Sharks blow late lead, are outclassed in overtime loss to Oilers

Sharks blow late lead, are outclassed in overtime loss to Oilers

EDMONTON – The first storm came early, and it was expected. It was the second storm developed out of nowhere and blew the Sharks’ house over.

After withstanding Edmonton’s first period push and even taking a lead before the opening frame was over, the Sharks were thoroughly pummeled in overtime of Game 5 of their first-round series. The Oilers’ David Desharnais scored at 18:15 of the overtime period to give his team a 4-3 win, in a result that seemed inevitable as the extra session progressed.

Leading 3-2 to start the third, the Sharks decided about midway through the frame that they’d start trying to run out the clock. It’s a strategy that’s not uncommon, especially on the road in an unfriendly environment.

They were doing it well, too, until Oscar Klefbom unleashed a powerful one-timer that beat Martin Jones to the far side with less than three minutes to go. That tied the score at 3-3.

Despite a full intermission after the third period to regroup, the Sharks still skated in overtime as if they were stunned. They were outshot 14-2, and the only reason it lasted as long as it did was the San Jose goalie.

“We started to defend with about 10 minutes left in the third, we got in that mindset, and when they tied it up and went to overtime we couldn’t get back on our toes again and reestablish our forecheck,” coach Pete DeBoer said.

Jones denied Leon Draisaitl, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Connor McDavid on prime chances, doing everything he could to buy the Sharks enough time to find their legs. It never happened.

“We weren’t really going and [Jones] allowed us…to get going. We just never really got going,” Joe Pavelski said.

Instead, Draisaitl deftly set up Desharnais in the slot, and the diminutive forward whizzed a shot past Jones to put the Oilers just one win away from the second round.

“Just happens quick,” Jones said. “[Draisaitl] threw the puck from the corner, I just lost it for a second and saw it go by my shoulder.”

The Sharks seemed to have the game under control midway through the second period when David Schlemko’s seeing-eye point shot put them ahead, 3-1. It was the Sharks’ third straight goal after Patrick Maroon had given the Oilers an early lead that the Sharks erased on goals by Patrick Marleau and Mikkel Boedker.

Late in the second, though, Mark Letestu’s power play goal with just 1:27 to go with Brent Burns off on a delay of game penalty put the game within reach in the third for Edmonton. They just needed one little opening, and they got it when Desharnais skated behind the net before setting up the Klef-bomb that tied it.

“I think we battled hard tonight and we did some good things that made us [go] up 3-1, and unfortunately we couldn’t battle it out,” Boedker said.

The Sharks wouldn’t have changed anything they did in the third period, which DeBoer said he “really liked.” They were, after all, just two minutes and 46 seconds away from taking the series lead back.

“I thought we did a good job limiting their chances. They had one good shot they buried,” Schlemko said.

Overtime, though, was baffling. The Sharks never had a chance, and now their season is one loss away from being over.

“It would have been nice to at least have an attempt to cash in there,” Pavelski said.

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.