DeMelo shows his value to Sharks amid difficult circumstances

DeMelo shows his value to Sharks amid difficult circumstances

SAN JOSE – In the days leading up to last week’s NHL trade deadline, the speculation regarding what the Sharks might do centered around them adding a forward and potentially a more experienced backup goalie. There was virtually no thought that they would look for someone to bolster their blue line, which has been the strength of the team since opening night.

Dylan DeMelo’s development over the last few years in the organization is a big part of the reason why. He’s shown his value in the last two games, in particular, seamlessly filling in for an injured David Schlemko despite missing nearly two months with a broken wrist.

Sharks coach Pete DeBoer was effusive in his praise of the 23-year-old.

“Excellent. I can’t tell you how hard that is to sit for [two months] and then step in against Minnesota and Winnipeg, desperate teams at this time of the year,” DeBoer said. “[He’s been] fantastic. Played great minutes for us, made very few mistakes.”

DeMelo played 16:12 against Minnesota on March 5 with an even rating, in what was his first game since he suffered the right wrist injury on Jan. 10 in Edmonton. On Monday, he had one shot and was a plus-one in 13:18 against Winnipeg. 

He’s been paired with Brenden Dillon, where Schlemko – who is day-to-day with no official timetable to resume skating with a lower body injury – would typically be.

“Those two teams, I didn’t really have a choice but to get into the game right away. It was two tough teams,” DeMelo said. “That being said, it is only two games, so hopefully there’s still a lot more games in the season I can play in. Just try to continue to play the same way.”

The game against Minnesota was a similar to when DeMelo made his season debut on Nov. 23 against Chicago. He was a healthy scratch for the first 19 games, but got into the lineup when Schlemko was a late scratch due to illness and performed admirably.

The game against the powerful Wild was probably more difficult considering the calendar, though.

“This time of the year everybody is gearing up for the playoffs,” DeMelo said. “It’s not like you’re jumping in in November when guys are trying to find their legs and get used to systems. Everyone’s firing on all cylinders.”

DeMelo has also been utilized on the second unit of the power play, as one of the two point men with Marc-Edouard Vlasic. His one goal this season came on the power play against Anaheim on Nov. 26.

“He’s come in pretty easily for a guy that’s been injured for eight weeks, against two very good teams back-to-back, playing really well,” Vlasic said.

As the seventh defenseman last season, DeMelo surprisingly wasn’t needed, as the Sharks were able to dress the same six defensemen for the duration of their run to the Stanley Cup Final. He could be in the same position this season when Schlemko gets back.

Regardless, the Sharks know they’ll have a reliable option no matter how much time DeMelo may be out of the active lineup.

“[It’s] invaluable to have a guy like that,” DeBoer said.

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific


How the Sharks can catch the Golden Knights and win the Pacific

About a month ago, the Sharks appeared locked into the Pacific Division's second, third, fourth, or fifth spot. At the end of trade deadline day, they were 12 points back of the division-leading Vegas Golden Knights, and only two points up on the fifth place Calgary Flames.

24 days later, thanks to an 8-2-0 record over the last 10 games (second-best in the NHL), San Jose's still in second place. Now though, those margins are eight points and 11 points, respectively. 

The latter's pretty much locked the Sharks into a playoff spot, while the former's created a path for a late run at the Pacific Division crown. Beginning Thursday night, they will play the Golden Knights twice over both team's final nine games. 

What does the path look like to the Sharks' first division title since 2011? To start, they'll have to beat the Golden Knights twice in regulation to even have a shot. 

That is the foundation of any run at the Pacific's top spot. If the Sharks win both remaining games in regulation, they'll trail the Golden Knights by four points, leaving aside results against other teams for now.

They have to win in regulation, however. A win in overtime or the shootout on Thursday would only cut the gap to seven, and a subsequent win in regulation would leave it at five. Two losses, in any situation, would create a gap of 10-12 points, which would be nearly impossible to overcome this late in the season. 

One point doesn't seem like a lot, but this late in the season, it makes a world of difference. A five-point gap means they'll need to earn six more than the Golden Knights in those other seven games, while a four-point gap means they'll need to earn five in order to pass them. 

The simplest way to five extra points, is for the Sharks to have a record that's two wins and an overtime loss better (2-0-1) than the Golden Knights in the seven games where they don't play each other. That's impossible if Vegas earns at least 10 points in those seven games, so a 5-2-0 or 4-1-2 record would ensure a division banner raising in Sin City.

Taken all together, then, the Golden Knights' 'magic number' is 10 points. Even if the Sharks win on Thursday, their path to a Pacific title remains difficult, if not improbable. 

If a season with an expansion team leading their division has taught us anything, though -- it's that improbable is not impossible.