Sharks

Havlat a scorer through and through

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Havlat a scorer through and through

St. Louis -- Martin Havlat knew when he came off the ice Thursday night that there would be the traditional Skype session back at the hotel. Two goals in San Joses double-overtime victory over the St. Louis Blues including the game-winner, a bad penalty that almost cost the Fins the game in regulation it was a busy night, and it would be reduced to sub-atomic level in the nightly chat-up with his father Slava back in the Czech Republic.

Oh, yes, we talked about the win, Havlat said Friday. And we talked about the Blues. He likes the way they play.

REWIND: Sharks take Game 1 on Havlat's OT goal

Slava Havlat is, as you might have deduced from that sentence, a coach. Well, a former coach, anyway. He is 81 now, and watched his sons latest playoff triumph with that jewelers eye only a coach possesses. Fathers see one player. Coaches see the field of play.

We talk after most of the games, Havlat said. Its nine hours ahead, so on the West Coast the games start at 4:30 a.m., so he doesnt see all of them. But last night he watched, and then we talked, and then he went back to bed.

RATTO: Sharks' Havlat remains a playoff rainmaker

Slava Havlat played defense in his hockey days, and a goaltender in team handball. His son played tennis and soccer as well as hockey, and holds fast to his favorite soccer teams, Arsenal (with the Czech star Tomas Rosicky) and Barcelona (with the redoubtable Lionel Messi and about eight other of the best players in the world).

And Slava Havlat coached his son still does, in a sense. And his handiwork is on best display now, from the uniform number (9) they share to the sons gifts as a sniper. He has 30 points in his last 28 playoff games, and an ability to reduce each scoring opportunity down to portions of seconds as he did in the second overtime Thursday.

Hes a scorer, really, head coach Todd McLellan said. I saw a quote he gave where he said he had to wait for the puck to settle down, and thats something a scorer has. A non-scorer doesnt have that. He shoots as fast as he can. But a scorer will wait that extra moment . . . fractions of a second . . . because thats what scorers can do.

VIDEO: Havlat -- 'I just tried to get it on net and it went in

Indeed, between the time he received the pass from Ryane Clowe to the moment he felt defenseman Barrett Jackman closing on him and his little space became none, he got his puck to settle down and beat Jaroslav Halak with the game-winner. Fractions of a second.

And fractions of a second between when he saw Halak behind the net in the third period, decided he could not avoid contact, and took the penalty that led to St. Louis go-ahead goal by Patrik Berglund.

I didnt have a lot of time to change my course, he said. But I knew as soon as I touched him that it would be bad.

It was. He got pulled over for goalie interference, and while he was processing the shame, Berglund scored his second goal and gave the Blues the lead they typically hold with a falcons tenacity.

Only this time they didnt. Andrew Desjardins and Tommy Wingels combined to tie the game, and Havlat, who had scored the games first goal and has fresher legs based on having played 43 fewer than the rest of his mates because of a hamstring injury, had the legs at games end to find that space and do what McLellan likes to call getting there on time. Great scorers do that. They used to say that about Brett Hull. Scorers just have that.

And Martin Havlat is a scorer, especially now, when the chips are in the middle of the table and the turn becomes the river. Back in the Czech Republic, his father is proud.

And given the hour, he is also tired. There are a lot of games left before his sleep patterns regain normalcy.

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders is one with which Sharks fans have become all too familiar.

The Sharks held a decided 41-23 edge on the shot count, but trailed 3-1 on the scoreboard. Since 2005, no team in the league has lost more games (59) in which they shot 35 or more times, and held their opponent to 25 or fewer shots.

No, your instincts haven’t deceived you over the Joe Thornton era: San Jose has lost a lot of games where they’ve otherwise outplayed their opponent. Of course, they’ve won plenty of those games too. More often than not, in fact, winning 72 of 131 times under those circumstances.

Frustration under those circumstances became readily apparent in the second period on Saturday, when Joe Pavelski broke his stick over Thomas Greiss’ net. The captain had plenty of reason to be unhappy, as his goalless drought to start the season has mirrored his team’s inability to finish at even strength.

So far this season, only Dallas and Montreal have scored on a lower percentage of their shots at even strength than San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both the Stars and Canadiens, unsurprisingly, are seventh in their respective divisions. The Sharks are sixth in the Pacific, thanks only to the still-winless Coyotes.

This early in the season, bad results can mask a strong process. They can’t finish, but the Sharks have been, statistically, one of the league’s best puck possession teams at even strength. That can happen over such a short stretch, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the team’s sitting in the division’s basement.

Right now, the Sharks just aren’t scoring enough at even strength, even as they’re playing well elsewhere. The power play’s begun to find an identity, particularly on the Kevin Labanc-led second unit. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal since allowing three in the season opener, and have climbed all the way to 13th in the league.

If the Sharks continue to play this way, the goals, and wins, should come. They may not, of course, especially if Peter DeBoer struggles to find combinations that click for more than a game at a time. But eventually, the results should align with the process.

Saturday night was “one of those games” that have been surprisingly common in recent Sharks history, but it shouldn’t be chalked up as anything more than an amusing anomaly. Sometimes, one team is better, and still finds a way to lose.  

Sometimes, it truly is that simple.

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

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USATSI

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Thomas Greiss guided the New York Islanders on a night when they played it a little bit too safe.

Greiss stopped 40 shots, Brock Nelson scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the New York Islanders rallied to beat the slumping San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday.

The Islanders improved to 1-1 on their three-game, five-day West Coast trip. The Sharks are 1-3 on their season-opening five-game homestand.

Nelson made it 2-1 at 13:33 of the second period, capitalizing on an open look in front of the goal after Joshua Ho-Sang's pass from behind the net.

"After we got the lead we just kind of held on, we bent but we didn't break and we needed some big saves from Thomas," Islanders coach Doug Weight said.

"These teams, when they're down, they're gonna push. ... You don't want to sit back but I think it's human nature. We have to get it out of our heads. We want to play aggressive and we want to put the puck in good spots. We started making some shoddy decisions, our feet stopped moving for a while, but give (the Sharks) credit, they made a good push. Tommy was great."

The Sharks led after Kevin Labanc's power-play goal at 4:16 of the first. Labanc was in the left circle when he rebounded a deflection and fired a wrist shot that slipped through Greiss' pads.

The Islanders tied it when Anders Lee tipped one in at 17:02 of the first.

Cal Clutterbuck scored an empty-net goal at with 1:10 left in the game.

"It's nice, first road win of the year, a good bounce back," Nelson said, referencing a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

"I thought we did some good things in Anaheim and weren't rewarded. It's nice to come out on top here."

The Islanders failed to score on three power plays. The Sharks penalty killing unit hasn't allowed a power-play goal in 12 chances over its last three games.

The Sharks had a short-handed scoring chance after Joakim Ryan was called for holding at 14:33 in the third period, when Greiss turned away Chris Tierney's shot in front of the goal.

Greiss survived relentless pressure in a third period in which the Sharks had 15 shots on goal.

"It felt like it was going to break, it just never did," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "A little bit of credit to Greisser over there, but with us, we've got to keep pushing and find a way.

"I thought we were going to tie it, but encouraging to see the way guys played for a second straight game here. Wanted a better result, for sure, but guys played hard."

NOTES: Islanders C Alan Quine (wrist) is with the team on its West Coast trip and has been practicing. He'll likely go to Bridgeport of the AHL on a conditioning assignment if he's ready when the team returns home on Monday. ... RW Clutterbuck (hip) was in Saturday's lineup after missing the last three games and C Jordan Eberle was on the ice a day after missing Friday's practice with an injury he suffered in practice the previous day. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. Coach Pete DeBoer said the injury is day-to-day.

UP NEXT

Islanders: At the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night.

Sharks: Host the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday night.