Sharks-Caps: What to watch for


Sharks-Caps: What to watch for

Programming Note: Catch NHL Live at 4 p.m. followed by the Sharks vs. Washington Capitals at 4:30 p.m., tonight on NBC Sports Network!

WASHINGTON, DC The Sharks road trip began with a thud on Sunday night in St. Louis with a 3-0 loss to the Blues. They play game two of the nine-game trip right away, tonight in Washington.In direct contrast to previous seasons, San Jose has struggled away from HP Pavilion this year, losing as many as it has won (12-8-4). The Capitals have been downright miserable on the road, including a 3-2 loss in New York on Sunday, but are 19-7-2 in one of the louder buildings in the NHL the Verizon Center.
Thomas Greiss, who figures to get more playing time as the Sharks have three back-to-backs on this road trip alone, will start in net opposing Washingtons Michal Neuvirth.The Sharks are 4-2-1 in the second half of back-to-backs this season.RELATED: Sharks scheduleresults
Inconsistency since the break: The Sharks looked like they might be hitting their stride immediately following the All-Star break, with convincing wins over Columbus and Dallas. Since then, theyve dropped three of four in regulation and their lead in the Pacific Division is down to a single point over Los Angeles (albeit with four games in hand).The Sharks would love to put Sundays loss in St. Louis behind them immediately, and tonights game against the Caps gives them that opportunity. One aspect of their game that was absent against the Blues was the power play, which was 10-for-22 in the previous eight games, scoring at least once in seven of those.The Capitals own the 22nd ranked penalty kill in the league at 81.0 percent, but its 12th in the NHL at home (85.2 percent).One positive that the Sharks can take from the loss to the Blues is that they were strong defensively five-on-five. St. Louis scored a pair of goals with a two-man advantage and an empty net marker late.More on the goalies: Greiss has never faced the Capitals in his career, as it was Antti Niemi in net on Jan. 7 when the Sharks claimed a 5-2 win over Washington at HP Pavilion. His number this season are outstanding with a 7-4-1 record, 1.98 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.Neuvirth, who took the loss at Madison Square Garden yesterday, will make his second straight start as Tomas Vokoun is recovering from the flu. The young netminder is not having a very good year, with a GAA of 3.07 and SP of .894.Against the Sharks, hes even worse, with 0-3-0 record, 3.37 GAA and .897 SP.Caps on the outside: Washington, a preseason favorite once again to compete for the Stanley Cup, sits in ninth place in the Eastern Conference. Thats one point out of a playoff spot, and four points behind the Southwest Division-leading Florida Panthers.Injuries to key players like Mike Green (sports hernia) and Nicklas Backstrom (concussion) have not helped, and neither is ready to return to the lineup yet. Alex Ovechkin leads the Capitals in scoring but is having another decidedly average season, by his standards. In fact, Ovechkin and Logan Couture have the same exact stat line with 23 goals and 21 assists each. Couture is a 8, while Ovechkin is a -6.Odds and ends: Alex Semin has three goals and three assists in his last five games. Joe Thornton has two goals and five assists in the last five games Logan Couture, who had an eight-game scoring streak snapped last night, has five goals and seven assists in his last nine games.

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are


Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens


Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens


SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.


Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.