Rewind: Sharks disagree with ruling in 3-2 loss to Ducks

Rewind: Sharks disagree with ruling in 3-2 loss to Ducks

SAN JOSE – The Sharks and Ducks were each playing their fourth game in a week sandwiched around the holiday, including the second of a back-to-back, and there was distinct lack of energy and animosity that’s typically evident when these two Pacific Division rivals face off against one another.

One play stood out among the rest, though, in Anaheim’s 3-2 win. In the first period, with San Jose ahead thanks to Logan Couture’s power play goal, Ryan Garbutt stormed towards the crease and plowed over Martin Jones. The puck crossed the line during the violent collision, and a video replay confirmed that it did so before the net came off of its moorings.

Pete DeBoer promptly challenged the play, but the goal was upheld, as the Toronto war room determined that Brent Burns pushed Garbutt into Jones. The Sharks, with visions of Joe Pavelski’s overturned goal in a Nashville playoff game last spring under similar circumstances still in their heads, didn’t agree with the call.

“That’s the rule that I guess we’ll never understand, because last year we were told in the Nashville series that Pav was pushed in and he should have made the effort to stop,” Couture said. “Tonight they just said he was pushed in even though he didn’t make an effort to stop. I don’t understand what the league is doing with the rule, so maybe some more clarification is needed.”

DeBoer said: “I still think you have to make some intent to try to stop and avoid the collision. I didn't see that, but they obviously saw something I didn't."

The goal was hardly a backbreaker, as it came in the first period with plenty of time left. Anaheim struck again later in the first, but the Sharks responded with a brilliant shift in the second period by their fourth line. Ryan Carpenter, making his season debut and playing in just his second career NHL game, screened Jonathan Bernier on a Dylan DeMelo shot, tying it at 2-2. 

DeMelo was playing in just his second game of the season, filling in for a sick Brenden Dillon.

“Great pass by [Kevin Labanc] and even better screen by Carpy, so [Bernier] didn’t see a thing,” DeMelo said.

Pavelski said: “It was awesome to see [DeMelo] get that one. He made a great shot. Couple nice plays on that shift. … They definitely did their job.”

Ryan Getzlaf scored a power play goal in the second period, though, and the Sharks were never able to get another. They managed just five shots on goal in the third period, as the energy tanks were perhaps just a little too drained in their fourth game in six nights.

Further complicating matters was DeBoer’s decision to shorten his bench. Carpenter, Micheal Haley and Mikkel Boedker all remained planted on the pine, with Boedker’s omission from the game the most noteworthy. 

The forward, who signed a four-year, $16 million deal in the offseason, has been nothing short of invisible most nights. With just two points (two goals) in 22 games, Boedker may be giving some Sharks fans (and maybe even some in the front office) fears that they may be witnessing the second coming of Marty Havlat.

DeBoer didn’t call Boedker out by name after the game, but when asked about his decision to sit certain guys late, said: “We were behind going into the third. Some guys it was just circumstance. Some guys didn't deserve to play."

The coach wasn’t necessarily pleased with the forwards that were playing, either, other than the top line of Pavelski, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau.

“The best legs on the ice were our veterans, Jumbo and Marleau and Pavelski, which is a little inexcusable if you're a younger guy and you don't have legs when those guys are going,” DeBoer said.

The defense was also shorthanded, but that wasn’t a coach’s decision. Marc-Edouard Vlasic left after the second period due to injury and did not return, and there was no update on his status after the game.

“As a unit we did pretty well being down a guy,” Justin Braun said.

Of the Sharks’ 23 shots, only 12 came from forwards. That’s where this game was lost – a lack of second chances, especially from close range.

“We didn’t really sustain much pressure until the very end there,” Couture said. “We had some shifts in their end. Would have liked to generate a couple more shots.”

With Devils in town, Sharks will get firsthand look at top contender for MVP


With Devils in town, Sharks will get firsthand look at top contender for MVP

As the season winds down, whispers surrounding players’ awards candidacies are turning into full-blown conversations. None are more interesting than those surrounding the Hart Trophy, awarded to “the player judged to be the most valuable to his team,” according to the NHL’s criteria.

The Sharks have already seen their fair share of MVP candidates since the trade deadline, and will encounter yet another one on Tuesday when Taylor Hall and the New Jersey Devils stop by SAP Center. They’ll see a couple more beyond Hall over the next three weeks, too.

Who do we think has the best case? With no disrespect meant to Nikita Kucherov or Anze Kopitar, Hart Trophy candidates that the Sharks won’t play before the playoffs, we’ll look at the ones the Sharks have played since the deadline or will play before the end of the regular season.

The Dark Horses
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals: The demise of the ‘Great Eight’ was greatly exaggerated. In his 13th NHL season, the 32-year-old is tied for the league lead in goals (43), 11th in points (78), and has led a depleted Capitals roster to the precipice of a third-straight division title. That probably won’t be enough to earn his fourth Hart Trophy, but this is undoubtedly one of Ovi’s best seasons.

Eric Staal, Minnesota Wild: Staal was a pleasant surprise when he scored 65 points last year, but has been even better this season. He’s tied for fourth in the in goals (39), tied for fifth in even strength goals (26), tied for 19th in points (71), and leading his team in each category as a 33-year-old. The Wild are a near-lock for the postseason at this point, and a resurgent Staal deserves much of the credit.

The Frontrunners
Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: McDavid’s candidacy comes down to where you fall on the “non-playoff players winning MVP” debate, but his value to the lottery-bound Oilers cannot be denied. Edmonton is 28-19-3 when he’s scored a point, and 3-17-2 when he hasn’t.

The former is about a 97-point pace in the standings over an 82-game season, while the latter is about a 30-point pace. In other words, the Oilers are basically a playoff team when McDavid scores, and historically bad when he doesn’t.

We’re sympathetic to questions about how valuable a player can be when his team will finish so far out of the postseason. However, imagining how much worse the poorly-constructed Oilers would be without him makes him a worthy candidate alone.

Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche: The Colorado Avalanche were 31 points worse than the league’s second-worst team last season, and finished 46 points out of the postseason. A full offseason with second-year coach Jared Bednar, as well as some under-the-radar acquisitions have helped the Avalanche’s remarkable turnaround into a Wild Card team, but Nathan MacKinnon is undoubtedly the catalyst.

The former No. 1 pick has put it all together this season, and is tied-for-second in points (89) with McDavid, despite playing eight fewer games. His 1.39 points per game are the most in the league, as are his 3.49 points per 60 minutes of five-on-five play, according to Natural Stat Trick (minimum 500 minutes played).

The Avalanche is the league’s fifth-worst five-on-five puck possession team overall (47.42 percent corsi-for), but are right around league-average with MacKinnon on the ice (50.96 percent). He’d be a very worthy Hart Trophy winner, and likely would be the clear-cut frontrunner if not for the man leading the Devils into SAP Center on Tuesday.

The Favorite
Taylor Hall, New Jersey Devils: McDavid is not the only No. 1 pick the Oilers drafted that’s in the MVP conversation, but he’s the only one still on their roster. The other is Taylor Hall, who has the best Hart Trophy case in our eyes.

Hall strikes the sweet spot between McDavid’s case, as a superstar with little support around him, and MacKinnon’s, as an emergent force leading a resurgence, and he has a 26-game point streak to his name. He sits outside the top 10 in points (77), goals (31), and assists (46), but has scored points at a higher rate per game (1.15) than all but six qualifying players.

He also doesn’t have Mikko Rantanen or Leon Draisaitl skating alongside him as MacKinnon and McDavid do, nor does he have a supporting cast like Kucherov and Kopitar. Of all the players the Sharks have and will face down the stretch, Hall’s been the player most valuable to his team this season.

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.