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

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Joonas Donskoi’s first goal of the season all but sealed the Sharks’ 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

It was also a long time coming, too. The Finnish forward finished a chance for the first time in 28 regular season games, 33 if you include his goal-less postseason. He last scored on January 7, when Patrick Marleau was a Shark and San Jose still held a share of the Pacific Division lead.

He struggled mightily after that, largely due to injury. Donskoi separated his shoulder not once, but twice last season, and revealed to The Athletic this week that he also dealt with “foot issues.” He spent over a month on injured reserve and managed just three assists in his final 22 games as a result.

With health on his side, Donskoi’s returned to his rookie year form. Through six games, he's registered three points, all at even strength. That’s tied with Joe Pavelski for the team lead, despite the fact he’s played nearly four minutes less per game at even strength than the captain.

He’s done a lot in less ice time, scoring five-on-five points at a higher rate per 60 minutes than any player on the team, according to Natural Stat Trick. He’s done a lot against lesser competition, too, taking advantage of his assignments in Peter DeBoer’s bottom six forward group.

That’s an important development, given the disappearance of San Jose’s depth scoring last season. Only four Sharks forwards cracked 40 points last season, and one of them is in Toronto. Most damning, though, is that the same number managed to score 30 or more points last year. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, by contrast, had eight forwards score 30 points in the regular season.

It’s still early in the season, but Donskoi’s underlying numbers indicate this level of play is built to last. His personal shooting percentage is below his career-high, and the Sharks are scoring on a reasonable 6.52% of their shots with Donskoi on the ice in five-on-five situations. That’s only half-a-percentage point higher than San Jose’s rate during Donskoi’s injury-riddled 2016-17.

Donskoi will undoubtedly hit some bumps in the road, but after struggling so much last season, it appears the 25-year-old is back on track. If the Sharks are to improve on last season, they desperately need depth scorers.

Thanks to Donskoi’s resurgence, they just might have found one.

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.