Sharks

Barracuda set to face Ducks' affiliate in Calder Cup playoffs

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AP

Barracuda set to face Ducks' affiliate in Calder Cup playoffs

SAN JOSE – Roy Sommer is in his 19th year coaching the Sharks’ primary minor league affiliate, and has the most wins behind the bench in American Hockey League history.

Tuesday’s 2-1 overtime triumph over the Stockton Heat, in his mind, was the biggest of his career. The Barracuda advanced to the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs with the exhilarating victory.

“For me, that was the biggest game I’ve coached since I’ve been in the American League,” Sommer said. “As far as the organization, for what we’ve gone through this year, I’m just really happy that those guys get to go on and keep going.”

Sommer is referring to how dominant and impressive a regular season it was for his Barracuda club, and how disappointing it would have been to suffer a first round exit. San Jose finished with the best record in the Western Conference, Sommer was the AHL’s coach of the year, Danny O’Regan was the rookie of the year, and Troy Grosenick was named as the most outstanding goalie.

Despite finishing with nine wins and 18 points more than Stockton in the regular season, the Calgary Flames’ affiliate pushed the Barracuda to the brink.

“If we would have lost that, that would have been a long summer for me,” Sommer said.

Of course, they’ll take the series win any way it comes.

“We didn’t expect it to be easy, and I think if you ask any team that has won the Stanley Cup or Calder Cup or any type of championship at high-level hockey, you’re going to go through adversity at some point in the playoff run,” 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.”

Ryan Carpenter was the offensive leader for the Barracuda through the first round with seven points (4g, 3a), including the overtime winner in Game 5. The 26-year-old center, who was effective whenever he was recalled by the Sharks in the regular season, is in his fourth year with the Barracuda/Worcester Sharks.

Sommer indicated the Florida native is the type of guy that picks up his game at the most important time of year.

“He’s just a playoff performer. Every year he’s been our best player in the playoffs, the last three years we’ve gotten in,” Sommer said. “He finally got the big one.” 

Timo Meier was also outstanding in Game 5, getting the all-important tying goal in the third period and finishing with eight shots on goal. He and Marcus Sorensen were reassigned shortly after getting their first taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Sharks’ first round loss to Edmonton.

Sommer didn’t like Meier’s first couple games in the Stockton series, but said: “He scored a hell of a goal for us [Tuesday] night. … When he wants to play, he’s a horse.”

The Barracuda open the second round on Friday and Saturday at SAP Center against the San Diego Gulls, who beat the Ontario Reign in five games in the first round. Goaltending figures to play a key role, as Grosenick will face Jhonas Enroth, a 28-year-old veteran that has significant NHL experience, including in 2015-16 when he was the backup to Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles.

San Diego was neck-and-neck with the Barracuda for much of the regular season, finishing just four points back in the AHL’s Pacific Division.

“They’re a great team,” Carpenter said. “They’ve got a lot of skilled forwards, good goaltending, they’re hard to play against, especially in their own building, too. It’s going to be a battle.”

The Gulls are the primary affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, who remain alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. That could help the Barracuda, especially if the Ducks need a player or two as they continue to battle the Oilers in a second round series that is now tied at two games apiece.

“It’s one of those things, and I’ve been there before in the Calder Cup playoffs, their NHL team is playing. And they don’t care if they have to recall a guy or whatever, they’re going to take him,” Sommer said. “So, that hurts.”

“We got some help when the Sharks got bumped with Timo, who ends up getting the [tying goal] tonight. That’s the way it goes. It’s kind of good playing a team when their big club is still in it.”

Barracuda-San Diego Calder Cup playoff schedule

Game 1: Friday, May 5, 2017 (7 p.m.) - SAP Center
Game 2: Saturday, May 6, 2017 (7 p.m.) - SAP Center
Game 3: Wednesday, May 10, 2017 (7 p.m.) - Valley View Casino Center
Game 4: Friday, May 12, 2017 (7 p.m.) - Valley View Casino Center
*Game 5: Saturday, May 13, 2017 (7 p.m.) - Valley View Casino Center
*Game 6: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 (7 p.m.) - SAP Center
*Game 7: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 (7 p.m.) - SAP Center

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

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USATSI

Time is now for Sharks to experiment with new lines

The San Jose Sharks were shut out for the first time this season on Thursday night, but it sure didn't feel like it.

You’d be forgiven, albeit mistaken, if you didn't think the loss was their first goose egg of the season. San Jose’s been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league this year, and has scored two or fewer goals in all but two of their six games in November.

The Sharks controlled play, but their raw possession numbers were misleading: Through the first two periods, San Jose was outshot 23-18, and poured it on in the third looking for the game-tying goal.

In order to break out of his team’s extended slump, head coach Peter DeBoer appeared to throw his lines in the proverbial blender. The changes weren't very significant, though, as DeBoer worked mostly around the edges.

Joe Thornton remained with Joe Pavelski, while Melker Karlsson and Timo Meier rotated in on their wing. Joonas Donskoi swapped in with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl, and on and on.

The core pair of each line remained intact, while DeBoer swapped complimentary wingers. Subtle changes, unsurprisingly, didn't lead to drastically different results.

He’s been amenable to bigger changes at times, briefly breaking up longtime linemates Thornton and Pavelski last Sunday against Los Angeles. The bottom six, especially the fourth line, has mostly been a revolving door.

That's a start, but far from enough. 

As long as the Sharks struggle to score, similarly significant changes are in order.

DeBoer shouldn't want to sacrifice the team’s defensive dominance, or its strong possession game. But, the Sharks haven't scored enough through 17 games to justify using the same forward combinations. 

In Thornton and Pavelski’s case, those struggles date back to last season. For just about everyone else, the sample size is getting increasingly more significant as the season approaches the quarter pole.

The Sharks bench boss expressed a willingness to mix up his power play units earlier this week, and needs to do the same at even strength. It's time to try Pavelski on Couture's wing, Meier on Thornton's, or any number of permutations.

Tweaking around the edges hasn't made much of a difference, so far more comprehensive adjustments are not only welcome, but necessary. Of course, DeBoer may not find the perfect lineup solutions.

At this point, though, it's worth a shot. It's hard to imagine the Sharks scoring any less than they have so far this season, and the Sharks need to explore if any line changes can provide a remedy.

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks

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AP

Luongo picks up a career first in Panthers win over Sharks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE — Roberto Luongo made 35 saves for his 74th career shutout and the Florida Panthers blanked the San Jose Sharks 2-0 Thursday night on goals by Colton Sceviour and Nick Bjugstad.

Florida coach Bob Boughner won in his return to San Jose. He served as an assistant coach for the Sharks the last two years.

Luongo earned his first shutout of the season and first in 32 games against San Jose.

Martin Jones was nearly as good for the Sharks. He stopped 26 shots, but that wasn't enough to keep the Panthers from winning for the seventh time in their last eight trips to San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Tim Heed had a goal disallowed on a coach's challenge a little less than five minutes into the second period. Replays showed he came into contact with the puck just behind the blue line, making the play offside.

San Jose had another goal overturned after a replay review. Brent Burns took a hard shot that Luongo nearly caught but couldn't handle and it bounced along his pads. Marc-Edouard Vlasic was one of three Sharks trying to poke at the puck and he used his stick to push both the puck and Luongo's pad into the net.

Sceviour scored a minute into the second after digging out the puck along the boards behind the net. He skated around the cage and poked a shot that hit Jones' pads. He took a second shot that got over the goalie's pads and went in.

Sceviour has four points in six games since returning from injury. He had two points in his first six games this season.

The Panthers, who have won three of four, added an insurance goal with less than eight minutes remaining. Radim Vrbata intercepted a pass in the Sharks zone and played it to Jamie McGinn, who got Jones to commit before dishing to Bjugstad for the score.

NOTES: Panthers C Michael Haley received a warm ovation from Sharks fans. He played in San Jose the last couple of years. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed his 15th game with a lower-body injury, though he has been skating pain-free for the past two weeks. ... Florida center Vincent Trocheck has 12 points in his last 10 games. ... The Sharks have not scored on their past 15 power plays.

UP NEXT

Panthers: At the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Sharks: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday.