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

Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

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USATSI

Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

The San Jose Sharks woke up this Thanksgiving and found themselves in a playoff spot, albeit barely. 

They hold the second and final wild card spot by the thinnest of margins, edging out the Colorado Avalanche not on points, games played, regulation and overtime wins, but a single goal in the goal differential column. 

As early as it is, it’s a critical time to be in playoff position. Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams in 2000, 79 percent of teams holding playoff spots on Thanksgiving made the postseason. 

If the Sharks avoid becoming a member of the dreaded 21 percent, they’ll have two players to thank, more than anyone else, for their good fortune: Logan Couture and Martin Jones. 

Couture, along with Joonas Donskoi, seems to be the only Shark unaffected by a team-wide scoring bug. Even as he’s cooled off slightly, his 11 goals are still tied for 10th-most in the league. 

He’s held a positive share of puck possession on the ice, despite starting the fourth-lowest percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone among Sharks forwards that have played at least 50 minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey

Couture also leads the team in power play scoring with three goals, and is one of only three San Jose players that’s scored multiple times on the man advantage. It’s hard to imagine the league’s fourth-worst power play (15.1 percent) getting worse, but it undoubtedly would be without the 28-year-old.

While Couture has stood out among a hapless offense, Jones has led one of the league’s best defensive units. The Sharks are among the best teams at limiting shots and scoring chances across all situations, but Jones has not let them down. 

Although his .922 even-strength save percentage is 27th among 51 goalies that have played at least 200 minutes, San Jose’s given him a razor thin margin of error. He had the fifth-lowest goal support of any goalie entering last night, as statistician Darin Stephens noted, and his play has been good enough to keep the Sharks in games in spite of that. 

Jones has also led the way for the league’s best penalty kill, posting a .940 save percentage in shorthanded situations. That’s the best mark among goalies that have faced at least 80 shots on the penalty kill, according to Stephens.

The sustainability of Jones’ penalty kill dominance and Couture’s 20.8 shooting percentage is an open question, but their importance to the team early in the season cannot be overstated. They’ve helped keep the Sharks afloat, and in a playoff spot with history on their side at the critical Thanksgiving mark. 

The Sharks need to not only let them have extra helpings during their holiday feast, but find a way to give them more help on the ice too.

 

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

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USATSI

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Logan Couture scored another goal for San Jose but was happier to see the Sharks' top line get untracked.

"We've got to get those guys going to help us offensively," Couture said of teammates Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier after the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night. "We need them to produce."

Thornton opened the scoring for the Sharks, with Pavelski adding an assist, the pair's first points since November 8, a span of five games.

"I think with Timo with us last game it brought us a lot of energy and a lot of chances," said Thornton, who scored his first goal since October 26. "Me and Pavs really like playing with him."

Joel Ward added an empty-net goal with 47.8 to play for the Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We got enough offense to win," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "That's all that matters. I thought we played a good road game. I don't care how it looks."

Brendan Perlini scored with 7:37 to go, ruining Sharks goalie Martin Jones' bid for his second shutout of the season. The Coyotes saw their season-high three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the eighth time in nine home games (1-7-1).

Jones finished with 26 saves.

"We defended really well," said Jones, who was tested seriously only twice in the first two periods. "The first 10 minutes they had a lot of jump and were buzzing around our zone, but after that not as much."

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta left at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury. Couture had collided with Raanta more than four minutes earlier, earning an interference penalty. Raanta skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and retreated to the locker room.

Scott Wedgewood took Raanta's place and was in net for only five seconds before the Sharks broke through. Wedgewood stopped Brent Burns' long shot from the top of the right circle even after it deflected off San Jose right wing Timo Meier. But the rebound kicked to the bottom of the right circle, where Thornton swept in and beat the goalie with a quick wrist shot.

"He (coach Rick Tocchet) looked at me and said go," Wedgewood. "I was like, alright. That's the tough part. Then shot, top, goal. That was tough."

San Jose made it 2-0 at 4:56 of the second, taking advantage of Arizona's inability to clear the zone while the Sharks were on a line change.

Justin Braun fought three Coyotes for the puck along the right boards before Joonas Donskoi swooped in, skated to the goal line then sent a pass across to Couture. Couture deked Wedgewood to the ice with a forehand fake, then scored on the backhand.

Perlini cut the lead to 2-1 when he redirected Derek Stepan's shot from the top of the right circle past Jones.

"We had some costly mistakes," Perlini said. "We got back within a goal but there were too many mistakes."

NOTES: Thornton has 22 goals and 83 points in 82 career games against Arizona. ... The Coyotes, who had played seven of their past eight on the road, opened a three-game homestand. ... Raanta made eight saves before leaving and has stopped 98 of the past 105 shots he's faced. ... Couture's goal was his first in five games.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: visit Las Vegas on Friday

Coyotes: host Los Angeles on Friday.