Sharks

McGinn trending upward on third line

598186.jpg

McGinn trending upward on third line

SAN JOSE Lost in the shuffle of Thursdays game, in which the Sharks reunited second line of Ryane Clowe, Logan Couture and Marty Havlat was dominant in a 4-3 shootout win over Montreal, is that gritty forward Jamie McGinn continued his upward trend.

McGinn tallied a first period goal just 41 seconds after the Canadiens opened the scoring, jamming home a backhanded pass towards the net from Michal Handzus. It was just his third goal of the year, but the 6-1, 210-pound winger has been generating more and more scoring chances and physicality since a quiet first six weeks of the season.

Im just keeping things simple, and playing with confidence, he said on Friday. I know that the chances are there and the puck is bound to go in. Thats one of the things Im concentrating on is just keeping it simple, playing hard, and not giving their D any free outs and creating momentum for the team.

Todd McLellan mentioned earlier in the week how pleased he was with McGinns recent contributions. Although the third line hasnt generated a whole lot of offense up to this point, with just seven goals on the year, the coach senses a growing comfort level between McGinn, Handzus and Torrey Mitchell.

Credit 13-year NHL'er Handzus for helping in that regard.

Zeus is a very good pro, understands how that line needs to play, and he realizes the assets he has on either side of him, whether its Ginners grittiness or Mitches speed, said McLellan. Hes the glue on the line and keeps everything together.

Playing with a guy like Zeus makes things a lot easier, said McGinn. He controls things and slows things down, and keeps me under control, too. Ill try and go get the puck for him, and I have a habit sometimes of running out of position so its good when hes there an older player which knows the game and settles me down a little bit.

Handzus comes off as a fairly quiet reserved guy, but McGinn mentioned that they are constantly chatting off of the ice.

Yeah, all the time, he said. Hes really great, and were getting along great. We talked that maybe the chemistry wasnt there at the start of the year. It takes a little bit of time to get used to each other and know where each other are, so we feel pretty confident on the ice every shift. Hopefully, we start producing a lot more now.

McGinn may be the hardest player on the current Sharks roster to figure out. He began the 2010-11 season on the teams top line, but has bounced between the Sharks and their AHL affiliate in Worcester in each of his first three seasons as a pro.

He played seven games in the playoffs last spring, totaling one assist and 30 penalty minutes, before starting this season on the teams third line where he has been almost entirely.

McLellan admitted on Friday that the Sharks staff may not have done McGinn any favors in how it handled him last year, especially early, after he scored 10 goals in 59 games in 2009-10.

We have to take some of that responsibility. We started the year by putting him in a position where maybe we expected too much offensively, and got him mixed up, said the coach. By the time the middle of the year came around he was a confused player. He was listening to a lot of different people and everyone was trying to help him and had good intentions.

I think we all anticipated 10 goals was going to go to 15, and thats not the way it works for him, said McLellan.

So what did the coaching staff ask from him this September?

Hes using his speed and his size on the forecheck, hes going to the blue paint, and hes good defensively: those are the three things we asked him to do at the beginning of the year, and hes done a pretty good job with it.

The coach is showing confidence in me, and I cant let him or my teammates down with the more the minutes I get, said McGinn. I have to continue playing that way.

McLellan has been so pleased with McGinn lately, specifically the last three-and-a-half weeks, that hes considered moving him up to one of the top two lines. Its unlikely that McLellan will break up the Clowe-Couture-Havlat combination, though, especially after the success they had on Thursday night.

Theres been a temptation on our behalf to bump him up lines, but I think he fits very well where he is right now, said McLellan. Lets not mess him up. Hell have his share of numbers at the end of the year if he maintains that menu that we gave him.

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out

sharks_young_guns_.jpg
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.