Sharks

Havlat a scorer through and through

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Havlat a scorer through and through

St. Louis -- Martin Havlat knew when he came off the ice Thursday night that there would be the traditional Skype session back at the hotel. Two goals in San Joses double-overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues including the game-winner, a bad penalty that almost cost the Fins the game in regulation it was a busy night, and it would be reduced to sub-atomic level in the nightly chat-up with his father Slava back in the Czech Republic.

Oh, yes, we talked about the win, Havlat said Friday. And we talked about the Blues. He likes the way they play.

REWIND: Sharks take Game 1 on Havlat's OT goal

Slava Havlat is, as you might have deduced from that sentence, a coach. Well, a former coach, anyway. He is 81 now, and watched his sons latest playoff triumph with that jewelers eye only a coach possesses. Fathers see one player. Coaches see the field of play.

We talk after most of the games, Havlat said. Its nine hours ahead, so on the West Coast the games start at 4:30 a.m., so he doesnt see all of them. But last night he watched, and then we talked, and then he went back to bed.

RATTO: Sharks' Havlat remains a playoff rainmaker

Slava Havlat played defense in his hockey days, and a goaltender in team handball. His son played tennis and soccer as well as hockey, and holds fast to his favorite soccer teams, Arsenal (with the Czech star Tomas Rosicky) and Barcelona (with the redoubtable Lionel Messi and about eight other of the best players in the world).

And Slava Havlat coached his son still does, in a sense. And his handiwork is on best display now, from the uniform number (9) they share to the sons gifts as a sniper. He has 30 points in his last 28 playoff games, and an ability to reduce each scoring opportunity down to portions of seconds as he did in the second overtime Thursday.

Hes a scorer, really, head coach Todd McLellan said. I saw a quote he gave where he said he had to wait for the puck to settle down, and thats something a scorer has. A non-scorer doesnt have that. He shoots as fast as he can. But a scorer will wait that extra moment . . . fractions of a second . . . because thats what scorers can do.

VIDEO: Havlat -- 'I just tried to get it on net and it went in

Indeed, between the time he received the pass from Ryane Clowe to the moment he felt defenseman Barrett Jackman closing on him and his little space became none, he got his puck to settle down and beat Jaroslav Halak with the game-winner. Fractions of a second.

And fractions of a second between when he saw Halak behind the net in the third period, decided he could not avoid contact, and took the penalty that led to St. Louis go-ahead goal by Patrik Berglund.

I didnt have a lot of time to change my course, he said. But I knew as soon as I touched him that it would be bad.

It was. He got pulled over for goalie interference, and while he was processing the shame, Berglund scored his second goal and gave the Blues the lead they typically hold with a falcons tenacity.

Only this time they didnt. Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels combined to tie the game, and Havlat, who had scored the games first goal and has fresher legs based on having played 43 fewer than the rest of his mates because of a hamstring injury, had the legs at games end to find that space and do what McLellan likes to call getting there on time. Great scorers do that. They used to say that about Brett Hull. Scorers just have that.

And Martin Havlat is a scorer, especially now, when the chips are in the middle of the table and the turn becomes the river. Back in the Czech Republic, his father is proud.

And given the hour, he is also tired. There are a lot of games left before his sleep patterns regain normalcy.

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

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AP

Five months after taking puck to face, Sharks' Logan Couture 'still pretty sore'

Nearly five months after taking a puck to the mouth that resulted in major damage, Logan Couture is still dealing with the aftereffects of his surgically repaired mouth, which now features several false teeth.

Appearing on the NHL Network this week, Couture was asked how he’s feeling with less than one month to go before the Sharks open training camp on Sep. 14.

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth. 

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

Couture was injured on March 25 in Nashville. He was set up just outside the crease in the offensive zone when a Brent Burns point shot hit a stick before squarely battering the now 28-year-old’s mouth.

After missing the final seven games of the regular season, Couture returned for the Sharks’ playoff opener. He managed to play in all six games of the first round loss, posting two goals and one assist for three points, although he struggled at times and was seemingly targeted by the Oilers.

Couture is currently in his hometown of London, Ontario where he’s staging a casino event for brain research. Fellow Sharks Chris Tierney and Dylan DeMelo will take part, as will other NHL stars like the Kings’ Drew Doughty.

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

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AP

Analysis: Sharks will need results from recent draft classes

It was late in the lockout-shortened 2013 season when Sharks general manager Doug Wilson really started to prepare for the future. Douglas Murray was dealt to Pittsburgh for a pair of second round selections. Ryane Clowe packed his bags for Broadway, in exchange for a second and a third round pick from the Rangers. Michal Handzus went to Chicago for a fourth rounder.

Wilson’s logic was sound, as it typically takes two-to-four years before draft picks have a chance to make an impact at the NHL level. The general manager figured that by then, players like Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau either wouldn’t be a part of the team anymore or would be slowing down. Restocking the cupboards was essential.

From 2013-15, the Sharks made 24 selections over the next three NHL entry drafts, including seven total picks in the top two rounds. Some players have shown promise. Others haven’t. A few aren’t in the organization anymore. That’s the nature of the business.

The way the 2017-18 opening night roster is shaping up, though, now is the time that some of these young players in the system simply have to step up. Marleau and his 27 goals last season are gone, Thornton’s numbers are down and he’s coming off of major knee surgery, Joe Pavelski is now 33 years old, and the team’s offense depth is suspect at best. There have been no notable additions in the offseason.

Frankly, this season could be viewed as a referendum on the team’s amateur scouting staff, including longtime director Tim Burke. Wilson handed Burke and his staff a wonderful opportunity to provide the organization with fresh talent with the team approaching an organizational crossroads.

What has transpired so far is a bit concerning, as already two of the team’s first round picks from that span ended up being nothing more than trade bait.

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Mirco Mueller, chosen 18th overall in 2013, was a huge disappointment in San Jose. It’s been well documented that he was mishandled by the organization when he was rushed to the league in 2014-15, but even this past season, regular observers of the Barracuda had Mueller as nothing more than the AHL team’s fourth-best defenseman. He’s now in New Jersey, swapped for a pair of draft picks.

The scouting staff was so high on Mueller on draft day that Wilson traded a valuable second round pick to Detroit to move up just two places to select him. With those acquired picks, the Red Wings took Anthony Mantha 20th overall and Tyler Bertuzzi 58th overall – two forwards that have shown a whole lot more NHL potential than Mueller (especially Mantha, who has 39 points in 70 career NHL games so far).

Perhaps more concerning, though, is that the Sharks 2013 draft class as a whole is looking like a dud. Second round pick Gabryel Boudreau suffered a wrist injury and is no longer in the organization anymore, but he was trending downward even before he got hurt. None of the remaining players selected from rounds four-through-seven look to be NHL quality, either.

The next year brought Nikolay Goldobin, chosen 27th overall after the Sharks traded down in the first round, and he ended up being the key piece in the Jannik Hansen acquisition from Vancouver. Goldobin showed some flashes of offensive talent during his time in the organization, but his lack of hockey sense and on-ice work ethic helped lead to his exit. Whether Goldobin becomes an NHL regular, even with a fresh start in Vancouver, is highly uncertain.

Had the Sharks stayed at 20th overall, they could have selected Nick Schmaltz (20th overall), Robby Fabbri (21st overall), or David Pastrnak (25th overall). Instead, they moved down and took Goldobin, making it back-to-back first round failures.

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Still, unlike 2013, other players from Goldobin’s draft class have shown some promise. Second rounder Julius Bergman was a steady blueliner for a good Barracuda team last season, and although he’s probably not NHL-ready yet, he could be on the right track. Late in the draft the team found Kevin Labanc in the sixth round with the 171st overall selection, and Labanc had some nice moments with the Sharks last season. His shot and his hands make him a solid prospect, although Labanc still probably has to get a bit bigger and stronger to play in the NHL full-time.

Noah Rod (second round, 53rd overall) and Rourke Chartier (fifth round, 149th overall) are also still developing, with Rod playing against men in the Swiss league the past few seasons and Chartier a valuable player for the Barracuda last year.

In 2015, the draft provided the Sharks with Timo Meier at ninth overall, as the club drafted in the top 10 for the first time since 2007. At this point, Meier is far and away the best prospect in the organization, and he’ll likely be relied upon to play a top nine (or even a top six) role for the Sharks this season.

The 2015 draft brought other decent prospects, too. Defenseman Jeremy Roy was selected 31st overall, and after suffering a serious knee injury in juniors this year, he’ll get a chance to play for the Barracuda this year. Fourth rounder Adam Helewka and fifth rounder Rudolfs Balcers have also developed nicely since draft day. It’s still a bit too early to evaluate that draft as a whole.

It should also be mentioned that while their draft day record may be suspect the past few seasons, the Sharks have brought in European free agents like Melker Karlsson, Joonas Donskoi and Marcus Sorensen. Karlsson has developed into a versatile, hard-working forward; Donskoi has shown flashes of offensive brilliance despite a disappointing second year in the NHL last season; and Sorensen looks primed to make the opening night roster after his speed and tenacity shined through during the Sharks’ first round series loss to Edmonton.

The Sharks scouting staff has helped to keep the team competitive for a long time, and they’re as big a reason as any that the team has missed the playoffs just once in the past 11 seasons. But this is also a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, and now is the time that the Sharks need to see some results from players that were chosen by Burke and company.