Sharks

Five Sharks season-defining moments

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Five Sharks season-defining moments

Whether or not the San Jose Sharks had a successful regular season is debatable (sure, they're in the playoffs, but were expected to be a much higher seed), but at least one thing is certain it was interesting. Below are five season-defining moments for the club, for better or for worse, as the playoffs loom.

Did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments section below.

Early (only?) road success The Sharks opened the regular season with a dominant 6-3 win over the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion, in a game that wasnt as close as the score would indicate. Immediately after that, San Jose dropped three straight to the Ducks (twice) and Blues, with a long East Coast road swing on the horizon.

RELATED: Sharks scheduleresults

It was there that the club put together its longest winning streak of the season of five games, including impressive wins in New Jersey, Boston, Nashville and Detroit. The trip culminated in a 5-2 loss to the Rangers, in which Sharks captain Joe Thornton called New York the softest team they faced on the trip, garnering some national media attention in the process.

The Havlat hop The season wasnt going particularly well for Sharks winger Marty Havlat. The winger missed all of training camp and the first four games of the regular season, and after an initial push, was fairly invisible for the next six weeks.

RELATED: Marty Havlat 2011-2012 game logs

On Dec. 17 against Edmonton, it got worse. The oft-injured scorer crumpled to the ice after what should have been a simple line change, missing the next 39 games with a partially torn hamstring. Havlat was much more effective upon his return in mid-March, recording 12 points in the final 13 games, and has been a strong playoff performer in the past. The Sharks will need him to be just that beginning on Thursday in St. Louis.

Wilder in Van They were among the two most entertaining games of the season. Its always notable when a team faces the club that ended its playoff run the previous year, and the Sharks got a chance to end 2011 and begin 2012 with a home-and-home against the Vancouver Canucks.

On Dec. 28, the Sharks fought back from a 2-0 deficit and lost in overtime to the Canucks, 3-2. At Rogers Arena on Jan. 2, the Canucks fought back this time with a goal midway through the third period, only to see San Jose win it in a shootout, 3-2. Even more than earning three of a possible four points, though, was the fact that the Sharks proved they could play inspired and determined hockey (and entertaining, to boot) against one of the best teams in the NHL.

REWIND: Box Scores -- 12.28: Van. 3, Sharks 2 1.2: Sharks 3, Van. 2

Travel issues Things were already trending downward when the Sharks left for a brutal nine-game, 15-day road trip in the middle of February. It promptly got much, much worse.

The club had lost five of nine games before dropping a 3-0 decision in St. Louis on Feb. 12 in the first game of the trip in what was a sign of things to come. San Jose continued on to lose to some of the worst teams in the NHL, such as Carolina, Columbus and Minnesota, while ineffective goaltender Antti Niemi was pulled in two of the final four games of the trip. A 1-0 win over Philadelphia in the first game back on Feb. 28 provided some temporary relief, but the Sharks promptly lost five more in a row after that. The season was slipping away.

Finishing strong The Sharks sat in ninth place out of playoff position headed into their final four games against rivals Dallas and Los Angeles. Furthermore, the club was coming off of two particularly disheartening losses in Anaheim and Phoenix in the two games leading up to a March 31 meeting with the Stars.

The Sharks prevailed in that one, though, 3-0, and followed it up with an equally important 5-2 victory in Dallas. Their playoff position was solidified just before an April 5 meeting with the Kings, in which they beat Los Angeles in a wild 6-5 shootout. The season ended on a high note when Dan Boyle scored in the third period and again in overtime to put San Jose in the seventh seed and allow them to avoid Vancouver for at least one round.

Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

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Sharks should be thankful for these two players on Thanksgiving

The San Jose Sharks woke up this Thanksgiving and found themselves in a playoff spot, albeit barely. 

They hold the second and final wild card spot by the thinnest of margins, edging out the Colorado Avalanche not on points, games played, regulation and overtime wins, but a single goal in the goal differential column. 

As early as it is, it’s a critical time to be in playoff position. Since the NHL expanded to 30 teams in 2000, 79 percent of teams holding playoff spots on Thanksgiving made the postseason. 

If the Sharks avoid becoming a member of the dreaded 21 percent, they’ll have two players to thank, more than anyone else, for their good fortune: Logan Couture and Martin Jones. 

Couture, along with Joonas Donskoi, seems to be the only Shark unaffected by a team-wide scoring bug. Even as he’s cooled off slightly, his 11 goals are still tied for 10th-most in the league. 

He’s held a positive share of puck possession on the ice, despite starting the fourth-lowest percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone among Sharks forwards that have played at least 50 minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey

Couture also leads the team in power play scoring with three goals, and is one of only three San Jose players that’s scored multiple times on the man advantage. It’s hard to imagine the league’s fourth-worst power play (15.1 percent) getting worse, but it undoubtedly would be without the 28-year-old.

While Couture has stood out among a hapless offense, Jones has led one of the league’s best defensive units. The Sharks are among the best teams at limiting shots and scoring chances across all situations, but Jones has not let them down. 

Although his .922 even-strength save percentage is 27th among 51 goalies that have played at least 200 minutes, San Jose’s given him a razor thin margin of error. He had the fifth-lowest goal support of any goalie entering last night, as statistician Darin Stephens noted, and his play has been good enough to keep the Sharks in games in spite of that. 

Jones has also led the way for the league’s best penalty kill, posting a .940 save percentage in shorthanded situations. That’s the best mark among goalies that have faced at least 80 shots on the penalty kill, according to Stephens.

The sustainability of Jones’ penalty kill dominance and Couture’s 20.8 shooting percentage is an open question, but their importance to the team early in the season cannot be overstated. They’ve helped keep the Sharks afloat, and in a playoff spot with history on their side at the critical Thanksgiving mark. 

The Sharks need to not only let them have extra helpings during their holiday feast, but find a way to give them more help on the ice too.

 

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

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Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Logan Couture scored another goal for San Jose but was happier to see the Sharks' top line get untracked.

"We've got to get those guys going to help us offensively," Couture said of teammates Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier after the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night. "We need them to produce."

Thornton opened the scoring for the Sharks, with Pavelski adding an assist, the pair's first points since November 8, a span of five games.

"I think with Timo with us last game it brought us a lot of energy and a lot of chances," said Thornton, who scored his first goal since October 26. "Me and Pavs really like playing with him."

Joel Ward added an empty-net goal with 47.8 to play for the Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We got enough offense to win," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "That's all that matters. I thought we played a good road game. I don't care how it looks."

Brendan Perlini scored with 7:37 to go, ruining Sharks goalie Martin Jones' bid for his second shutout of the season. The Coyotes saw their season-high three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the eighth time in nine home games (1-7-1).

Jones finished with 26 saves.

"We defended really well," said Jones, who was tested seriously only twice in the first two periods. "The first 10 minutes they had a lot of jump and were buzzing around our zone, but after that not as much."

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta left at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury. Couture had collided with Raanta more than four minutes earlier, earning an interference penalty. Raanta skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and retreated to the locker room.

Scott Wedgewood took Raanta's place and was in net for only five seconds before the Sharks broke through. Wedgewood stopped Brent Burns' long shot from the top of the right circle even after it deflected off San Jose right wing Timo Meier. But the rebound kicked to the bottom of the right circle, where Thornton swept in and beat the goalie with a quick wrist shot.

"He (coach Rick Tocchet) looked at me and said go," Wedgewood. "I was like, alright. That's the tough part. Then shot, top, goal. That was tough."

San Jose made it 2-0 at 4:56 of the second, taking advantage of Arizona's inability to clear the zone while the Sharks were on a line change.

Justin Braun fought three Coyotes for the puck along the right boards before Joonas Donskoi swooped in, skated to the goal line then sent a pass across to Couture. Couture deked Wedgewood to the ice with a forehand fake, then scored on the backhand.

Perlini cut the lead to 2-1 when he redirected Derek Stepan's shot from the top of the right circle past Jones.

"We had some costly mistakes," Perlini said. "We got back within a goal but there were too many mistakes."

NOTES: Thornton has 22 goals and 83 points in 82 career games against Arizona. ... The Coyotes, who had played seven of their past eight on the road, opened a three-game homestand. ... Raanta made eight saves before leaving and has stopped 98 of the past 105 shots he's faced. ... Couture's goal was his first in five games.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: visit Las Vegas on Friday

Coyotes: host Los Angeles on Friday.