Three takeaways: Burns provides spark the Sharks needed

Three takeaways: Burns provides spark the Sharks needed

NEWARK – Wrapping up their four-game-in-six-day road trip in New Jersey, the Sharks went on to a relatively pain-free 4-1 victory in their only appearance at Prudential Center. Here are three takeaways from the afternoon tilt…

1 – Burns takes over

On Saturday afternoon in Philadelphia, Burns didn’t look took too good when he turned the puck over to Wayne Simmonds, who promptly scored an overtime goal. He certainly didn’t let that play linger against the Devils, scoring two second period goals that turned the game in the Sharks’ favor.

"We needed a spark, and he's been there all year,” Pete DeBoer said. “A big goal at the right time. He's a fearless player. He walks the line, and under pressure, has a fearlessness offensively to him that is hard to teach and really separates great players from other guys. You saw that on the first goal.”

Burns wakes up on Monday fourth in the NHL in scoring with 59 points, just two behind league leader Connor McDavid. Remarkably, he has a legitimate chance to join Bobby Orr as the only defenseman to ever lead the NHL in points (our friends at NBC have some other notes on Burns, here).

Burns was asked after the game if he keeps track of where he is in the scoring race.

“You look at everything. You’re looking at other guys on the team, the other team we’re playing, you’re looking [at stats]. We hear about it from you guys (the media) all the time about stats and everything, so you’re aware of it.”

2 – Getting some distance from the pack

On Feb. 4, the Sharks had a three-point lead on Anaheim for first in the Pacific with a game in hand. They lost their next four games, although they picked up a point in three of the losses.

On Monday, the Sharks find themselves with a five-point lead over the Ducks, with 25 games remaining for both. The Sharks may have hit a brief rut, but it didn’t hurt them in the standings.

“We played some games that were winnable for us, but we managed to get points, and when you look around the league right now teams are in the tough part of their schedule,” Logan Couture said. “We're in a tough part of our schedule. On the road on the east coast, and it was a back-to-back. To get three (points) out of four in these past couple games is big."

DeBoer said: “We wanted some separation between us Anaheim and Edmonton, and the guys got the job done.”

3 – Couture, Jones return to the lineup

Couture said after the game that he didn’t decide he was going to play until warmups, after missing Saturday’s game with an undisclosed upper body injury.

He played a reduced role, skating just 15:34 and taking only one faceoff. He didn’t register a point, and had one shot.

“Obviously, wasn't 100 percent,” said Couture, who was hurt at some point in the game in Boston on Thursday. “But, I felt I was good enough to try it.”

Jones, on the other hand, was outstanding. If he was feeling any nerves after allowing a goal on the first shot he faced – on the heels of his last two subpar performances, including getting the hook in Boston – it didn’t show.
 
“You always want to bounce back with a good effort,” Jones said. “But, it was everybody tonight. We weren’t happy with the way the last few games have gone, and we responded really well tonight and had a really, really strong game.”

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

After requiring a visit to a local hospital in Nashville due to being struck in the face with a deflected puck on Saturday night against the Predators, Logan Couture was able to fly back with the team to San Jose on Sunday morning.

The severity of his injury is still unknown, although his father, Chet, said on Twitter that it was “an ugly injury sadly.”

Another source close to the situation told CSN the injury is “brutal.”

Couture, who lost several teeth, visited with Sharks medical personnel on Sunday and a further update is expected on Monday. 

Perhaps the best-case scenario is that the injury looks a lot worse than it actually is, such as when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sidelined for one week when he took a puck to the face from the stick Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere in late December.

Losing Couture for any period of time would be a difficult blow to the Sharks, who have lost their last six in regulation, including Saturday’s 7-2 defeat to the Predators. Couture is third on the team in scoring with 52 points, and has a team-leading 11 power play goals. He entered Saturday’s game with four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, and has arguably been the team’s best player since mid-January.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after the game Saturday. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”

Couture was set up just outside the crease in the third period when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. He quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.

The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season, hosting the Rangers on Tuesday and visiting Edmonton and Calgary later this week. They are tied in points (91) with Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division.

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of emotion in the game, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?