Sharks blanked by Blues in St. Louis 1-0


Sharks blanked by Blues in St. Louis 1-0


ST. LOUIS There are two aspects of the Sharks game that have been noticeably dreadful throughout most of their recent inconsistency. Both were on display in a 1-0 loss to St. Louis on Saturday night at Scottrade Center.

Special teams is one. San Jose finished the night 0-for-6 on the power play, while allowing a five-on-three power play goal to St. Louis Kevin Shattenkirk in the first period. The Sharks are just one for their last 26 on the power play.

The other is poor starts, and the Sharks failed to generate anything offensively through the majority of the first two periods of their fifth loss in the last seven games all in regulation.

Several of the Sharks players and the head coach chalked up the teams fourth shutout-against to solid defensive play by the Blues, who improved to 11-2-3 under Ken Hitchcock. That may be true, but the Sharks didnt have any Grade A scoring chances until there was 15:25 remaining in the third period, when Brad Winchester drove hard to the net and goalie Brian Elliott froze the loose puck before Joe Thornton could find it.

You have to get three guys around the puck just to come up with it before you get shots to the net, said Ryane Clowe. A lot of times we did that, but there were a lot of shots blocked and a lot of shots knocked down before they got to the net. Obviously, its a different mentality over there, and a different team and different system (under Hitchcock). They dont give up a lot of shots, and theyll take a 1-0 game any night, Im sure.

In my opinion, it was an April or May game, a lot of tight checking and a lot of playoff style grinding along the boards. Not many chances for either team, said Todd McLellan. Neither of the goalies was really that busy, it was just a lot of ping-pong and grinding type play along the boards. They got the one and we didnt.

Elliott improved on his already league-leading numbers, finishing with 24 saves. His goals-against average dropped to 1.45 and save percentage improved to .947. Still, he wasnt tested much by San Jose until late.

Midway through the third, he made a quick pad save on a one-timer by Joe Pavelski on a cross-ice pass from Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

Logan Couture had the best chance with a minute left in the regulation, but Elliott stopped his one-timer from the slot on a feed from Thornton with Antti Niemi pulled for an extra attacker. It was a play that Couture said he should have capitalized on.

I should score in the slot on a one-timer, he said. I didnt shoot it where I wanted to. I wanted to go high glove side, and I wish I had that back. It feels like you get that one, you earn the team a point. I should have scored.

Shattenkirks goal came on a two-man advantage at 19:34 of the first period and held up as the only marker. His low wrist shot through defenseman Colin White beat Niemi, who finished with 18 saves.

I had some trouble tracking it, but I still saw the puck, said Niemi. I was caught a little bit deep there, I think.

Even with the Blues playing strong defensively and along the boards, the Sharks still had no less than a half dozen power plays. Their first two in the first period were especially bad, and the best scoring chances actually came from St. Louis sticks.

First, with T.J. Oshie off on a hooking call just 62 seconds into the game, Niemi made a nice glove stop on David Backes with the Blues on a two-on-one shorthanded rush.

Later, Niemi made a pad save on Oshie with David Perron in the box for holding at 7:15. Oshie spun Jason Demers around while cutting to the slot before lifting a sneaky backhand on net.

I was disappointed in the desperation in our first two power plays in the first seven minutes of the game, said McLellan. I thought thats where we lacked it a little bit. Their confidence went up in that situation and they felt like they had a good plan against our power play. That set us up for the rest of the night on the power play as not being very strong.

Power play wasnt very good, obviously. I think when youre not sharp early, it carries over, said Clowe. We didnt do anything. We didnt get any momentum off of it, and we didnt get any shots. It was disappointing. Our penalty kill did a good job, but the PP wasnt very good.

McLellan tinkered with his power play units, putting Pavelski on the point, where he was most of last season, and inserting Michal Handzus on the wing. Handzus had played just over 11 minutes combined on the power play this season, and skated for more than three minutes on Saturday.

It wasnt a very productive three minutes, though. His hooking penalty late in the first with San Jose on the power play helped lead to the Blues goal, and later, he was caught offsides on an odd-man rush.

We can field a hell of a lineup for power play when it comes to the personnel, said McLellan. Theyve proven in the past that they can do it, and were going through a tough skid right now.

The Sharks killed off four of five Blues power plays, although they caught a break after the Shattenkirk two-man advantage goal. Justin Brauns penalty should have carried over for more than a minute, but the referees incorrectly let him out of the box early.

The game featured Thornton and the Blues David Perron skating on the same ice for the first time since Thornton drilled the 23-year-old last November, causing him to miss 13 months with a severe concussion. The fans booed Thornton early on, and were particularly pleased when Shattenkirk drilled the Sharks captain along the boards in the second period.

Shattenkirk returned to the lineup after missing the previous game with the flu.

The Sharks visit the Blackhawks on Sunday.

Odds and ends: Andrew Murray was a healthy scratch for the second straight game, in favor of Frazer McLaren. Douglas Murray (right hand) and Jim Vandermeer (upper body) remain out. The game was the third 1-0 contest in which the Sharks have been involved in this season. They lost to Anaheim on Oct. 14 and beat Chicago on Nov. 23. San Jose won the faceoff battle for the 11th straight game, 30-29.

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are


Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens


Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens


SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.


Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.