Sharks

Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion

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Coach Clowe returns to HP Pavilion

SAN JOSE – The sights, the sounds, and the smells were all very familiar to Ryane Clowe. The view, though, was just a little bit different.

Clowe, the locked-out Sharks forward who is currently acting as an assistant coach for the ECHL’s San Francisco Bulls, saw his new team drop a 6-4 decision to the Stockton Thunder in front of nearly 13,000 fans at HP Pavilion on Monday night. Despite the loss, it was a pleasant experience for the guy who would have been in a Vancouver hotel getting ready for a game against the rival Canucks rather than standing behind the bench, had the NHL season started as scheduled.

“It was pretty weird, actually. I think more than anything, I just miss being out there,” Clowe said.

But, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have fun. The 30-year-old veteran of seven NHL seasons has enjoyed his time mentoring the young minor-leaguers, a small percentage of whom will graduate to the American Hockey League or higher, but many of whom will have to find work outside of hockey when their brief careers are over.

The Bulls’ experience of suiting up in the Sharks’ locker room, taking the ice in an NHL arena, and hearing so many thousands of fans cheering them on is something that most ECHL’ers never get to do. In fact, it had been more than 10 years since an ECHL team played a game in a pro arena, and that arena (Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh) isn’t even standing anymore.

For Clowe, he could see the enthusiasm on his players’ faces.

“That was the best part for me, just watching those guys and how excited they were. Especially that we got to use [the Sharks’] dressing room, they were pretty stoked about that,” he said.

“It was awesome. It’s probably one of the biggest stages that a lot of guys have played on, and they treated us really well here,” Bulls winger Kris Belan said. “We walked in and got the whole show, so it was pretty cool.”

Clowe even had a special message for defenseman Mikael Tam, who had just arrived on a flight from Worcester after playing for San Jose’s AHL affiliate over the weekend. Tam got changed in Clowe’s regular space.

“He was sitting in my stall and I said, ‘you’ve got to score tonight.’”

Tam opened the scoring at 9:21 of the first period.

Clowe wasn’t surprised by the large turnout, some of which were wearing Bulls orange but the majority of which had on their black and teal. The official announced crowd was 12,881 (all free), and by all appearances, that number was not at all inflated.

“They were obviously craving hockey, and I obviously feel bad for them that they’re not getting it right now,” Clowe said. “It sucks, but they were great tonight. I told the guys to be ready, because these fans get loud.”

Clowe signed with the Bulls on Nov. 7 and continues to practice with them, but he still has no plans to play for the team while the NHL lockout enters its fourth month. Despite the lockout moving from the meeting room to the courtroom with the latest legal filings by the NHL and players’ association, Clowe is hopeful that he’ll get to return to his regular job of bruising NHL agitator very shortly.

“Being back here, I think it’s really made me, more than anything, miss it.”

Apparently, he’s not the only one.

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

By many traditional measures, the Sharks’ power play is off to a strong start.

They’ve scored seven times on 30 opportunities, including once in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. That mark, 23.3%, would have been good enough for third in the league last season, and is nearly seven percent better than the Sharks were in 2016-17.

San Jose’s made some changes on the man advantage, and are getting a different look on their top power play unit with Tim Heed there instead of another forward. Second-year forward Kevin Labanc is playing a significant role on the second unit, operating as something of a focal point.

The puck’s found the net a lot for the Sharks on the power play, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that success may be a house of cards.

According to Natural Stat Trick, San Jose ranks in the bottom third of the league in shots, shot attempts, and unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes. Using those rates allow us to compare teams empirically, equalizing for the amount of time each team has spent on the power play. Those rates, by the way, are not very good.

And each of those are lower than last season, when the Sharks finished 25th in power play percentage. This season, the Sharks are converting more shots, despite attempting less.

It would be tempting to think San Jose can hang their helmets on higher shot quality, but they’ve struggled in that area, too. The Sharks finished just shy of the top ten in high danger chances per 60 minutes last season, but are in the bottom third of the league this season, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So the Sharks are shooting at a lower rate and generating chances at a lower rate than last season, when they had one of the league’s worst power plays, but are scoring at a much higher clip. They’ve converted on about 19% of their shots on the power play, almost doubling their conversion rate (10.5%) from a season ago.

If this doesn’t seem like a sustainable mix, that’s because it’s not. In a small sample size of seven games, the power play’s been good enough, but the Sharks can’t count on converting nearly a fifth of their power play opportunities if they continue to struggle generating shots and chances.

Of course, stranger things have happened in a hockey season, so it’s possible the Sharks can ride a sky-high shooting percentage all season long. Banking on that, however, would be foolhardy.

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.