Sharks

Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

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Sharks-Blues: What to watch for

ST. LOUIS The Sharks and Blues faced each other four times in the regular season, but the first period of Thursdays Game 1 at Scottrade Center still resembled two clubs feeling each other out a bit.

That will likely change in Game 2. The Blues cant afford to drop both of their home games before it shifts back to a raucous HP Pavilion for games three and four, and there is little doubt that will show early on. San Jose won Game 1 in double-overtime, 3-2.

We know theyll be better, so we have to be better as well, Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. Well have to match their intensity.

Todd McLellan would like to see his team match and overtake the Blues initial charge and energy.

I expect San Jose to come full bore. Thats what I expect from our group, McLellan said. I will say this they will have a push and they will come out hard. Theyre proud, theyre well coached, theyre a good hockey team. We have to expect that from them.

But, I want us to push. I want us to be the team that plays the first five or seven minutes in the other teams zone. Win faceoffs, and go to work. Thats what Id like to see from our group.

Blues changes: St. Louis will make three changes to its lineup from Game 1. In are forwards Matt DAgostini and B.J. Crombeen, and defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo. Chris Stewart, Ryan Reaves and Kent Huskins will sit.

San Jose doesnt expect the Blues game to change all that much even with the changes.

Vlasic said: Whoever replaces them is going to do the same thing. Theyre changing things up, theyll play the same way.

San Joses lineup isnt expected to change from Thursdays Game 1. Antti Niemi will face Jaroslav Halak in net.
Matching lines: The Sharks got a key goal from their third line on Thursday, when Andrew Desjardins marker tied it late in the third period. The top lines for each club essentially cancelled each other out, as Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Patrick Marleau went scoreless while skating primarily against the David Perron, T.J. Oshie and David Backes trio which was also without a point.

McLellan didnt seem to mind that three of his top scorers didnt generate much offensively. They were, after all, effective on the other side of the puck.

When we went through our scoring chances for and against each line. Jumbos line didnt give up much, which was good, McLellan said. To play against that Backes-Perron-Oshie line is a job well done, also. Theyre very dynamic, quick, and do a lot of good things.

Perron, perhaps the Blues most dangerous threat, knows his line has to generate additional offense, too.

I thought we played a pretty good game last game but it was not enough, Perron said. We just need more, its as simple as that.

If the games come down to the bottom two lines needing to get on the board, it could be a huge advantage for San Jose, which has found a pair of effective combinations.

They have a speed element to them, and a bit of a grit element to them, as well, McLellan said of Desjardins, Tommy Wingels, Daniel Winnik and TJ Galiardi, Dominic Moore and Torrey Mitchell.

This is the most comfortable weve been this season with lines three and four.

Searching for shots: The Sharks finished the regular season with the second-most shots on goal per game (33.8), but are averaging just 27.6 per game in the five against St. Louis (including Game 1, which went into double-overtime).

St. Louis, of course, was the NHLs best defensive team all season long, finishing with a goals-against average under two (1.89).

San Jose would like to get a little more rubber to the net.

Theyre a tight defensive team. During the season we havent had many shots against them, and same thing in the playoffs, Vlasic said. Were going to have to get more pucks at them, and get more traffic.

Logan Couture said: Theyre got five in and around the net in their own zone at all times, and its tough to find holes. Weve got to find a way to get more pucks to the net.

Of course, in order to get more shots, the Sharks will have to spend more time in St. Louis zone. In Game 1 San Jose was hemmed in far too often, especially in the first overtime, although it played good team defense in minimizing the scoring chances against.

They forecheck hard, so theyll be in our zone quite often. We just want to keep everything to the outside, Vlasic said. I thought they were in our zone a lot more than we would have wanted to.

Wed enjoy it if it was spent more in their zone, Couture said. We spent a lot of time in our end last game, and thats obviously something wed like to change. Nemo was great for us. Were going to have to spend more time in their end tonight.

Odds and ends: Hitchcock on the Sharks: Since the series against Dallas, theyre dialed in. Theyll be a hard opponent for everybody, so we have to make sure were ready for this kind of competition. The Blues havent won a playoff game since April 12, 2004 against San Jose. Marty Havlat has 29 points in his last 29 playoff games. San Jose is 11-16 all-time in Game 2, including a 6-7 record after winning Game 1. The Sharks have won the first two road games of a playoff series just once: 1995 vs. Calgary in the first round.

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

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USATSI

Jones strong in goal, contains Coyotes to snap Sharks' three-game skid

BOX SCORE

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Logan Couture scored another goal for San Jose but was happier to see the Sharks' top line get untracked.

"We've got to get those guys going to help us offensively," Couture said of teammates Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski and Timo Meier after the Sharks' 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Wednesday night. "We need them to produce."

Thornton opened the scoring for the Sharks, with Pavelski adding an assist, the pair's first points since November 8, a span of five games.

"I think with Timo with us last game it brought us a lot of energy and a lot of chances," said Thornton, who scored his first goal since October 26. "Me and Pavs really like playing with him."

Joel Ward added an empty-net goal with 47.8 to play for the Sharks, who snapped a three-game losing streak.

"We got enough offense to win," said Sharks coach Peter DeBoer. "That's all that matters. I thought we played a good road game. I don't care how it looks."

Brendan Perlini scored with 7:37 to go, ruining Sharks goalie Martin Jones' bid for his second shutout of the season. The Coyotes saw their season-high three-game winning streak snapped and lost for the eighth time in nine home games (1-7-1).

Jones finished with 26 saves.

"We defended really well," said Jones, who was tested seriously only twice in the first two periods. "The first 10 minutes they had a lot of jump and were buzzing around our zone, but after that not as much."

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta left at 14:37 of the first period with an upper-body injury. Couture had collided with Raanta more than four minutes earlier, earning an interference penalty. Raanta skated to the bench during a stoppage in play and retreated to the locker room.

Scott Wedgewood took Raanta's place and was in net for only five seconds before the Sharks broke through. Wedgewood stopped Brent Burns' long shot from the top of the right circle even after it deflected off San Jose right wing Timo Meier. But the rebound kicked to the bottom of the right circle, where Thornton swept in and beat the goalie with a quick wrist shot.

"He (coach Rick Tocchet) looked at me and said go," Wedgewood. "I was like, alright. That's the tough part. Then shot, top, goal. That was tough."

San Jose made it 2-0 at 4:56 of the second, taking advantage of Arizona's inability to clear the zone while the Sharks were on a line change.

Justin Braun fought three Coyotes for the puck along the right boards before Joonas Donskoi swooped in, skated to the goal line then sent a pass across to Couture. Couture deked Wedgewood to the ice with a forehand fake, then scored on the backhand.

Perlini cut the lead to 2-1 when he redirected Derek Stepan's shot from the top of the right circle past Jones.

"We had some costly mistakes," Perlini said. "We got back within a goal but there were too many mistakes."

NOTES: Thornton has 22 goals and 83 points in 82 career games against Arizona. ... The Coyotes, who had played seven of their past eight on the road, opened a three-game homestand. ... Raanta made eight saves before leaving and has stopped 98 of the past 105 shots he's faced. ... Couture's goal was his first in five games.

UP NEXT:

Sharks: visit Las Vegas on Friday

Coyotes: host Los Angeles on Friday.

Don't blame Joakim Ryan for Brent Burns' struggles

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AP

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.