Sharks

Sharks can't turn it on and off at will anymore

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Sharks can't turn it on and off at will anymore

Darryl Sutter, who once roamed the halls at La Pavillon du HP, was asked what he hoped for from Sundays Dallas-Calgary, and his joking response was a perfectly sensible, Can they both get nothing?And because he could only be wrong, he was totally so. Dallas won, 3-2, so the Stars got two, and the Flames got one part of the NHLs unbearably flawed system of reward and punishment.But if he wanted zero, he could have found it in a familiar place.San Jose.
The Sharks are now nested in eighth place, a blade away from ninth, and on one of their occasional long-term walkabouts. Theyve lost nine of their last 12, are faced with one of those dance-or-get-off-the-floor moment, and their head coach may not be back in time for their next road trip.RELATED: NHL conference standings
Now thats pretty damned zero-esque.The problem of the Sharks has been diagnosed many ways by many folks, but it really boils down to this. They are playing as a sixth-to-eighth-place team playing sixth-to-eighth-place hockey good enough for the playoffs, but not good enough to make a deep run. You may cite injuries as the reason if you wish, but Bill Parcells wasnt lying when he said You are what the standings say you are. Neither was former Sharks coach Kevin Constantine when he said, Potential is synonymous with getting your ass kicked.The sentiment is the same. The winning and the losing is all the required data. But if you must know, the Sharks are where they are at because they still think they are what they are not a team that can turn it on and off at will.It is instructive that they just finished losing at home to St. Louis, which whether you like it or not is a better team than San Jose. The Blues score first, and then they watch you slowly choke on their game. Its so very Ken Hitchcock, which is why he will be a Hall of Fame coach when he decides to stop coaching.RELATED: Sharks sluggish in 3-1 loss to Blues
Losing to the Blues is not a shame for this team, but it was regarded as such because the Blues took San Joses skill away, and the only way to combat that is to out-ugly the game. When San Jose grinds, it wins. When San Jose wants to fly up and down without a care in the world, it doesnt.And because you all like numbers this early in the morning, another one. St. Louis is 33-0 when it scores three goals or more. Thats a team with a very good clampdown rate. It isnt the be-all and end-all Los Angeles, currently not a playoff team, is 22-2 but it matters.The Sharks, on the other hand, are a sad 24-11 when scoring three. only one team either in or within two games of a playoff spot, has a worse record, and thats Winnipeg, which is 21-11.In short, in the race to three, the Sharks get there as often as anyone, but often make the game a race to four or five, which doesnt work nearly so well.The point, as though you never thought we would get to it, is that San Jose can score (13th in the league, which is meh but tolerable), and it can defend (seventh in goals against, which is good), but it does not do both at the same time often enough to be a top-caliber team.It is as if the Sharks struggle with who they are on a nightly basis. Can they run up and down with the young Turks of the league? Not consistently. Can they shut down a team with defense and puck control? Theyre better than most at all. Can they be both? Yes, if you like middle-of-the-pack hockey that is neither consistent nor satisfying.Thus, this isnt a talent issue, or a coaching issue, the two most common culprits cited by message board genii and chat-show experts. This is an image issue, as in, Who do they think they are? The evidence suggests they are a defensive team with grit and meanness, but their inner desires suggest a team that can go firehouse shinny with the best of them. They can do both, but they cant do them at the same time.And until they reconcile those two competing interests, they will be as they are. They can be more like the Blues, and position themselves for a playoff run, or they can be like the Jets and sweat out the final 18 games. But this isnt working, not the way they think it should, and we know this because they are what the standings say they are. The matter of what they intend to do with it is the story of the final quarter of the season.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Recovered from injuries, Joonas Donskoi returning to form just in time for Sharks

Joonas Donskoi’s first goal of the season all but sealed the Sharks’ 3-0 win over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

It was also a long time coming, too. The Finnish forward finished a chance for the first time in 28 regular season games, 33 if you include his goal-less postseason. He last scored on January 7, when Patrick Marleau was a Shark and San Jose still held a share of the Pacific Division lead.

He struggled mightily after that, largely due to injury. Donskoi separated his shoulder not once, but twice last season, and revealed to The Athletic this week that he also dealt with “foot issues.” He spent over a month on injured reserve and managed just three assists in his final 22 games as a result.

With health on his side, Donskoi’s returned to his rookie year form. Through six games, he's registered three points, all at even strength. That’s tied with Joe Pavelski for the team lead, despite the fact he’s played nearly four minutes less per game at even strength than the captain.

He’s done a lot in less ice time, scoring five-on-five points at a higher rate per 60 minutes than any player on the team, according to Natural Stat Trick. He’s done a lot against lesser competition, too, taking advantage of his assignments in Peter DeBoer’s bottom six forward group.

That’s an important development, given the disappearance of San Jose’s depth scoring last season. Only four Sharks forwards cracked 40 points last season, and one of them is in Toronto. Most damning, though, is that the same number managed to score 30 or more points last year. The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, by contrast, had eight forwards score 30 points in the regular season.

It’s still early in the season, but Donskoi’s underlying numbers indicate this level of play is built to last. His personal shooting percentage is below his career-high, and the Sharks are scoring on a reasonable 6.52% of their shots with Donskoi on the ice in five-on-five situations. That’s only half-a-percentage point higher than San Jose’s rate during Donskoi’s injury-riddled 2016-17.

Donskoi will undoubtedly hit some bumps in the road, but after struggling so much last season, it appears the 25-year-old is back on track. If the Sharks are to improve on last season, they desperately need depth scorers.

Thanks to Donskoi’s resurgence, they just might have found one.

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

Sharks win second straight, beat Devils to start road trip

BOX SCORE

NEWARK, N.J. — Martin Jones made 28 saves for his first shutout of the season and 16th overall in the San Jose Sharks' 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.

Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi scored and Justin Braun had two assists to help the Sharks open a five-game East Coast trip.

Keith Kinkaid, the top goalie for New Jersey with Cory Schneider on injured reserve, stopped 30 shots as the Devils' three-game winning streak came to an end.

The Devils couldn't muster a strong push in the later stages against the rested Sharks. It was New Jersey's second game two nights following a 5-4 overtime victory in Ottawa. And it showed against the Sharks, who played a solid road game, pressed their advantage and solidly supported Jones.

Karlsson scored the lone goal of the opening period at 14:11 on a close-in shot following a slick behind-the-net setup pass from Tomas Hertl.

The shots were 13 for each team in the evenly played period. The Devils came close on several occasions as former Shark Mirco Mueller and Blake Coleman both hit the crossbar and Jones robbed Drew Stafford on a dead-on drive from the slot.

Pavelski and Donskoi got second-period goals as the Sharks steadily tightened their grip on the game.

Pavelski tipped in Braun's point shot at 5:49. Joe Thornton got the second assist, his 1,395th point, to pass Luc Robitaille for 21st on the career list.

Donskoi backhanded a rebound shot with 1:10 left in the period in which the Sharks outshot the Devils 11-6.

The remaining drama centered on Jones' shutout bid.

NOTES: The Devils placed Schneider on injured reserve Friday with a lower-body injury and recalled Scott Wedgewood from Binghamton of the American Hockey League to serve as Kinkaid's backup. ... Mueller, a healthy scratch in three of the previous four games, returned for the Devils to face the Sharks, the team that drafted him in the first round, for the first time. He was dealt to New Jersey over the summer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Islanders on Saturday night.

Devils: Host Ottawa on Friday night.