Sharks

Brent Burns, Connor McDavid getting held in check

Brent Burns, Connor McDavid getting held in check

SAN JOSE – When offenses are struggling to produce, attention naturally turns towards the superstars. Edmonton’s attack plainly relied on 100-point scorer Connor McDavid during the regular season, while the Sharks counted on Norris Trophy favorite and leading scorer Brent Burns to dent the scoreboard.

Through the first three games of the Sharks-Oilers first round series, though, neither has done a whole lot. McDavid has been held to one shorthanded goal and a secondary assist on the power play, and has just six shots, while Burns has been kept from the scoresheet completely. 

There have been just eight total goals, with Edmonton, which leads the series two games to one, getting five of them.

“It’s just [the] playoffs. That’s what happens every year, I think,” Burns said. “It’s hard to create.”

At some point, though, Burns will have to find a way to do just that if the Sharks are to have a chance at advancing. In Game 1 he was in top form, generating eight shots on goal and a whopping 18 attempts. In games two and three, though, Burns has been held to a combined five shots and 11 attempts.

The Oilers’ ability to nullify Burns in games two and three is the primary reason why the Sharks haven’t scored in 120 minutes since Melker Karlsson’s overtime winner in Game 1.

What are they doing right?

“I’m sure their coaching staff and everyone scouting, [like] we would do on McDavid, they’ve done on Brent,” partner Paul Martin said. “They know he’s got a great shot and is able to get it through. They’re playing him high and taking away that middle of the ice for those shots, whether they be tipped or to the net, and blocking shots.”

Logan Couture said: “They're doing a good job on our D-men. Obviously they know that our D-men create a lot of offense for us and they shoot the puck a lot. They're playing our D high, and it's three-on-three down low on the forwards, so the forwards have to do a better job of creating offense."

Burns didn’t express any frustration on Monday after an optional practice.

“That’s the fun part, is earning it and going through that,” he said. “This is the time you want to play. It’s fun. Every game is so tight, and one bounce – it’s working to create that bounce. That’s why it’s fun.”

While the Sharks need more offense, whether it’s from Burns or elsewhere, they’ll attempt to keep doing what they’ve been doing against McDavid. The unparalleled bursts of speed often seen from the 20-year-old haven’t been nearly as numerous as they were during the regular season, especially late when McDavid posted a 14-game point streak headed into his first career playoff run.

Martin mentioned the obvious objective of keeping McDavid in his defensive end, but when he has the puck, the Sharks are “trying to clog the middle with him there. Our D have been doing a good job of managing the puck. If we were turning the puck over…the more we give him the more chances he’s going to make something good happen.”

DeBoer was coy when asked what the Sharks have done to limit McDavid’s chances.

“I’ll tell you after the series is over, if we can keep doing it. That’s a big if,” he quipped.

It could very well be that the first team that gets more from its biggest star will end up advancing to the second round. 

If McDavid breaks out in Game 4, it could be curtains on the Sharks’ season. If Burns is able to replicate his Game 1 performance, though, and maybe get a few fortunate bounces that never came that night, the Sharks will reclaim the momentum.

Burns said: “I think both teams are playing really tight. … You’ve just got to work for those bounces and stay confident. And pray to the hockey gods, I guess.”

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Anders Lee had two goals and an assist to lead the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

John Tavares had a goal and two assists, Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist, and Andrew Ladd also scored to help the Islanders win for the third time in four games. Thomas Greiss stopped 28 shots.

Logan Couture scored all three goals for the Sharks, completing the hat trick with 1:52 remaining to pull them within one. Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves.

Ladd's goal at 3:12 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Rookie Mathew Barzal created the scoring chance by taking the puck around the net and then setting up Ladd in the high slot for his second of the season.

Lee's second of the game and fifth of the season gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion with 8:13 remaining as he converted an odd-man rush.

Tavares sealed the win with an empty-netter with 55.4 seconds remaining and helped improve to 22-4-4 in their two-plus seasons at Barclays Center. Tavares points were his first since he had two goals and an assist Oct. 7 against Buffalo, ending a five-game drought.

The Sharks scored the game's opening goal at 6:26 of the second period on the power play. San Jose came away with the offensive draw and Couture scored from the slot, redirected Brent Burns' point shot past Greiss.

The lead lasted just over a minute as Nick Leddy worked his way to the back of the net and then quickly fed Lee for the tying goal.

The Islanders went ahead 58 seconds later after Joe Thornton made a costly turnover in his own end to give Bailey a point-blank chance. Bailey was able to sneak the puck with a backhander between his skates and past Dell to put New York ahead 2-1.

However, an impressive effort by Jannik Hansen to spin past Brock Nelson in the neutral zone led to a quick feed to Couture, who took a few strides and then fired a shot past Greiss to even the score once again.

NOTES: The Islanders held a special pregame ceremony to honor alumni of the organization who were in town for an Islanders Alumni Weekend. Among the players on the ice were Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier and Ed Westfall. ... The Islanders scratched D Scott Mayfield, F Josh Ho-Sang and F Nikulay Kulemin. ... San Jose scratched F Joel Ward, F Barclay Goodrow and D Dylan Demelo. ... The Islanders honored Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie by playing music from the band during warmups. Downie passed away on Oct. 17 after succumbing to brain cancer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Islanders: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.

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.