McLellan, McDavid visit Sharks in battle for first place


McLellan, McDavid visit Sharks in battle for first place

SAN JOSE – Current Sharks coach Pete DeBoer and former Sharks coach/current Oilers coach Todd McLellan first spent significant time together as part of Team Canada’s staff at the 2015 World Championships. McLellan had just departed the Sharks after seven seasons, and DeBoer was a few weeks away from being named his replacement.  

The two have maintained a relationship since then, and DeBoer was even supposed to be a part of McLellan’s staff for Team North America at the World Cup before pulling out to spend more time with his family.

“I would say we’re friends,” DeBoer said this week, as the Sharks get set to host McLellan’s Oilers at SAP Center on Friday.

Anyone in San Jose who got to know McLellan would never have imagined the coach to have any sort of feelings of ill will towards his employer last spring, when the Sharks were on their run to the Stanley Cup Final just one season after the divorce. 

It’s no surprise, then, that DeBoer indicated McLellan wished him the best after they spoke right around the Stanley Cup Final, which was won by Pittsburgh in six games.

“Absolutely. This business, you have to move on,” DeBoer said. “It’s a little easier moving on I think when part of it is your choice, which I understood that it wasn’t a situation where like I got fired in New Jersey, and you don’t have a choice. I think it was a mutual parting, from what I understand. When you have situations like that you throw yourself into the next job, and there’s no hard feelings, I wouldn’t think.”

“I’m sure he was emotionally invested in this group. You don’t spend seven years and win the number of games and have the type of people we have here without that, so I’m sure that stings a little bit. They’ve got a bright future there, and they’re doing a great job.”

McLellan has the Oilers on the right path, as they are tied in points with the Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division (each has 41, but the Sharks have two games in hand). The Oilers have, of course, gotten a huge boost from 19-year-old Connor McDavid. They have scored 103 goals, the most in the Western Conference, paced by McDavid’s league-leading 40 points (12g, 28a).

There is simply no combination of speed combined with tremendous skill in today’s NHL like McDavid, who is arguably already the best player in the league in just his second season.

“His quickness and acceleration is second to none,” Logan Couture said.

“It’s almost effortless the way he skates, the way he uses his edges – it’s like he doesn’t even dig into the ice. He’s just kind of on top of it. It’s pretty special to watch as a fellow NHL player, to see how well he skates. It’s great for this game to have him in this league.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic will surely see plenty of McDavid on Friday.

“He uses his speed anywhere – he outskates guys, skates past the fastest guys with his speed, and he can handle the puck at high speeds,” Vlasic said.

The Sharks, who have won five of their last six, desire to be in sole position of first place at the Christmas break. The team has three CBA-mandated days off from Dec. 24-26 before resuming its schedule in Anaheim on Dec. 27.

In a division that’s more competitive this year, including the resurgent Oilers, that would be an accomplishment.

“Obviously we understand they’re a much better team and they’ve been playing good, playing hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “It’s a team we don’t take lightly, by any means. They got McDavid, they got a few guys that are scoring. Their defensive systems are better. 

“We want to worry about ourselves and make sure we finish this game here before the break playing hard.”

After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go


After a perfect week, Sharks have playoff breathing room with three weeks to go

The Sharks’ playoff outlook is a lot rosier after winning all four of their games last week. They are now four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings in the second Wild Card spot, and three points up the Anaheim Ducks, who are third place in the Pacific Division.

Those are four-point and three-point improvements, respectively, over those same spots last week. The Sharks even picked up ground on the first-place Vegas Golden Knights, and are eight points back of the Pacific’s leaders, with two head-to-head matchups remaining.

That’s not quite close enough to warrant inclusion in a look at the playoff picture headed into the week, but could be next week if San Jose continues to make up ground. Otherwise, it’s still worth examining where the Sharks stand in regards to the Pacific and the Wild Card.

San Jose Sharks (Second in the Pacific, 89 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket:  3/20 vs New Jersey, 3/22 vs Vegas, 3/24 vs Calgary

Outlook: Over the next two weeks, the schedule really starts to become difficult. San Jose has only two games remaining against teams on the outside looking in, and is just 2-6-2 in its last 10 against teams currently in a playoff spot. If that trend continues, the newfound breathing room could start to disappear rather quickly.

Anaheim Ducks (Third in the Pacific, 86 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/21 at Calgary, 3/23 at Winnipeg, 3/25 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Ducks have now won three in a row, including next Sunday against the red-hot New Jersey Devils. They’ll play four of their final five road games in the next nine days, and all but one of their opponents is not in playoff position. Anaheim’s just 15-14-7 away from the Honda Center, though. With the fewest games remaining of any playoff team, the Ducks will help to move up any further.

Colorado Avalanche (First Wild Card, 86 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/20 at Chicago, 3/22 vs Los Angeles, 3/24 vs Vegas

Outlook: Give it up for surefire Hart Trophy finalist Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche, winners of three of four last week. Other than a slip-up on the second night of a back-to-back in Nashville, Colorado was outright dominant, outscoring opponents 16-7. A midweek matchup against Los Angeles could create some Wild Card separation.

Los Angeles Kings (Second Wild Card, 84 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/19 at Minnesota, 3/20 at Winnipeg, 3/22 at Colorado, 3/24 at Edmonton

Outlook: The Kings picked up points in three of four, including on both nights of a back-to-back. Their schedule really picks up this week, as they’ll face three playoff-bound teams from the Central on the road. The struggling Stars remain on their heels, although the Kings have a game in hand.

Dallas Stars (Ninth in the West, 84 points)

Games Remaining: Nine

On the Docket: 3/20 at Washington, 3/23 vs Boston. 3/25 vs Vancouver

Outlook: Is Dallas in the middle of a Lone Star letdown? We wrote last week that a difficult schedule could create openings for the teams chasing them and boy, did it ever. The Stars went 0-2-2 on the week, and picked up just one point against the lottery-bound Montreal Canadiens and Ottawa Senators. They’ll surely relish a matchup against the Canucks in six days, as it’s their only remaining game against a non-playoff team.

St. Louis Blues (10th in the West, 83 points)

Games Remaining: 10

On the Docket: 3/21 vs Boston, 3/23 vs Vancouver, 3/24 at Columbus

Outlook: For the second straight season, it’s not quite time to stick a fork in the St. Louis Blues. Yes, they are once again in the playoff hunt after trading one of their best players at the trade deadline, and won three out of four to move with in a point of the final Wild Card spot. The Blues have now won four of five, and still have an uphill climb ahead. After last season, is it ever safe to rule them out?

The Departed: Calgary Flames (11th in the West, 80 points)

This section is reserved for teams that have fallen out of the playoff picture since our last look at the playoff picture, and the Calgary Flames have earned(?) the inaugural (dis)honor. The Flames failed to keep the door to the playoffs ajar thanks to a 7-4 loss to the Sharks on Friday, and it slammed shut after a 4-0 loss in Sin City on Sunday. They have to jump three teams and cover four points of ground to earn a Wild Card spot. The latest stretch stings, but the Flames will likely look on a four-game, post-trade deadline losing streak as when their playoff hopes burned out.

Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win


Sharks overcome early deficit, injuries to finish road trip with third straight win

VANCOUVER --Timo Meier's second goal of the game snapped a third-period tie and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 on Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Logan Couture and Kevin Labanc each had a goal and an assist, and Tomas Hertl scored into an empty net with 25 seconds remaining for the Sharks, who are 7-2-0 in their last nine games.

Nikolay Goldobin, Alex Edler and Bo Horvat scored power-play goals and Sam Gagner had two assists for the Canucks, who lost their sixth consecutive game - their longest losing streak of the season.

Goldobin's goal at 10:48 of the first period snapped a scoreless streak of 222 minutes, 57 minutes for the Canucks, who had been shut out in three consecutive losses.

The Sharks had allowed just two power-play goals in their previous 17 games, but gave up three against Vancouver. The only other time San Jose allowed three power-play goals in a game was in an opening-night loss to Philadelphia.

Aaron Dell, making his first start since Feb. 22, made 28 saves for the Sharks. Vancouver's Jacob Markstrom stopped 25 shots.

Meier put the Sharks ahead at 6:07 of the third with a shot from the faceoff circle that went under Markstrom's blocker. The Canucks came close with just over six minutes left, but Hertl scooped a loose puck off the goal line.

Vancouver scored twice with the man-advantage in the second period to tie the game at 3.

The Sharks took a 3-1 lead just 1:47 into the period when Meier tipped in Brenden Dillion's shot from the point.

Horvat started Vancouver's comeback, scoring just 6 seconds into a power play. Dell stopped Gagner's slap shot but Horvat jammed home the rebound. Edler tied it with a blast from the point at 11:48. It was his first power-play goal in 88 games dating to Feb. 17, 2017.

The Sharks scored 1:10 apart in the first period to erase a 1-0 deficit.

Goldobin opened the scoring when he took a pass from defenseman Derrick Pouilot and snapped a shot from the face-off circle that sailed over Dell's shoulder. The San Jose goalie was screened by Jake Virtanen.

Labanc tied it on a power play at 14:48. Joe Pavelski's shot was stopped by Markstrom, but he managed to get his own rebound and passed it to Labanc at the side of the net.

The Sharks went ahead on Couture's 29th of the season at 16:08. He took a feed from Hertl, fought off a check by Virtanen and chipped the puck past Markstrom.

NOTES: Defenseman Chris Tanev returned to Vancouver lineup for his first game since breaking his leg Feb. 8 against Tampa Bay ... San Jose center Melker Karlsson went to the dressing favoring his right leg early in the first period after blocking a shot. ... San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic left in the second period after being hit in the chest by a puck. ... The Canucks' franchise record for a scoring drought is 234 minutes, 52 seconds, set March 16-24, 2016. ... The longest goal drought by a team in the expansion era is 262 minutes, 3 seconds, set by the Minnesota North Stars from Jan. 28-Feb. 6, 1988.


Sharks: vs. New Jersey on Tuesday night.

Canucks: at Vegas on Tuesday night.