Sharks

Q&A with Sharks center Logan Couture

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Q&A with Sharks center Logan Couture

On Tuesday, I caught up with Logan Couture during his last few hours in Switzerland for an interview on 95.7 The Game. After 23 points in 22 games with Geneva-Servette, he’s headed back home, and says he will not look to play anywhere else but the NHL this season.  Here’s a transcript of the interview:

On making the decision to stop playing in Switzerland and head back to Canada:

“It was something that I looked at doing for a couple weeks. My main goal was to come over to Switzerland and get in shape for the NHL season, and be ready when it starts.  At this point where I’m at right now, I think I’m ready if the season were to start in the next couple weeks. I’m in game shape, played 20 plus games and got my timing down and everything.  I think I looked at it as a risk-and-reward type thing, where if I continue to play over here and something bad did happen, I would regret it. I’m coming back to Canada to spend some time with my family, which I don’t get to do very often during the season, it’s going to be nice to spend the holidays with them, but I’m hoping a deal does get done soon and we get back to playing hockey.”

On how Swiss hockey compares to the NHL game:

“It’s a lot different, obviously the rink is bigger, it’s much wider. The players are smaller and much less physical.  You get a lot more time with the puck over here.  Players lack the high end skill, but they can all skate.  That’s one thing I realized over here, all the Swiss players they’re fast.  They can really skate in the open ice and they use the extra ice that there is out there, with the space.  It’s a lot different hockey.  I can count the times I was physically hit with a body on one hand over 20 plus games so it’s a big difference.”

On what he will take away from his experience in Switzerland:

“Probably just being in a different country. This is the first time where I’ve been able to spend an extended time overseas in Europe. I was lucky enough to get some time to travel; I went to Paris for a couple days and went to Italy, just going around Europe a little bit.  But I’m a North American guy and I really miss being home, and the one thing that was being tough on me was during the baseball playoffs, not being able to watch.  Games don’t come on over here till 2 or 3 in the morning.”

On being alone in Europe:

“I’m all alone, I lived in a hotel for basically the first 2 months, and you know it got tough.  That’s one thing that was tough on me was being in a single hotel room for 2 months and being away from my family and the time change was tough.”

On how players view the owners, individually or as a whole:

“I haven’t spoke to any of the owners, except for two.  I was in a meeting in July, when the NHL gave us our first proposal. (Boston’s owner Jeremy) Jacobs was there, and the owner from Minnesota (Craig Leipold) was there, and you just get the feeling in those types of meetings with those two, that they are all about themselves and making money, they could care less who the players are. We all introduced ourselves to the owners, those two owners.  And they probably couldn’t tell, us, who we were. They don’t know who the players are, stuff like that.  It doesn’t mean it’s that way for all 30 owners. The players, we don’t know (about the owners) because they’re not allowed to talk.  We haven’t spoken to Sharks owners, anything like that; we don’t know how they feel about it. So that’s what we’re hoping to learn.”

On the communication process with owners:

“We’re going off what we’re hearing from players at those meetings. We’re living off that. It would be nice to hear what they (owners) all think. I think Bettman only needs 8 of them to vote with him and get something to pass. It’s tough for any of the players to gauge where they’re at, because we don’t hear a thing from them (directly).”

On his gut reaction, if there will be an NHL season:

“I hope so.  That’s what we all want to do as hockey players. I’ve played it my entire life for 19 years since I was 3 years old, you know it’s tough waking up not going to the rink, not getting into that game day groove, or to practice. I hope we get this figured out soon.”

Logan’s plans to stay in game shape:

“I’m going to get back into the gym probably starting next week. This first weekend I’m going to check out one of my brother’s games, I haven’t been able to watch him play in 6 or 7 years now. That will be nice to do, just get back and enjoy some time with my parents. Spend some nights and days; really I haven’t seen them in 2 months and it’s been hard to keep in touch with the time change. Probably start working out next week and looking for some ice. I’ve got some buddies, I know Corey Perry (Ducks) and Drew Doughty (Kings) are home in London (Ontario) skating, and just go from there.”

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.

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

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USATSI

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.