Missed opportunities doom Sharks in loss


Missed opportunities doom Sharks in loss


SAN JOSE When a team is mired in a lengthy stretch of losing hockey, as the San Jose Sharks are following a 3-2 shootout loss to Edmonton, there is often a laundry list of reasons for failure.

On its terrible nine-game road trip last month, the Sharks couldnt keep the puck out of their own net. On the first three games of the return homestand, San Jose couldnt score.

On Tuesday night at home against Edmonton, it was all about missed opportunities as San Jose dropped its ninth game in the last 11 (2-7-2) and is now tied for eighth place in the Western Conference with 74 points (33-24-8).
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Patrick Marleau, in particular, may not sleep too well on Tuesday night after failing to convert on a number of chances. Marleau misplayed a two-on-one rush with Joe Thornton in the first period with the game tied 1-1; made a poor decision on a five-on-three advantage midway through the third when his point shot was blocked, and was stoned by Devan Dubnyk with less than four minutes to go in regulation on a three-on-two rush.

We generated enough to win but didnt finish on some of them. Glorious opportunities, Todd McLellan said. Pattys entry late in the third on a pass from Jumbo, those have to be goals. And they will be goals, eventually.

It was good. It could always be better. I still think the urgency could be a little bit better, but we definitely had a lot of opportunities, Dan Boyle said, when asked his general thoughts on the Sharks game and effort.

The disappointing end came via the shootout. Sam Gagner was the only player to convert on Edmontons second opportunity, while Dubnyk stopped Joe Pavelski, Michal Handzus and Brent Burns to give the lowly Oilers the extra point in the standings.

The Sharks finished their four-game homestand with a 1-2-1 record, coming on top of a 2-6-1 road trip, as they continue to scuffle. The team begins a pivotal four-game road trip in Dallas on Thursday, with stops in Phoenix, Edmonton and Calgary before returning home on March 15 to play the Predators.

The game was tied at 2-2 after the second period, and both clubs had excellent chances to take a third period lead before overtime.

First, it was Edmonton. Antti Niemi sprawled out and made a nice kick save on Shawn Horcoff early in the third. The Oilers went on the power play right after that, on a Justin Braun delay of game penalty at 6:05 the first infraction of the night.

There was a mad scramble for a loose puck at one point on the ensuing man advantage, but neither Horcoff nor Jordan Eberle could poke it in, and it slid harmlessly through the crease behind Niemi.

A phantom tripping call on Horcoff nullified the rest of the power play, and the Sharks got 42 seconds of two-man advantage time when Ryan Jones was called for high-sticking. San Jose couldnt generate much during the advantage, though, as Marleaus slap shot from the point was blocked.

Weve got to make the smart play there and get a shot at the net and not get it blocked, or whatever it might be, Boyle said. I think we could have been much smarter on the five-on-three. I didnt particularly like what we accomplished out there.

San Jose continued to apply pressure throughout the rest of the third. Dubnyk made a key save with 3:40 to go on a three-on-two rush, denying Marleau on the doorstep after a feed from Thornton.

Edmonton took the lead on the quickest goal allowed to start a game in Sharks franchise history. Sam Gagner deflected a puck into the San Jose zone, and Boyle couldnt control it. Eberle got a stick on it, and then batted it out of mid air just 10 seconds after the opening faceoff.

Im exactly where I need to be, and its a bad bounce, Boyle said. Thats all there is to it. He made a great play. He picks it up out of the air and bats it out of the air. Its just a bad bounce.

The Sharks responded. Boyle picked off a weak clearing attempt by Gagner, and fed Jim Vandermeer for a slap shot that should have been stopped by Dubnyk at 3:17.

The Sharks had some prime chances to take the lead before the end of the first. Marleau misplayed a two-on-one with Thornton, though, and Dubnyk corralled Brent Burns shot from the top of the circle after an extended shift in the Edmonton zone.

It just blew up on his stick, I guess, Thornton said of Marleaus play on the odd-man rush.

San Jose took its first lead of the game late in the second. Dubnyk misplayed the puck behind the net, and Logan Couture managed to tip it in front, where Ryane Clowe flicked it in at 15:19.

The Sharks fell asleep for the rest of the period, though. After a long shift by the Oilers, Jeff Petrys slap shot went in off of Ryan Smyth less than a minute after Clowes goal. Niemi was visibly upset afterward.

Edmonton swarmed the Sharks on the next few shifts after the goal, and had a couple of good chances, including a one-timer from Gagner that didnt miss by much.

Of course it takes a little bit of momentum away from what you just built, but it shouldnt be deflating for probably as long as we let it go, Clowe said of the team's reaction to the tying goal.

We had a bit of a sag for a four or five minute period. They gained some momentum off of that, but regrouped going into the third and played from there, McLellan said.

Pavelski was struck in the jaw with a puck on his first shift, and fell awkwardly into the boards behind the Edmonton net. He missed the rest of the period, but returned for the start of the second after getting stitched up.

He nearly gave the Sharks the lead in the third period, when his deflection from the slot hit the post.

Pavelski said: I thought I got enough of it, and I was just waiting for the crowd to go."

In the end, it was just another missed opportunity.

Odds and ends: Todd McLellan returned from a three-game absence due to a concussion suffered last Sunday in Minnesota. ... Brad Winchester, Benn Ferriero, Jason Demers and Andrew Desjardins were the Sharks scratches. Patrick Marleau played in his 1,100th NHL game, all with San Jose. ... The Sharks are 6-4 in shootouts.

Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles


Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles

Over the last three years, Brent Burns played with only one defensive partner more in a single season than he has with Joakim Ryan in 2017-18.

That partner, of course, is Paul Martin, who’s missed all but two games this season due to complications from offseason ankle surgery. Martin is set to miss yet more time after experiencing a setback in his recovery, although the injury is not related to his ailing ankle, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Martin’s absence, combined with the fact that Burns has gone 20 games without a goal this season, has naturally led to questions about whether their separation is causing Burns to struggle.

That’s not the case.

Burns is actually playing a bit better alongside Ryan than he was with Martin. In just over 257 minutes together at even strength, the Sharks have controlled 55.74 percent of the shot attempts with Burns and Ryan on the ice, according to Corsica Hockey, up from Burns and Martin’s 52.13 percent mark together.

The Sharks are attempting more shots than their opponents when Burns and Ryan play, they’re doing so at a higher rate. With Burns and Ryan on the ice, the Sharks are attempting nearly nine more shots per 60 minutes than when Burns and Martin together, and just over two more shots per 60 minutes are hitting the net.

As we’ve written about previously, Burns’ scoring struggles date back to the stretch run last season, when he was playing alongside Martin. It wasn’t Martin’s fault then, just as it’s not Ryan’s fault now.

The puck simply isn’t going in. Through 20 games this season, Burns has 82 shots on goal and zero goals. Through 20 games in his Norris Trophy-winning campaign, Burns had 83 shots on goal and seven goals.

It’s not like Burns was super lucky then, either, as his 8.3 percent shooting percentage through 20 games last season was only one percent higher than his career average. Shooting at a zero percent clip after 20 games is, clearly, the outlier.

Together, Burns and Ryan have been more unlucky than anything else. When the two skate during five-on-five play, the Sharks are scoring on only 3.45 percent of their shots, much lower than the 8.26 percent San Jose scored on when Martin and Burns played together.

At 32 years old, it would be a stretch to expect Burns to match or exceed his heights from a season ago, but it would be an even bigger one to expect him to struggle much longer alongside Ryan. 

They've done everything right, they just haven't scored.

Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi has officially arrived


Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi has officially arrived

It turns out the top-six winger the Sharks needed to replace Patrick Marleau was on the roster all along.

Joonas Donskoi skated on Logan Couture’s line in Monday night’s shootout loss to the Ducks, and was San Jose’s best player. He scored the Sharks’ only two goals, and tied for the team-lead among forwards with four shots on net.

Donskoi added another goal in the ninth-round shootout, but his two goals in regulation were his sixth and seventh on the season. With those goals, he surpassed his total from an injury-riddled campaign a year ago, and stands three tallies clear as San Jose’s second-leading goal-scorer this season.

Due to Melker Karlsson’s injury, Donskoi skated with the Sharks’ leading goal-scorer, Logan Couture, and rekindled the strong chemistry the pair has shown since the Finnish winger arrived in San Jose in 2015.

Of the nine lines Couture has skated on for at least 50 minutes dating back to the beginning of the 2015-16 season, the three best in terms of puck possession have had Donskoi on his wing. Those three combinations have controlled at least 54 percent of the five-on-five shot attempts, according to Corsica Hockey.

Adding Tomas Hertl, who’s already a strong possession player, to that line bodes well for an even stronger second line moving forward. With Karlsson on the wing, the line controlled only 47.7 percent of the shot attempts, per Corsica, meaning the Sharks have been routinely out-possessed with them on the ice.

That was not the case with Donskoi in Karlsson’s place, as Donskoi posted positive possession numbers alongside Couture and Hertl on Monday, according to Natural Stat Trick. The results were there, as evidenced by the game’s opening goal, but it’s a good sign that the process was, too.

The same, frankly, can be said of Donskoi’s entire season up to this point. He likely won’t convert on over 18 percent of his shots all season, of course, but the Sharks have the puck more often than their opponents when he’s on the ice, and should continue to generate pressure, chances, and ultimately goals, even if Donskoi’s personal scoring comes down.

When Karlsson comes back, Donskoi should remain on Couture and Hertl’s line. That would allow the former to slide into a role better-suited to his game, and the latter to bolster San Jose’s top-six forward group.

Donskoi’s earned an extended look in that spot thanks to his resurgence, and subsequent emergence, this season. Thanks to him, replacing Marleau’s production suddenly seems much less daunting.