Uncharacteristic sloppiness costs Sharks in OT loss

Uncharacteristic sloppiness costs Sharks in OT loss

SAN JOSE – Here’s the thing about the Sharks’ February schedule – they aren’t facing a single team that is a legitimate threat to win the Stanley Cup. Further, seven of the 11 are against Eastern Conference opponents, while the other four are against Vancouver and Arizona (twice each), the two worst teams in the Pacific Division.

It’s only human nature that the Sharks might not be as mentally focused during a stretch of opponents that aren’t traditional rivals, and that they aren’t going to see in any postseason series. That includes the Florida Panthers, who even if they squeak into the playoffs, aren’t in any kind of position to make a deep run.

The Sharks had their legs against Florida on Wednesday night, outshooting them 36-22. But mental mistake after mental mistake allowed the Panthers to pile on six goals, including Jonathan Huberdeau’s game-winner in overtime, in a 6-5 Florida win.

“You look back at all their goals tonight, [they are] on our sticks,” Logan Couture said. “We gave it to them, and their young skill – they thrive off of turnovers. That’s where they get creative and create chances like they did. Tic-tac-toe, it’s in the back of our net. That’s on us, those are our mistakes.”

“Yeah, we made some errors tonight,” Joe Pavelski said. “They’re one of those teams with a lot of speed, and they’ve got some guys that like to make plays. They finished.”

Florida jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, scoring their first two when Brent Burns and then Brenden Dillon weren’t in the right position. The third came on a blatant Marc-Edouard Vlasic defensive zone turnover.

After getting one back later in the first, San Jose dominated the second period and tied it on a Vlasic slapper, making it 3-3 after two.

A couple more turnovers though, by Timo Meier and Chris Tierney, helped the Panthers gain a two-goal cushion in the third again. Nick Bjugstad swiped in an Alex Petrovic pass to make it 4-3 when Meier couldn’t clear the zone, and Aleksander Barkov finished off a pretty passing play from Jaromir Jagr and Petrovic, after Tierney slid it up to Petrovic's blade high in the zone.

“We didn’t give up a lot of shots, but we gave up a lot of grade-A opportunities, which is a little uncharacteristic,” Pete DeBoer said. “That’s a team that will stick it in the back of the net if you give them grade-A looks. I think that was our biggest error tonight. It wasn’t the number of chances, it was the quality of them. … We’re usually better than that.”

Neither DeBoer nor Vlasic agreed with the theory that the Sharks weren’t as mentally prepared against an opponent like the Panthers, even if their miscues with the puck suggested otherwise. “No, I don’t sense that at all,” said the coach. “We were up tonight, we had great energy. We weren’t smart with the puck in some situations, and it burnt us.”

And, the Sharks nearly won the game anyway. Pavelski scored a pair of late goals to force overtime, getting some help on a redirection by Michael Matheson at 16:39 in his own net, and then lifting in a loose puck off of the post with just 38 seconds to go in regulation.

The captain’s efforts allowed the Sharks to record at least a point in the standings for the 13th time in their last 15 games, even if they’ve won just one of their last six.

“We wanted to get one just to give ourselves a chance,” Pavelski said, “[and] we end up tying it up there. It’s definitely a good feeling.”

In overtime, though, it was more sloppiness that cost San Jose. David Schlemko was pressured into a turnover below the goal line by Huberdeau, who then took a pass from Barkov and slid it past Martin Jones at 1:38 of the extra session.

Had the Sharks just been a little cleaner with the puck - and their heads screwed on a little more tightly - it could have been a routine victory.

“I never for a second thought we weren’t in control of that game,” Couture said. “I thought we had the majority of the chances, just we kept turning the puck over. They made us pay for it. Every turnover ended up in our net.”

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

Sharks conclude 2017 NHL Draft with five more forwards in the system

CHICAGO – After nabbing a center in the first round on Friday, the Sharks added four more forwards and one defenseman to conclude the second day of the annual NHL Entry Draft on Saturday, held this year at United Center.

The Sharks weren’t explicitly trying to restock their forward cabinet, according to general manager Doug Wilson and scouting director Tim Burke, although the club did make two separate moves in surrendering some later round picks to move up in the fourth round (to take center Scott Reedy) and sixth round (to take left wing Sasha Chmelevski).

First, though, it was defenseman Mario Ferraro in the second round at 49th overall. The offensive defenseman was a player that the Sharks targeted, using the pick they acquired from New Jersey last Friday as part of the trade for Mirco Mueller.

“He’s got a lot of speed, offensive guy, exciting,” Burke said. “Puck-moving type of guy.”

Wilson said: “We’re very pleased with the d-man. He’s a very dynamic, athletic guy, great skater. He was a guy that we moved up a little bit aggressively to get because that round, you could see people going after who they wanted. He is a guy that we identified.”

After moving up from the fifth round to the fourth round last Friday, again because of the Mueller trade, the Sharks jumped up 21 more spots in the fourth round by obtaining the Rangers pick at 102nd overall for the 123rd and 174th selections.

Center Scott Reedy is a player that Burke has high hopes for, projecting the Minnesota native as a “second line right winger [with] high-end potential.” Burke pointed out that Reedy, who is friends with first round pick Josh Norris, occasionally played on the same line with Norris for each of the last two seasons with the U.S. Under-18 team.

“He’s a big, strong forward that can play both positions (center and right wing),” Burke said.

Right wing Jacob McGrew, an Orange, CA native, went to the Sharks in the fifth round despite missing all of his first season in junior with a lower body injury suffered in training camp with Spokane (WHL).

“We knew about him before he went up there,” Burke said. “He’s a California kid. … If he was healthy he probably would have gone earlier.”

The Sharks again moved up to snag Huntington Beach native and center Chmelevski at 185 overall, and made their sixth and final pick in the 212th position by taking left wing Ivan Chekhovich in the seventh round. Both players look to have some offensive skill, based on their numbers and Youtube highlights.

Burke was surprised that both players were around so late.

“I thought they had pretty good years and they kind of slipped in the draft,” he said. “We weighed that versus some other more project-type guys, and we thought they had more offense and finish to their game. They just kept sliding, so we took a chance on them.”

Wilson said: “We moved up for the guys we wanted, and then there were some skilled guys at the end that we were surprised were still there. … We’ll go back and take a look how it all went, but we feel, I think, really good about where we ended up with this.”

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

Sharks coach DeBoer had 'good relationship' with Kovalchuk

CHICAGO – Ilya Kovalchuk is still reportedly mulling over a return to the NHL, four years after he surprisingly walked away from a monstrous contract with the New Jersey Devils to play in the KHL.

The Sharks have been linked to Kovalchuk, in large part because of Pete DeBoer, who was Kovalchuk’s most recent head coach. In 2011-12, Kovalchuk was a dangerous scoring winger under DeBoer, helping the Devils reach the Stanley Cup Final.

It was apparently a good working relationship between the player and the coach for the two seasons they were together, DeBoer said on Friday at the NHL Entry Draft at United Center.

“I loved Kovy in New Jersey,” DeBoer said. “We went to a Stanley Cup Final together. He was a huge piece for us there. I really enjoyed coaching him. I haven’t seen him in four or five years now. I’m sure there’s still a lot of game left there.”

DeBoer said he’s had no contact with the 34-year-old Kovalchuk, who would have to be traded by New Jersey before signing a new contract with any other NHL club. Still, it seems like the Sharks’ coach might welcome a reunion with Kovalchuk, who posted 78 points in 60 games with SKA Saint Petersburg last season, and has 816 points (417g, 399a) in 816 career NHL games with Atlanta and New Jersey.

“I had a really good relationship with him. I had a lot of respect for him as a player and a person,” DeBoer said.

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DeBoer seemed as uncertain as everyone else as to whether Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will return to the Sharks or move on to other clubs as free agents.

But, naturally, it’s on his mind.

“You think about it all the time,” DeBoer said. “They’re obviously important pieces in the history of the franchise, and in our group. I also understand the business side of this, and there’s always tough decisions to make. The way I approach these type of things is I’m going to go to Canada and relax, and Doug [Wilson] is going to make those decisions. I’m sure we’ll have a good group come training camp.”

“We’ve got a really good core group of guys and some tough decisions that have to be made. The one thing Doug and his group has shown over the years is their ability to stay competitive, to find a way even after making tough decisions. I have all the faith in the world in that, and I’m excited about training camp.”

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The Sharks lost David Schlemko in the expansion draft earlier in the week. Vegas then flipped him to the Canadiens for a fifth round pick in 2019.

“I think for David, it’s a great opportunity for him, especially going to Montreal,” DeBoer said. “For us, it’s an opportunity for a young guy to jump in. The one thing we have in the organization is some depth. There’s a lot of guys knocking on the door, and guys hungry to grab that job.”