at the Tank.

The Coyotes took the play to the Sharks in the first period, taking a 2-0 lead into the locker room after 20 minutes.

First, Ray Whitney gathered in a loose puck in the high slot and slid it towards the net. It went wide, but took a big bounce off of the back boards to the stick of Vrbata who beat Thomas Greiss at 14:21.

That increased that to 2-1 with less than a minute to go, when Lauri Korpikoski intercepted a Dan Boyle pass in the neutral zone. Korpikoski passed it to Raffi Torres, who found Boyd Gordon in the slot. Gordons soft shot trickled in off of Greiss right pad with just 32 seconds left in the period.

Boyle and Greiss were both eager to take the blame for that one.

Getting through the neutral zone was really bad on our part. The second goal I didnt execute my pass, said Boyle, who was on the ice for all three Coyotes goals. They come back the other way and score one of those goals that makes you scratch your head. Ill take responsibility for that one.

Greiss explained it, by saying: It hit my skate and I wasnt sure where it was. I tried to recover and just kicked it in the net. Its my fault. Its a bad goal.

Greiss made his first start since Oct. 29 in Long Island. He entered the game with an excellent 1.99 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, but took his third loss of the season by allowing three goals on 23 Coyotes shots.

He wasnt tested a lot, in fact, hardly any in the second half of the game, said McLellan. He could have had a shutout and we still would have only gotten a point.

Phoenix improved to 7-0-3 when scoring first, and a perfect 8-0-0 when leading after two periods.

They got their two goals, and they clogged up the neutral zone and their goalie played well after that, said McLellan.

The Sharks will have a complete day off on Sunday before resuming practice on Monday. The six-game homestand concludes with a game against Detroit on Thursday.

The Sharks lost for just the second time in regulation in the last 11 games (8-2-1).

We had a good run, but its done now. We have to start something new here, said Boyle.
Odds and ends: Joe Thornton had a nasty cut on his face, but when asked if it was a stick or a puck, replied he had no idea. The Sharks were 0-for-4 on the power play, and killed off all three Phoenix power plays. The Coyotes had a 33-25 advantage on faceoffs.

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

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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.

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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.