Sharks

Despite goal drought, Winnik settling in

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Despite goal drought, Winnik settling in

SAN JOSE Daniel Winnik isnt letting his goal-scoring drought bother him.

No, its not the first time Ive gone through something like this. I think when you do start letting it weigh on you, it compounds it even more, Winnik said on Sunday. You might restrict yourself from making plays or being nervous to shoot. I havent really thought about it too much.

Winnik scored a goal at HP Pavilion on Dec. 13, while still with the Avalanche in a 4-3 Colorado shootout win. Since then, he has yet to light the lamp, including his first 10 games since being traded to the Sharks on Feb. 27. Thats a span of 41 games half of an NHL regular season.

If he plays the way he did on Saturday against the Red Wings, though, it might not be long before he gets his first marker in a teal jersey. Winnik, along with linemates Torrey Mitchell and Dominic Moore, were outstanding for the final two periods of the Sharks 3-2 overtime win over their rivals.

Winnik came within a few inches of scoring with about four minutes to go in the second. After he set up Dominic Moore for a shot, Winnik was staring down a rebound at an open net, but the puck wouldnt cooperate.

It just kind of blew up there before I shot it. Those things happen, and hopefully you get a couple more of those chances, said Winnik, who had a career high 11 goals in 2007-08 with Phoenix, and again with Colorado in 2010-11.

Although he missed on that chance, he made several other nifty plays with the puck, particularly late. He set up Moore for a one-timer from the circle just two minutes into the third period, and later he found Mitchell for a blast from the circle with four and a half minutes remaining in regulation. Jimmy Howard stopped them both.

It wasnt a coincidence that the Sharks third line was buzzing after the opening frame. Coach Todd McLellan said after the game that he challenged that threesome to pick up its play late in the first and it responded.

Winnik said: I didnt think as a line we had a very good first period. We werent making it hard on their D, we werent making them turn and go get pucks, and I think as third and fourth line guys, thats what we have to do. Tire their D out, so we have good zone time and it gives a lot more space for Jumbo and Patty, and those two lines.

After Todd said that, I think we responded real well and had a lot of zone time in the second and third.

Winnik also had one of the biggest hits in what was a physical and intense game, typical of any Sharks-Red Wings affair, when he leveled Todd Bertuzzi with an open ice hit midway through the third. Bertuzzi lost his helmet upon impact.

Overall, Winnik is feeling better every day in his new surroundings.

I was thinking about this the other day, it almost feels like easing into it, ornot so much easing into it, but training camp-ish. Its taken couple games to really kind of feel more comfortable game-by-game, he said. These last couple games Ive felt a lot more comfortable, especially making plays in the offensive zone.

McLellan said: I think hes found his position within our team. When you get new players, youre trying to figure them out a little bit, and where they fit the best. That line of Moore, Winnik and Mitchell has been pretty effective, and I think theyre comfortable now playing with each other.

Still, the head coach would like to see Winnik chip in the odd goal here and there.

I think he keeps playing the way he is over the last four or five games hell get his opportunities, and then hes got to bury them. Everybody has to find a way to score at some point, and he has the ability to do it.

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.

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

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USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.