Sharks

Sharks, Blues prepare for more physical play

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Sharks, Blues prepare for more physical play

The Sharks and Blues held their mutual infamy from Game 2s 132-minute chat as a sort of trophy for all of 20 hours.Then Pittsburgh, which is in far deeper mess than San Jose, hooked up with Philadelphia for a 133-minute hatefest that took the shame meter deeper into the red, and Game 3 got, well, closer to normal.Its playoffs, San Jose coach Todd McLellan said after dismissing any request to relive Saturdays hate-festival3-0 St. Louis win. Its a scrappy time of year, especially in the first round. Every inch is important. Youve got to scratch and claw to score goals and earn ice. Its amazing what six inches of ice can do for you. When you lose it, youre chasing the game. When you win those six or 12 inches of ice, youre in the lead. Thats the kind of series it is and will be.McLellan also explained the emotional burst in Game 2 as merely the conditions that prevail.Its because everybody believes they have a chance right now, he said. Passionate groups, all 16 of them. They worked hard to get here, and theyre trying to find an edge every way they can. Once the first round ends, everybody kind of settles in and plays. But that first round is always so emotional.And the extracurriculars?Its emotion. Very high, very intense, the fans are involved. Its an exciting time of year. Other than that, its hard to explain. You have to be there to feel it. Its a feel you get on the bench. Guys get active and get involved.Of course, Pittsburgh crossed all manner of lines as they suddenly saw elimination and embarrassment in one fell swoop on Sunday. The Sharks and Blues were just turf-warring, with a jagged edge.Until you're out there you dont really realize the frustration level and the intensity, wing Ryane Clowe said. You dont want to feel like youre getting pushed around, you want to push back. Its a fine line. And skill guys, too, are getting feisty. I like it.If guys are fighting each other, I dont see that as a lack of respect. But last night, when a guy sucker-punches you, thats not something Id do. But I think for the most part, respect among players is there. The only thing is, sometimes youre not thinking straight when your bloods boiling.As for adjustments to change the nature of the series, McLellan was coy (maybe a moment for Jim Vandermeer?), and St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said he would keep Brian Elliott in goal, though much of that had to do with Jaroslav Halaks injury preventing him from making the trip west. Jake Allen, who warmed up with the team when Elliott looked questionable before Game 1.But the series has probably had its worst moment. Well, until Monday.

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.