Sharks

Coyotes trying for fourth straight win over Sharks

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Coyotes trying for fourth straight win over Sharks

SAN JOSE The Sharks dominant performance in their first game of a season a 6-3 win over Phoenix, which wasnt as close as the score would indicate may have had an adverse effect for San Jose in the head-to-head games since.

At least, thats how Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett sees it. His club has beaten the Sharks in all three games since then by a combined 11-3 score.

After the first game of the year when we got dominated, I think our guys really tried to hunker down, he said on Saturday at HP Pavilion, where his team will try for its fourth in a row over San Jose. You cant give away a lot of free chances. If you give them a lot of extra time in your zone or give them outnumbered rushes theyre going to hurt you. We have to make sure we play a sound game.

Defenseman Keith Yandle said: I think any time you play San Jose you have to do a good job of shutting down their big guys, with Marleau, Thornton, Pavelksi, Couture, Clowe. You go down that whole lineup and theyve got a lot of big guns, and thats just in the front. The D are great, too. Weve got to do a good job of not letting them get opportunities, or if they do get an opportunity, just limit it to one.

The Coyotes are led by the ageless wonder, Ray Whitney, who, at 39 years old, is tied for 13th in the NHL in scoring with 70 points. The former Shark has found the scoresheet in 23 of his last 27 games overall.

Listening to Tippett talk about Whitney, it becomes obvious just how much the veteran coach thinks of him.

Hes got a passion to play the game still, which is unbelievable, Tippett said. A lot of players when they get to that age they lose some of that passion, Ray loves coming to the rink and playing every day. Thats first and foremost.

Secondly, hes just a really smart player with high skill. When he finds opportunities to have an impact in the game he can make those plays happen. Thats been the biggest thing for us this year. Not just the 70 points, the ability hes had to create and do things at very meaningful times that allow us to win. Hes done it all year for us, and he continues to do it.

Dallas gets key win: The Stars took over the Pacific Division lead with a 4-1 win over the Calgary Flames early on Saturday. Dallas has 87 points one more than Los Angeles and Phoenix, and three more than the Sharks.

The Flames, meanwhile, may be out of the race. They are in 11th place with 83 points and just six games remaining.

The Kings host Boston on Saturday night, while Colorado, in ninth place with 85 points, is home against Vancouver.

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out

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USATSI

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out

 

The message for the San Jose Sharks’ prospects was quite clear this offseason.

After general manager opted not to re-sign Patrick Marleau, or sign any free agents of consequence, it was readily apparent the Sharks would need to rely on their young players to fill any holes.

Before the quarter mark of the season, that youth movement is underway. Five first or second-year players will suit up at SAP Center Monday night against Anaheim. 

Partially, the infusion is due to injury, as Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson, and Paul Martin are all on the mend. But as the season wears on, the young players’ presence is becoming a necessity. 

Joakim Ryan looks like a natural fit alongside Brent Burns, and the Sharks are a decidedly better puck possession team with him on the ice than when he’s not. Tim Heed leads Sharks defensemen in scoring, and Danny O’Regan assisted San Jose’s lone goal in his season debut on Saturday. 

That assist set up the goal that ended Timo Meier’s drought, and he looks primed to break out: he’s third on the team in five-on-five shots despite playing the ninth-fewest five-on-five minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey.  Kevin Labanc’s cooled off since his scorching start, but is still tied for sixth on the team in scoring and skated on the top line at Monday’s morning skate, according to the Bay Area News Group’s Curtis Pashelka.

There’s still room for improvement, of course. Labanc and Meier could stand to score more, but the same can be said about most everyone else. Ryan’s made his fair share of mistakes, but Burns has struggled plenty of times alongside him, too. 

So the young players are fitting in, even if all of them aren’t necessarily standing out. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. 

Meier’s the only first-round pick of the lot, but he’s also only been able to legally buy a beer for a month. Ryan and Heed have made the best adjustment, in no small part because they’re the oldest (24 and 26, respectively) of the Barracuda call-ups, and thus have the most professional experience. 

Of course, fitting in isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is, however, far from ideal, when that’s what many other players on the roster are doing. 

Having all of their young players stand out is what will ultimately make the Sharks stand out from the rest of the pack. It hasn’t quite happened yet, and San Jose’s one of 22 teams separated by six points or fewer. 

And if it doesn’t, the middle of the pack is where the Sharks will remain.

 

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.

It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.

The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.

Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.

Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.

You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.

San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.

But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.

They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.

Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.

He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?

The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.

Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.