Sharks

Sharks can't find their legs in another loss to Blues

Sharks can't find their legs in another loss to Blues

SAN JOSE – Playing their seventh game in 12 days against a team fighting for its playoff life was too much for the Sharks to handle on Thursday at SAP Center in a 4-1 Blues win.

Throughout the game, evidence piled up that the home team didn’t have its legs. Forwards weren’t supporting the defensemen on breakouts or through the neutral zone, the forecheck was ineffective, shots were getting blocked, and the rare ones that got through were easily cleared away from dangerous scoring areas.

Both Logan Couture and coach Pete DeBoer both indicated that the team might have hit a wall, for at least one night.

“They played well defensively, but for us, from looking at the game from the bench, I thought we looked tired,” Couture said. “I thought we looked slow, sluggish. We just didn’t have any jump up front. So, I think a lot of it was on us.”

DeBoer said: “They came in here desperate and they were really solid, and we weren’t. We’ve got to do more to help ourselves. I don’t know the reason. Is it fatigue? I don’t know. We’ll look at the tape and come up with some answers.”

These kinds of nights are bound to happen at points throughout the season as every team deals with the condensed schedule, right?

“Unfortunately, yeah, I think so,” Couture said. “This month is pretty nuts. But, every team is going through it this year. We need to find a way to be better. Tonight, we weren’t.”

It’s not like the Blues should have been any more energized, however. They were playing the second of a back-to-back, and third in California in four nights as they continue a five-game road trip.

But they’re at a different stage in their season. The Blues are trying to hold on to the final wild card spot, and may feel like they have something to prove after changing coaches six weeks ago and trading away key defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk to Washington.

Sharks forwards combined for just seven of the team’s 20 shots on goal, a good example of how hard the Blues were working to prevent San Jose from getting any good looks.

“If we did get a shot [through], they got to it probably a little quicker,” Joe Pavelski said. “It was kind of one and done. We weren’t probably on the inside enough. It’s hard to say. ... Obviously, that’s not us, we’ve got a lot better than that.”

Couture said: “The biggest thing tonight was we didn’t forecheck well, we didn’t sustain any pressure in their zone.”

The Sharks’ only goal was a lucky one, as Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s attempted pass deflected in off of Carl Gunnarsson’s skate in the first period to tie the game at 1-1. 

St. Louis got a goal from Scottie Upshall just prior to that to open the scoring, thanks to a sloppy pass from Brent Burns that went right to the Blues’ forward, another from Zach Sanford on a rebound off the end wall that held up as the game-winner, and two from Vladimir Tarasenko, on the power play and into an empty net.

Despite the loss, the Sharks will have a chance to finish off their season-long six-game homestand with eight of a possible 12 points if they can beat the Ducks on Saturday.

Friday will be a complete day off, and by the look of Thursday’s game, they could use it.

Paul Martin said: “Saturday will be a big game, obviously. Anaheim, and a lot at stake. I think after tonight’s performance we’re going to want to make sure that we tighten things up and have a better effort, and fix some things we should be able to correct.”

“Get rested tomorrow, and get our legs back and have some jump and force [the Ducks] to play in their end,” Couture said.

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.

Sharks fall to Bruins for second straight loss

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Sharks fall to Bruins for second straight loss

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Anton Khudobin stopped 36 shots to lead the Boston Bruins to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

Peter CehlarikJake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen scored to help the Bruins get their second straight win after a four-game skid (0-3-1). Boston had totaled nine goals in its previous five games, scoring more than two for just the second time in nine November games.

Khudobin remained unbeaten in regulation (5-0-2) and improved to 4-1 with a 0.99 goals-against average in five games against the Sharks.

Timo Meier scored and Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves for the Sharks, one of the lowest scoring teams in the league. San Jose has been held to two of fewer goals in five of their seven games this month.

Meier gave the Sharks, losers of two straight following wins in six of seven, a short-lived 1-0 lead after tapping in a rebound 4:50 into the game. Daniel O'Regan, making his season debut, won the puck behind the net and skated around to take the shot that bounced to Meier. It was O'Regan's first career assist and second career point.

Cehlarik, in his 14th game, scored his first career goal about 1 1/2 minutes later to tie it for the Bruins.

Boston took the lead on DeBrusk's goal with 9:14 left in the first. Charlie McAvoy cleared a puck in his zone that DeBrusk chased down and easily beat Dell 1-on-1.

Heinen made it 3-1 with 5:51 left in the third. Kevan Miller skated down the ice, drawing all the attention on the right side. He passed across the crease, from where Heinen tapped it in.

The Sharks had a goal negated for the second straight game, this one two minutes in.

NOTES: Sharks F Danny O'Regan was recalled before the game. He's the leading scorer for the Barracuda of the AHL. ... The Sharks have had three consecutive goals reversed after challenges dating to Thursday's game against the Florida Panthers. ... Sharks F Joel Ward has recorded points in six of his last eight games. ... DeBrusk, who assisted on Cehlarik's goal, recorded his first multi-point game since Oct. 14, a span of 14 games.

UP NEXT

Bruins: At the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night.

Sharks: Host the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night.