Despite goal drought, Winnik settling in

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Despite goal drought, Winnik settling in

SAN JOSE Daniel Winnik isnt letting his goal-scoring drought bother him.

No, its not the first time Ive gone through something like this. I think when you do start letting it weigh on you, it compounds it even more, Winnik said on Sunday. You might restrict yourself from making plays or being nervous to shoot. I havent really thought about it too much.

Winnik scored a goal at HP Pavilion on Dec. 13, while still with the Avalanche in a 4-3 Colorado shootout win. Since then, he has yet to light the lamp, including his first 10 games since being traded to the Sharks on Feb. 27. Thats a span of 41 games half of an NHL regular season.

If he plays the way he did on Saturday against the Red Wings, though, it might not be long before he gets his first marker in a teal jersey. Winnik, along with linemates Torrey Mitchell and Dominic Moore, were outstanding for the final two periods of the Sharks 3-2 overtime win over their rivals.

Winnik came within a few inches of scoring with about four minutes to go in the second. After he set up Dominic Moore for a shot, Winnik was staring down a rebound at an open net, but the puck wouldnt cooperate.

It just kind of blew up there before I shot it. Those things happen, and hopefully you get a couple more of those chances, said Winnik, who had a career high 11 goals in 2007-08 with Phoenix, and again with Colorado in 2010-11.

Although he missed on that chance, he made several other nifty plays with the puck, particularly late. He set up Moore for a one-timer from the circle just two minutes into the third period, and later he found Mitchell for a blast from the circle with four and a half minutes remaining in regulation. Jimmy Howard stopped them both.

It wasnt a coincidence that the Sharks third line was buzzing after the opening frame. Coach Todd McLellan said after the game that he challenged that threesome to pick up its play late in the first and it responded.

Winnik said: I didnt think as a line we had a very good first period. We werent making it hard on their D, we werent making them turn and go get pucks, and I think as third and fourth line guys, thats what we have to do. Tire their D out, so we have good zone time and it gives a lot more space for Jumbo and Patty, and those two lines.

After Todd said that, I think we responded real well and had a lot of zone time in the second and third.

Winnik also had one of the biggest hits in what was a physical and intense game, typical of any Sharks-Red Wings affair, when he leveled Todd Bertuzzi with an open ice hit midway through the third. Bertuzzi lost his helmet upon impact.

Overall, Winnik is feeling better every day in his new surroundings.

I was thinking about this the other day, it almost feels like easing into it, ornot so much easing into it, but training camp-ish. Its taken couple games to really kind of feel more comfortable game-by-game, he said. These last couple games Ive felt a lot more comfortable, especially making plays in the offensive zone.

McLellan said: I think hes found his position within our team. When you get new players, youre trying to figure them out a little bit, and where they fit the best. That line of Moore, Winnik and Mitchell has been pretty effective, and I think theyre comfortable now playing with each other.

Still, the head coach would like to see Winnik chip in the odd goal here and there.

I think he keeps playing the way he is over the last four or five games hell get his opportunities, and then hes got to bury them. Everybody has to find a way to score at some point, and he has the ability to do it.

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

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USATSI

Top pick Meier 'real close' to making Sharks debut

SAN JOSE – Struggling to score goals lately with two or fewer in eight of their last 11 games, the Sharks may soon turn to their biggest prospect to try and give the offense a boost.

Timo Meier, the ninth overall pick from the 2015 draft, is tearing up the American Hockey League lately with the Barracuda. He scored four goals (and registered 15 shots) in two games in San Antonio over the weekend, has eight points (5g, 3a) in his last four games, and leads the Barracuda with eight goals.

On Thursday, Pete DeBoer was asked what he’s heard about Meier lately and how close he may be.

“Good things, and real close,” DeBoer said. “I think he would have been even a consideration [Wednesday], but he came down I think with the flu. 

“You feel for him because we’re looking to bring some guys in, and he obviously had a great weekend. He’s one of quite a few guys down there that we feel real comfortable can come in here and are going to help us before the year ends, for sure.”

It’s the second time an illness has affected Meier’s status, as he came down with mononucleosis early in training camp and missed a month of action. He did, however, return to Barracuda practice this week.

One month ago, Barracuda coach Roy Sommer told CSN that Meier had to make some adjustments coming out of juniors. 

“He’s just has to simplify his game,” Sommer said on Nov. 9. “I think he’s just trying to do too much. He’s got to be north-south, and [forget] this circling and trying to put pucks through people. … It’s not going to work.”

Apparently, Meier has figured it out. On Tuesday, Sommer told The Gackle Report: “He’s getting better every game. At the start, I was going, oh man, he’s all over the map, circling and not using his teammates. But shoot, now he just keeps producing.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time with him on video and he picks stuff up.”

The 2015 draft has already produced several players that are regular contributors for their respective clubs, led by Connor McDavid (Edmonton), Jack Eichel (Buffalo), Mitch Marner (Toronto) and Zach Werenski (Columbus). 

Meier is the only player among the top 11 picks that year that has yet to play an NHL game, while 17 of 30 of the players overall chosen in the first round have played at least one NHL game.

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

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USATSI

Sharks still struggling to get consistent offense

SAN JOSE – There are games where the Sharks’ lack of offensive firepower isn’t an issue. Recent 2-1 wins over two of the best teams in the league, Chicago and Montreal, were impressive in that San Jose kept a pair of the league’s better offenses from getting more than a single score.

In other instances, though, that necessary goal from the team’s depth just hasn’t come. Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Ottawa was one example. The Sharks got goals from Logan Couture and Brent Burns – no surprise there – while Joe Pavelski was all around the net, generating more scoring chances than any single player on the ice.

Again, though, the depth forwards and defensemen other than Burns never found the scoresheet. 

And it’s becoming a real issue.

In fact, in the Sharks’ last 11 games in which they’ve gotten 25 goals total, 60 percent of them have come from just those three aforementioned players – Couture (7g), Burns (5g) and Pavelski (3g).

Also over that span, in which San Jose has gone 6-4-1, they’ve gotten no goals from Joe Thornton, Joonas Donskoi, Mikkel Boedker, Micheal Haley or Melker Karlsson; one goal apiece from Joel Ward and Tommy Wingels; and just one goal by a defenseman other than Burns (Dylan DeMelo). Of the 12 forwards that dressed against the Senators, eight of them had two or fewer goals.

The Sharks sit at 23rd in the NHL at 2.38 goals-per game. Sure, it’s just fine winning games by 2-1 final scores. But at some point, other guys are going to have to start putting the puck in the net if this team is truly going to contend for the Stanley Cup.

Couture – who himself got off to a slow start offensively – believes it’s going to come soon.

“Everyone wants to score,” Couture said after the Senators game. “It’s not about trying, it’s just the way that things are going right now. Pucks just aren’t going in for some guys, and, hey, I went through the same thing for awhile there where I wasn’t finding the back of the net. 

“That’s the way that goal-scoring works in the NHL, is you go through streaks where you’re hot and when you’re cold. Some guys are going to get hot soon. It’s going to happen.”

For his part, coach Pete DeBoer also believes the offense will pick up shortly. In the Senators game, the coaching staff internally tracked the scoring chances as 22 for the Sharks and just eight for Ottawa.

When that happens, “you should win, and you should score more than two goals,” DeBoer said.

Without getting into specifics, DeBoer pointed to the “analytics of where we are in the league” as a reason not to panic. Perhaps he’s aware that the Sharks are sixth in the league in shot-attempt percentage (52.25), and first in the NHL in shot-attempt percentage in close games (55.67).

Still, those numbers don’t mean anything when the puck isn’t going in. So what’s missing?

“I just think finish. I think we’re doing a lot of things right,” DeBoer said.

“Obviously I’d love to see us score some more goals five-on-five, but we’re getting some chances,” Ward said. “I would think if we weren’t or if we were getting shelled then it would definitely be something to be concerned about. … We’ve had some good looks and some really quality chances. Things just haven’t fallen in five-on-five, but I think that will come around.”