Sharks

Sharks and Capitals, forever linked, could not be more different this season

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AP

Sharks and Capitals, forever linked, could not be more different this season

When we look back on this era, the San Jose Sharks and Washington Capitals will always be linked.

They’ve never played each other in the postseason, of course, and that’s part of the reason why: The two franchises are kindred spirits, labelled as perennial disappointments for their perceived perennial postseason failures.

The Capitals are “Sharks East,” never having made it past the second round of the postseason in the Alex Ovechkin era. The Sharks have, and even made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, but they’ve never won it, so they’re “Capitals West.”

Now, though, the two franchises find themselves on divergent paths. Yes, both teams find themselves in playoff position entering Monday night’s matchup, and only about $1.5 million separates them in salary cap space this offseason.

But if you look beneath the surface, the differences are clear, as the Sharks and Capitals are utilizing different blueprints to address their own failures.

The Sharks can’t score, but their opponents haven’t scored much, either. Their plus-eight goal differential is tied for the fourth-best mark in the conference, and their possession numbers (top-five in both major metrics, per Puck On Net) bode well for future success.

The Capitals can score, but they can’t stop anyone from scoring. They’re one of two playoff teams in the East with a negative goal differential (minus-three), and find themselves in the bottom-10 of both corsi-for and fenwick-for percentage.

That’s an unusual place for Washington, long one of the league’s best possession teams, but it’s been by design. The Capitals went all in last year, and they’re paying the price this season.

Facing a salary capocalypse, Washington let Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Williams, and Daniel Winnik walk in free agency, lost Nate Schmidt in the expansion draft, and traded Marcus Johansson to New Jersey for salary cap relief.

They still re-signed Andre Burakovsky, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and T.J. Oshie, but they’re facing what Chicago has so often. They just don’t have the trophy to show for it.

Look no further than their salary cap situation. They currently have just over $800,000 in space, and assuming the cap remains flat, have just over $16 million to sign 11 players next summer.

By contrast, the Sharks currently have a little over $6 million, and will have just over $17.5 million to sign five players next summer.

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson hasn’t gone all in the same way his Capitals counterpart, Brian Maclellan, has. San Jose’s kept their window ajar by kicking the can down the road, structuring their contracts in a way where decisions on major players are spread out.

Their roster is not as deep as the Capitals’ last season, but the Sharks have enough cap flexibility to get there without going all in. Yet, no matter the differences in their respective approach, San Jose will continue to be linked to Washington as long as they also don’t succeed.

Sharks lose in Vancouver for first time since 2012

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USATSI

Sharks lose in Vancouver for first time since 2012

BOX SCORE

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Sam Gagner scored at 4:34 of overtime and the Vancouver Canucks snapped a four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday night.

Gagner beat Martin Jones with a nice backhand move on a breakaway for his fourth of the season after a feed from Alexander Edler. It was Gagner's first goal in nine games.

Markus Granlund scored twice and Brock Boeser also had a goal in regulation for Vancouver (15-14-4). Henrik Sedin and brother Daniel Sedin each added three assists. Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves.

Brent Burns scored two goals and Marcus Sorenson had one for San Jose (17-10-4). Martin Jones stopped 36 shots for the Sharks, who were playing their second game in two nights after Thursday's 3-2 road victory over the Calgary Flames.

San Jose had won 11 straight at Rogers Arena dating back to the Canucks' last victory on home ice over their Pacific Division rivals all the way back on Jan. 21, 2012. Vancouver was 0-9-2 over that stretch while getting outscored 41-14.

Leading 3-2 through 40 minutes, the Canucks nearly restored their two-goal lead four minutes into the third, but Jones stretched to make a great pad save on Thomas Vanek.

The Sharks mustered only one shot through the first 13 minutes of the final period, but got the equalizer with 5:49 left in regulation when Burns' point shot went off the skate of Canucks defenseman Alex Biega in front and beat Markstrom for his second of the night, sixth of the season and fifth in five games.

Coming off Wednesday's embarrassing 7-1 loss at home to Nashville, the Canucks stormed out of the gate against the Sharks and led 2-1 after the first period before Boeser stretched the lead to two.

The NHL's rookie scoring leader ripped a shot over Jones' shoulder on the power play at 11:56 of the second for his 17th, moments after slicing through the Sharks' defense and ringing a shot off the post.

San Jose got that one back with 1:44 left in the period when former Canucks forward Jannik Hansen started a sequence that ended with Sorenson netting his first past Markstrom.

Already minus five regulars, including two-thirds of their top line with Bo Horvat (broken foot) and Sven Baertschi (broken jaw) out long-term, the Canucks announced Friday morning that shutdown defenseman Christopher Tanev will miss two to three weeks with a groin strain.

Granlund, who came in with one goal in his last 12 games, opened the scoring 44 seconds in on the power play. Daniel Sedin redirected a slap pass in the slot from Henrik Sedin right to Granlund at the side of the net, and he beat Jones between the legs for his fifth.

Vancouver could have easily been up by two or three moments later as the Canucks led 10-0 in shots after just five minutes.

San Jose, which came in 7 for 21 on the power play over its last four games to climb from tied for 24th overall to tied for 11th, tested Markstrom five times on its first man-advantage opportunity before finally breaking through after Vancouver took another penalty.

The Sharks won an offensive-zone faceoff back to Burns, who snapped his fifth past Markstrom at 10:45.

Markstrom stopped San Jose's Chris Tierney on a short-handed breakaway later in the period before Granlund scored his second of the night seconds after the penalty expired. Daniel Sedin's initial shot fell at the top of the crease to Henrik Sedin, who tapped it over for Granlund to put into a wide-open net at 14:27.

NOTES: Canucks center Brandon Sutter and defenseman Erik Gudbranson remain sidelined with upper-body injuries. Vancouver is also without wing Derek Dorsett, who ended his playing career late last month due to spinal problems. ... San Jose forward Joel Ward got an assist on Burns' second goal of the night for his 300th career point in his 700th NHL game.

UP NEXT

Sharks: Monday night at Edmonton.

Canucks: Sunday at home against Calgary.

Check out this hilarious Sharks Christmas music video

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Check out this hilarious Sharks Christmas music video

Everyone knows the classic Christmas songs. Your family probably plays the same tunes year in and year out. 

It's time for the something fresh. 

The San Jose Sharks are here to bring some new flavor to Christmas spirit. On Friday, the team re-released the music video you all need to see, with their song "Holiday Sweater." Turn the volume up for this one.

Merry Christmas and good luck getting that jingle out of your head.