Vlasic, Sharks roll over Red Wings 5-2

591558.jpg

Vlasic, Sharks roll over Red Wings 5-2

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE When youre a team like the Sharks, and you've made it a habit recently of beating the mighty Detroit Red Wings in the regular season and playoffs, you probably need to find an unusual way to win one of those games every once in awhile.A four-point night from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and a pair of goals generated from the fourth line? That certainly qualifies as unconventional, as the Sharks beat the Red Wings for the fifth straight time in the regular season.
The Sharks scored five unanswered goals to cruise to a victory over the Red Wings their fifth straight regular season win over Detroit in a 5-2 victory at HP Pavilion on Thursday night. San Jose concluded its homestand with nine of a possible 12 points (4-1-1).Antti Niemi made a season-high 40 saves in earning his seventh win (7-2-1).

Its a good team. We want to get up for a good team, said Vlasic, who finished with a goal and three assists and whose club has eliminated Detroit from the postseason the last two years. We have elite players, and I think guys like to play against Detroit.The Sharks fourth line, which hadnt found the scoreboard since Andrew Desjardins two goals on opening night, managed to score twice and create havoc on the forecheck for the duration.Desjardins, Andrew Murray and Brad Winchester were on the ice for Vlasics goal in the second period while Winchesters first goal as a Shark midway through the third period put the game away, making it 5-1.They were very good defensively, through the neutral zone, and probably were our best forechecking line, said Todd McLellan. They created a number of opportunities in the offensive zone, and buried themselves in and around the blue paint and scored some goals. It was really nice to see for that group of three that has worked pretty hard lately.Winchester admitted that it was nice to see some results on the scoreboard. Desjardins and Murray each finished the night with an assist, while Winchester had a helper to go with his goal.There are a lot of ways to contribute in terms of the offensive side of things. It was nice to chip in as far as that goes, he said. Well continue to build on it.It took Vlasic less than 40 minutes to double his scoring output through the first 15 games. He factored in the first four Sharks goals as San Jose led 4-1 at the second intermission.With the game tied at 1-1 entering the second, San Jose took its first lead midway through regulation. Joe Thornton and Vlasic broke up a would-be one-timer by Henrik Zetterberg, leading to a rush the other way. Logan Couture faked a shot before sending a perfect cross-ice pass back to Thornton, who fired it past Jimmy Howard.Just backcheck hard. Thats what we try to do, said Thornton. Pickles and Logan made some nice plays and I pretty much just had an open net.Less than three minutes later, it was Vlasic who tallied his second goal of the season. A strong shift by the fourth line resulted in Vlasic controlling the puck behind the net and then wrapping it around at 12:48 when Howard could not recover.Vlasic mentioned that it was probably his first wraparound goal since junior.San Jose made it a three-goal cushion with 1:42 left in the second. After Jamie McGinns wrist shot snuck through Howard, Vlasic sped to the loose puck behind the net and threw it towards the slot. There, it met the stick of an open Torrey Mitchell, who lifted it over Howard for his second of the year.The Sharks were fortunate to be tied with Detroit after the first period after the Red Wings outshot San Jose 17-6, and dominated territorially. Niklas Kronwalls power play goal at 17:23 opened the scoring, when his shot deflected in off of Dan Boyle.San Jose got a gift in tying the game on a shorthanded goal with just 11.2 seconds left in the first. Vlasic threw the puck down the ice after a defensive zone faceoff win, and Howard went behind the net to retrieve it. Kronwall, thinking Howard would play it, peeled off while the puck stopped just outside the trapezoid. Thornton picked it up and had all day to find Joe Pavelski in the slot for his 10th of the season.We didnt play well up to that point, and that probably changed the whole outlook of the game, said Thornton of the Sharks second shorthanded goal of the year. We got some momentum off of that, had a great second period and the game was over.McLellan agreed that Pavelskis goal helped to give the Sharks momentum for a second period that saw them score three more.We probably turned it around on the shorthanded goal, he said. That worked in our favor.In what may have been his best game of the season, Niemi made some key stops, none more important than a sequence early in the second period. With the game tied at 1-1 and Detroit on the power play, Niemi made two saves on Danny Cleary to give the Sharks an opportunity to take the lead later in the frame.Our goaltender earned his paycheck, said McLellan.Even so, it was Vlasics night in the spotlight.Four points for Marc-Edouard is a real nice thing, said McLellan. It doesnt happen often, but he jumped into the play and made some great passes. Heck of a night from him.Odds and ends: The Red Wings came into the game with just two power play goals on the road, but equaled that going 2-for-3 with the man advantage. Four of the five Sharks goals were even strength. Howard was pulled for Ty Conklin at the start of the third period. Jason Demers returned to the Sharks lineup in favor of Justin Braun. Demers took two minor penalties in the first period, and finished with an even rating in 18:48 of ice time. The Sharks won 60 percent of the faceoffs. San Jose has scored the first goal of the game five times this year, and just twice at home. Overall, the team is 5-5-1 when falling behind, 1-0.

Analysis: Wilson could be taking calculated risk with Thornton, Marleau

thornton-marleau-teal-back.jpg
AP

Analysis: Wilson could be taking calculated risk with Thornton, Marleau

The NHL offseason is about to heat up with the draft this weekend in Chicago and the start of free agency on July 1. Here’s what we’re hearing in regards to the Sharks, who could be at an organizational crossroads…

What’s the latest with Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau?

It’s been quiet regarding to two franchise cornerstones that could officially become unrestricted free agents in eight days and are free to speak with other teams on Sunday. There has been dialogue, as Doug Wilson has said, but the general manager always prefers to keep contract negotiations private.

We do know that there have never been any gentleman’s agreements between the Sharks and Thornton and Marleau for after the expansion draft. I continue to see this theory suggested by some – both media and fans alike – but it’s simply not true, as we've reported here in the past.

At this point, Thornton and Marleau will surely wait until June 25 to see what kind of offers roll in from other clubs. They should learn pretty quickly what kind of interest is out there.

From the Sharks’ perspective, the term of any potential deal is vital. If Thornton and Marleau still want at least three years – as we’ve reported here previously – that might not work for the Sharks, as their top offseason priority is to sign Martin Jones and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to long-term extensions. 

Wilson could be taking a calculated risk, especially in Thornton’s case, as the general manager no doubt knows that Thornton would prefer to stay in San Jose (it’s less clear how much Marleau wants to return). If there aren’t any other teams out there willing to sign a 38-year-old player coming off of a significant knee injury to a three-year deal, Thornton could settle for a one or two-year deal to stay with the Sharks. If another team is willing to go that long, Thornton could always give the Sharks a chance to match.

Which Sharks players could be on the move in a potential trade?

There have already been a few huge trades as of Friday morning, including the Blue Jackets snagging Artemi Panarin from Chicago for Brandon Saad, the Coyotes acquiring Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta from the Rangers, and Niklas Hjalmarsson from Chicago.

Could the Sharks join the party? It’s certainly possible, as the team could probably use another forward or two than can put the puck in the net.

I could see the Sharks dangling Chris Tierney, for reasons that I laid out last week on my Facebook page when I thought that the club might protect a fourth defenseman and leave Tierney unprotected. In short, Ryan Carpenter’s return should make Tierney more expendable; coach Pete DeBoer has been pretty critical of Tierney in the past; and Tierney, a pending restricted free agent, remains unsigned. 

Further, you have to wonder if Tierney might be better off on another team for his own growth. If the Sharks re-sign Thornton, Tierney will be firmly entrenched as the fourth line center behind Thornton, Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. Could his camp be pushing for a trade, prompting the Sharks to make sure they kept Carpenter around?

As for other potential trade bait, the Sharks have some organizational depth at defense right now, even after they shipped Mirco Mueller to the Devils. Perhaps they try and move one of their established defenseman for the right price, if they think any of the youngsters are ready to make the leap to the NHL, or maybe they could move one of the blue line prospects for an established veteran scorer.

It’s worth noting, too, that one source texted me last week, “I think there is more coming from Doug and crew.”

Is Micheal Haley going to return?

The only other UFA from the Sharks’ NHL roster last season, other than Thornton and Marleau, is Haley.

There continues to be mutual interest between the two sides. Pete DeBoer likes Haley, he’s a respected guy in the dressing room, and his teammates appreciate the role he plays. That doesn’t mean a deal will get done, as the Sharks have more pressing matters to navigate through first, but Haley could be back in the fall.

The Sharks have some key restricted free agents, too. What’s going on with those guys?

The deadline to qualify restricted free agents is Sunday. Expect the Sharks to qualify Tierney, Marcus Sorensen and Barclay Goodrow.

The remaining RFAs are Nikita Jevpalovs, Mantas Armalis and Patrick McNally. All three could be allowed to walk, and therefore become unrestricted.

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

Sharks have bevy of young defensemen to replace Schlemko

CHICAGO – If there were a best-case scenario for the Sharks regarding the expansion draft, it probably would have been the Vegas Golden Knights selecting Mikkel Boedker, and the three years and $12 million remaining on his contract.

Instead, the Golden Knights swiped David Schlemko. While the 30-year-old was a nice third pair defenseman in his only year with the Sharks, it was probably the second-best case from San Jose’s perspective. The team should be able to fill the vacancy internally without too much difficulty. Schlemko had two goals and 18 points in 62 games last season, and has three years left on his contract at $2.1 million annually.

“I think it’s worked out well for all parties involved,” said general manager Doug Wilson. “You go into expansion, you know you’re going to lose a player. David came in and played well for us. We signed him as a free agent, so we didn’t have to give up an asset to get him. So, we think we moved through the expansion phase with the good young players coming in that are ready to play and compete for that spot. That’s probably as good as we could have expected to come out of expansion, in that position.”

If there are no other major moves on the Sharks’ blue line this offseason, the spot to play alongside Brenden Dillon will be there for the taking in training camp. There’s no reason, of course, to break up the top four of Marc-Edouard Vlasic-Justin Braun, and Brent Burns-Paul Martin.

Dylan DeMelo would figure to have the inside track on the job, but there are others like Tim Heed and Joakim Ryan, each of whom signed two-year contract extensions on June 17. They served as the AHL Barracuda’s top defense pair for most of the season.

The 24-year-old Ryan, a sixth round pick in 2012, posted 10 goals and 49 points in 65 games last season in the AHL. He was recalled once by the Sharks but did not play. Heed, 26, is an offensive defenseman that tallied 14 goals and 56 points in 55 games with the Barracuda and played in one game with the Sharks on Jan. 11 in Calgary. Ryan is a left-handed shot; Heed, like Schlemko and DeMelo, shoots right.

Regarding Ryan, Wilson said: “He’s right on track. He’s the type of guy that – if you look around the league at the number of young defensemen that are making an impact – he thinks and plays the game the right way.”

“Watching [Ryan and Heed] play together, I would say they were arguably the best defense pair in the AHL last year.”

There are other defensemen to monitor, too. The Sharks signed soon-to-be 25-year-old Czech Radim Simek to a one-year contract on May 23, beating out several of other NHL teams to acquire his services. 

“He’s a puck-moving guy,” Wilson said. “He’s got a little bite to him, too. Not tall, but thick and strong. We think he’s a guy that has the skill set to step right in and play. We’ll see how much time it takes him to adjust to the smaller rink.”

And don’t forget about Jeremy Roy, either. The first pick of the second round in the deep 2015 draft (31st overall), Roy is expected to join the organization next season, likely starting his pro career with the Barracuda after recovering from a significant knee injury that ended his junior season in late October.

“He had a major repair, but he’s back healthy,” Wilson said. “We’ll see him this summer, and he’s a puck-moving guy. … Injuries you can’t control, but we have high expectations for Jeremy.”

* * *

Vegas shipped Schlemko to the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday for a fifth round pick in the 2019 draft.