Sharks' hearts and minds will decide playoff berth

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Sharks' hearts and minds will decide playoff berth

There is no compelling mathematical argument to be made for the Sharks missing the playoffs. Theyre two back with nine to play, and have games in hand two more than Colorado, one more than Phoenix.

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But thats the worst possible thing to tell these mopes. That they have breathing room. Or that they just played well. Or that things are looking up.They only realize the true meaning of desperation and how to handle it when they have no place to go but out. They dont gear up until theyre pointed up a steep hill and the car stalls. They dont power up until the battery looks like its dead.Or maybe theyre feeling so desperate than putting the old police chokehold on their sticks trying so hard that they forget that effort without purpose is just aerobics. They run around like that vial of fire ants they were smuggling in their shorts has just broken and the wildlife is savaging their delicates.Either way, and only they know as individuals whether they care too little or dont care enough, the point is that they stink absolutely stink at this scrambling for a playoff thing.There is no other useful explanation for their last month and a half, where they rise up for teams they have always regarded as their equals but lay down against their traditional inferiors. They fancy themselves an elite team, and they emit results that make them look like the Winnipeg Jets.Of their eight wins since Feb. 1, six have come against playoff teams, and the goal differential in those wins (over Dallas, Chicago, Washington, Philadelphia, Nashville and Detroit) is 21-11.But of their 17 losses over that time, nine have come against non-playoff teams, and by that we mean teams that have no or almost no hope of making it. And the goal differential in those games (under Calgary, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Columbus, Minnesota, Buffalo, Edmonton, Calgary again and Anaheim) is 23-35.Combined, they are 6-8 against good teams, which isnt great. But they are 2-9 against bad ones. Let that marinate in your heads for a minute.Okay. Now throw up.Finished? Good. Times up.That is a screeching advertisement for short attention span. Or a basic misunderstanding of how to play desperate but smart hockey.If you had gotten properly piefaced on February 1 and figured out what games the Sharks should have won or lost by going through their schedule, you would have come up with a conservative estimate of 16-9. That would have put them at about 96 points now, give or take the odd overtime result, and that would have put them not tenth, but second, a stride ahead of Vancouver and within reach of St. Louis.In short, this isnt about math at all, but a measure of the hearts and minds within the room. The Sharks have either massively underachieved as players, or they dont know how not to be front-runners.The easy and stupid response is to blame head coach Todd McLellan for not reaching them, but this is a veteran team with seven years of regular season success that should not require the coach to remind them not to lay down to Anaheim at home.The second easy response is to accuse general manager Doug Wilson of not maximizing his trade skills, but Brent Burns has been better for San Jose than Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi have been for Minnesota, and Martin Havlat tripping over the dasher and losing 39 games is not really managements fault.Well give you Jamie McGinn for the moment, as he has considerably outperformed both Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi, but if Colorado doesnt make the playoffs, how much damage was done? And do you really think that McGinn could have snapped the rest of the roster to attention against Calgary or Columbus or Buffalo?No, this is not on the coach, and the general manager hasnt failed either. There are too many years of good results to determine that they have become stupid.This is about the players taking too long to learn how not to be front-runners, about relying on their talent to save them when their attention span and devotion to detail are more important.These results speak volumes about their inability to learn a new skill playing with angry dogs snapping at their hinders and about their refusal to accept their new paradigm as an ordinary team producing sub-ordinary results.In short, they need to take the games in hand and the wins over Nashville and Detroit and Philly and the history and shove them all forcefully in an uncomfortable place. The players as a group and individually must look at these results, throw up themselves, and then play as though they were merely a 45-day aberration rather than the condemnation they really are.Unless they are actually worse than everyone thinks they are, and that the four-year window they expected is closing after two. And let that marinate with you, too.Ray Ratto is a columnist forCSNBayArea.com

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

Couture's father: Sharks center dealing with 'ugly injury' after puck to mouth

After requiring a visit to a local hospital in Nashville due to being struck in the face with a deflected puck on Saturday night against the Predators, Logan Couture was able to fly back with the team to San Jose on Sunday morning.

The severity of his injury is still unknown, although his father, Chet, said on Twitter that it was “an ugly injury sadly.”

Another source close to the situation told CSN the injury is “brutal.”

Couture, who lost several teeth, visited with Sharks medical personnel on Sunday and a further update is expected on Monday. 

Perhaps the best-case scenario is that the injury looks a lot worse than it actually is, such as when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was sidelined for one week when he took a puck to the face from the stick Philadelphia’s Shayne Gostisbehere in late December.

Losing Couture for any period of time would be a difficult blow to the Sharks, who have lost their last six in regulation, including Saturday’s 7-2 defeat to the Predators. Couture is third on the team in scoring with 52 points, and has a team-leading 11 power play goals. He entered Saturday’s game with four goals and five assists in his last 10 games, and has arguably been the team’s best player since mid-January.

"You can't replace him, so it would be really tough,” Patrick Marleau said after the game Saturday. “But if that is the case, then guys are going to have to pull up the slack. Definitely we hope he's back sooner.”

Couture was set up just outside the crease in the third period when a Brent Burns point shot late in the second period hit a stick before squarely smacking into the 27-year-old’s mouth. He quickly skated to the dressing room under his own power with just 14 seconds before the intermission.

The Sharks have seven games remaining in the regular season, hosting the Rangers on Tuesday and visiting Edmonton and Calgary later this week. They are tied in points (91) with Anaheim and Edmonton in the Pacific Division.

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

Three takeaways: Sharks having trouble explaining meltdown

NASHVILLE – The Sharks are returning to San Jose on Sunday in a crisis. Nothing good came from Saturday’s 7-2 loss to Nashville, their sixth straight in regulation. Let’s get to the painful three takeaways…

1 – No answers

Neither Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns nor Patrick Marleau – the three players made available to the media after Saturday’s game – offered any kind of in-depth analysis of what’s going wrong. Frankly, I’m not sure anyone really knows. It’s hard to believe that this is the same club that had lost just two games in regulation in its previous 14 before the losing streak began.

“If you’re putting a consistent effort in, battling, competing – it’s tough to lose six in a row,” Pavelski said. “You look at six in a row, and it just seems daunting. Like, how do you get there? So, I think we’ve just got to take a deep breath, really kind of refocus.”

Believe it or not, coach Pete DeBoer thought Saturday’s loss was “a step in the right direction” when asked why Friday night’s 6-1 beat down in Dallas wasn’t enough of a wake-up call. How often do you hear that after a five-goal defeat?

“I liked our game tonight better than I liked [Friday’s game] regardless of the score,” DeBoer said. “I don’t just look at the score. If you want to just judge it on the score than you might not say it’s a wake-up call, but I thought we were much more competitive tonight. 

“It was a step in the right direction. Every team goes through tough parts of the season, and this is ours. We’ve got a lot of character in the room. We’ll get through it.”

2 – Couture injury would spell doom, as Hertl still MIA

Let’s face it – if Logan Couture is out for any extended period of time, this team is DOA once the playoffs begin. Couture has been the Sharks’ best player since the All-Star break, and they don’t have anyone on the current roster or in the system that could replace him. As of Sunday morning, there was still no word as to the severity of his injury after taking a puck to the mouth and going to a local Nashville hospital.

If Couture were to miss time, Tomas Hertl would likely become the team’s second line center. Lately, though, Hertl doesn’t even resemble an effective third line center. He was victimized on Nashville’s first goal, which was similar to one of the Wild goals on Tuesday, when he was just too slow and not strong enough on his skates in getting outworked for a loose puck. He is scoreless in his last 12 games.

3 – Haley shows some emotion that others lack

It’s understandable that Micheal Haley didn’t like getting hit from behind by Calle Jarnkrok in the third period. But, you can’t just make a beeline for a guy and punch him in the face. Haley will almost certainly get suspended for the play.

At least, though, Haley showed a little bit of emotion in the game, including his first period fight with Cody McLeod. Perhaps guys like Hertl, Joonas Donskoi and Mikkel Boedker could take a lesson from the fiery Haley. Those three, in particular, have been virtually useless during this six-game stretch. 

If I’m DeBoer, I’d get on the phone with Doug Wilson and Roy Sommer and ask for a few guys from the Barracuda so I could – depending on the team’s health situation – scratch all three of them for Tuesday against the Rangers, or at least remove Boedker and Donskoi and put Hertl back on the wing. Drastic times call for drastic measures, do they not?