Sharks

What the Sharks must do better vs. the Blues

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What the Sharks must do better vs. the Blues

When Todd McLellan, the guy with the double-bagged eyes, said he could think of 15 things the Sharks needed to improve before their series with the Blues opens in St. Louis, he probably was overestimating.By two, maybe.But of all the troubling things that being swept by the Bluenotes meant for the San Jose Sharks, the most disturbing would be that the Sharks played their best game of the four losses in October before Davis Payne had been replaced as coach by Ken Hitchcock.They outshot the Blues, 36-20, had more chances and possession time, controlled the faceoff circle, and lost in considerable part because the Blues blocked 26 shots to go with Brian Elliotts 34 saves.REWIND: Box Score -- Blues 4, Sharks 2 Play-by-play
The other three games were played at a more Hitchcockian pace, and the Sharks struggled mightily to dissect the new system and play with the patience required to handle it.In other words, the matchup got worse rather than better, so when McLellan sells the final four games of the season as being indicative of the teams true level, he is omitting the fact that there are horses for courses, and the Blues are a horse the Sharks have struggled to saddle, let alone ride.More immediately, the Sharks got one break when goalie Brian Elliott went down in Tuesdays practice with an upper-body thing (day-to-day, of course), but that was negated by the late-season return of second-line winger Alexander Steen, who missed all of January and February and most of March with a concussion.But more to the point, the Sharks never really did solve the Blues at their best their ferocious ability to surround the puck and remove time and space from the carrier, their devotion to detail in the defensive end, and their shot-blocking capability even in the face of teams like the Sharks, who try to do with volume that which they do not always do with precision.Even the things the Sharks do best most notably faceoffs they didnt do as well against St. Louis.Fact: Joe Pavelski was 32 of 45 in the circle in three games against the Blues (he missed the opener), and Joe Thornton, who played all four, was 34 for 51. For you math-deprived types, thats an absurd 69 percent.But it means that the rest of the lineup gimped in at 46 percent, or nearly 10 percent below their season average.Fact: They were second in the league in shots at 33.8 (only six total below Pittsburgh), but averaged nearly eight less per game against St. Louis. And thats just what got to goal. They attempted 75 shots in the opener, and averaged 53 per game in the three Hitchcock games; in total, they tried 235, and the Blues blocked 79 of those, an average of 1 of every three.Given that St. Louis was slightly below the league norm in blocked shots, this speaks pretty clearly to San Joses lack of patience offensively.And those who are not patient do not control the puck, and those who do not control the puck do not control the pace, and blah blah blah-de-blah blah. They got three goals, lost four games, and finished seventh.This is not as lopsided a series as it seems to be on its face, but the Sharks have to crash-course the Blues, breaking them down as quickly as possible, and then breaking them down consistently. First goal wont pull St. Louis out of its system; second might.But beyond that, the Sharks have to be dramatically better disciplined systemically against the Blues than against any other Western Conference team. That has been their greatest failing of McLellans Unholy 15. When things dont go well, they tend to go solo, trying to break down the opponent alone Dan Boyle cycling in his own end, Brent Burns caught below the red line as the play takes off the other way, Joe Thornton trying to split three players.And then they lose, ignominiously. Like they did four times against St. Louis. Lesson learned? Well see.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

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AP

Sharks start training camp with familiar face elsewhere: ‘It’s kind of strange’

SAN JOSE — There was something familiar missing in San Jose when the Sharks opened training camp.

For the first time since 1996, the Sharks took the ice for their first training camp practice without Patrick Marleau on the team as the franchise's career leader in games and scoring left as a free agent for Toronto this summer.

"I've spent a lot of years with him. It is kind of strange," said Joe Thornton, who came to San Jose in 2005. "It's his birthday today too. It's a little weird, but he's going to do great up in Toronto."

Marleau had been with San Jose since being picked second overall in 1997 but left the Sharks to sign an $18.75 million, three-year deal with the Maple Leafs in July.

Marleau has 508 goals and 574 assists for 1,082 points. He had 46 points in playing all 82 games last season as he rebounded from a disappointing 2015-16 season by scoring 27 goals, including the 500th of his career. He ranks first in San Jose in career goals, games and points.

Only six players in NHL history have played more games with one team than Marleau's 1,493 in San Jose. The Sharks haven't played a game without him on the ice since April 7, 2009.

"Obviously Patty has meant so much to this organization and this group," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Everyone in this room has pretty much played with him and Patty has done something to help them out. He'll be missed. ... Just by committee somebody will step in and fill that kind of hole. That's what we'll need."

The Sharks made no major additions this offseason so will need to replace Marleau's 27 goals by getting development from younger players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Danny O'Regan, as well as bounce-back seasons from veterans like Thornton, Mikkel Boedker and Joonas Donskoi.

Only Pavelski, Logan Couture and Brent Burns are back after scoring more than 12 goals last season.

"When I look back at last year we had key people either have down years or miss significant time with injuries or coming off injuries," coach Peter DeBoer said. "I think if we can stay healthy I think we've got a large group of guys that can really take a step this year and I expect a step out of them."

While the Sharks lost Marleau in free agency, they did manage to keep Thornton by giving him a one-year, $8 million contract despite dwindling production last season and offseason knee surgery.

He scored just seven goals — his fewest in an 82-game season since his rookie year in 1997-98 — and was a key part of a power-play unit that uncharacteristically struggled last season. But he still managed 43 assists, teaming with captain Joe Pavelski on San Jose's top line.

Thornton missed the final week of the regular season and the first two playoff games with a left knee injury before returning for the final four games of a first-round loss to Edmonton. Thornton then underwent surgery to repair his MCL and ACL after the season but was back skating in August and started ramping it up for training camp two weeks ago. Thornton believes the lower-body work he did in rehab this offseason will pay dividends on the ice.

"They feel real strong," he said of his legs. "I feel a lot of pop out there. They're probably as strong as they've ever been just because I had to rehab that knee so much."

Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

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Sharks Media Day highlights: Beards, smiles & cup checks

The boys were back together in San Jose on Thursday for Sharks Media Day, with plenty of smiles and moments of levity. Check out the highlights...

Hey Jumbo, you dropped something. 👖🤷‍♂️

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Martin Jones is pretty good at photobombs 📸💣

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🤳 Media Day #SJSharks

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New season. New commercials. 🕉🚌📺 #ComingSoon #SharksForLife

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