Sharks

Barracuda advance to second round in thrilling fashion

Barracuda advance to second round in thrilling fashion

SAN JOSE – Ryan Carpenter’s shorthanded goal in overtime gave the AHL Barracuda a thrilling 2-1 win on Tuesday night at SAP Center, as the Sharks’ top minor league affiliate advanced to the second round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The Barracuda downed Stockton, the primary affiliate of the Calgary Flames, three-games-to-two by capturing the decisive Game 5. San Jose will now face the San Diego Gulls, the Ducks’ top affiliate, beginning on Friday at SAP Center.

Carpenter’s goal, his team-leading fourth of the series, came with Joakim Ryan in the penalty box on a delay of game minor. Barclay Goodrow hustled to a loose puck that was gliding towards the offensive corner, and dished it to a trailing Carpenter who was alone between the circles. Carpenter’s wrist shot cleanly beat goalie Jon Gillies at 8:52 of the extra session, and the home bench erupted.

“[Goodrow] made a heck of a play,” Carpenter said. “It looked like a 50-50 puck and he just beat the guy to it and made a heck of a backhand pass. I was all alone, just tried getting it off quick. Didn’t want to do too much with it. It was just nice it went in.”

The Barracuda registered a whopping 54 shots on goal to just 27 for the Heat, but it took until the third period for them to dent the scoreboard. Timo Meier tied the game at 1-1, taking advantage of an Oliver Kylington turnover and buzzing a wrist shot from the faceoff dot into the top far corner at 9:47.

“Slipped off the Stockton guy’s stick and I was right there,” Meier said. “I was able to put it behind him and go for a two-on-one, and just picked a corner and put it in.”

In four games in the series, Meier finished with two goals and an assist for three points. In Game 5 he registered eight shots on goal, while his linemate, Carpenter, had a game-high nine shots as San Jose enjoyed the territorial advantage for much of the night.

Still, the Barracuda needed goalie Troy Grosenick, especially late. The AHL’s top netminder in the regular season made a pair of late stops to force overtime, denying Hunter Shinkaruk breaking in alone with 5:40 to go, and then robbing Michael Angelidis a few minutes later with a dazzling glove save.

“They didn’t get a ton of shots, but they had some grade A [chances],” Grosenick said.

In overtime, Shinkaruk had a breakaway in the second minute but his attempt caught iron.

How did that sound?

“Some sound good and some sound bad,” Grosenick said. “That one sounded pretty good.”

Coach Roy Sommer said: “The plays [Grosenick] made late in the third – the one on Angelidis – woof. Then, Shankiruk – I thought it was over.”

Instead of it being over, though, Sommer and his club assured that the ice at SAP Center would remain in place at least a little while longer with the Sharks’ already on summer vacation.

“I thought we deserved to win,” Sommer said. “I thought we were the better team tonight.”

Grosenick said: “We had a big series here with probably our biggest rival, and we knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We battled through, so it feels good.”

 

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.

It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.

The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.

Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.

Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.

You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.

San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.

But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.

They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.

Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.

He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?

The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.

Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

jones-khudobin-usatsi.jpg
USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.