Sharks

Sharks demolished in Dallas to close out 2017

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AP

Sharks demolished in Dallas to close out 2017

BOX SCORE

DALLAS -- Ben Bishop is getting regular work, and he and the Dallas Stars have been playing some of their best hockey of the season.

Bishop made 26 saves in his fourth shutout of the season, Tyler Pitlick scored twice and the Stars beat the San Jose Sharks 6-0 on Sunday night.

Bishop's 23rd career shutout came in his seventh straight start. It was Dallas' fourth win in five games.

In the first two games of a six-game homestand, the Stars have outscored opponents 10-2. The first five games are all two days apart.

"We kind of had a real hard one there before this homestand, a lot of in-and-outs, so it's kind of nice to have this homestand," Bishop said. "We've done a good job so far. It's going to be kind of important to enjoy this one and obviously get some rest (Monday)."

Stars coach Ken Hitchcock said there are few breaks in the schedule.

"We've made a little bit of ground, and we've created no separation," he said. "This is the way it's going to be for the rest of the year. It doesn't seem like anybody's missing a beat right now, especially in the Central."

Dallas scored two goals in each period - by John Klingberg and Pitlick in the first, Stephen Johns and Tyler Seguin in the second and Devin Shore and Pitlick 50 seconds apart in the third.

"I thought this was Pitlick's strongest game," Hitchcock said. "He stayed determined on the puck."

San Jose starter Martin Jones had 18 saves in the first two periods before giving way to Aaron Dell, who stopped eight shots.

The Sharks' three-game winning streak ended with their most lopsided loss this season. The poor road performance came as San Jose began a stretch with 14 of 18 games on the road.

"I don't look at this like we've been a poor road team. This was a poor game tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "I don't think it's a symptom of something bigger. It was just a bad night."

Klingberg added an assist on Seguin's 19th goal of the season, a power-play score. Radek Faksa tied his career high with three assists and Mattias Janmark assisted twice.

The Stars had the game's first six shots on goal and cashed in on their seventh. Janmark circled behind the net and passed to Klingberg near the right faceoff dot. He sent a shot past Jones at 6:19, and then Pitlick gave Dallas a 2-0 lead at 15:07.

Dallas had 17 shots, their most in the first period this season, to five for San Jose. The Sharks had a chance with a power play to begin the second, but Bishop stopped the first six shots on goal. Logan Couture sent one shot into the right goalpost and another into the goalie's pads.

"We didn't play very well," Couture said. "Pretty simple. Left our goalies out to dry. I feel bad for those two. They battled and no one else did."

The teams were skating 4-on-4 when Johns scored at 4:25 of the second.

Seguin skated in front to deflect Klingberg's shot into the top of the net on the power play.

NOTES: Dallas RW Alexander Radulov left in the second period with an upper-body injury from a hit by Sharks D Justin Braun. ... The Stars have scored a power-play goal in six straight games, following a stretch of 14 games with only two goals with a man advantage. ... Benn has seven points (three goals, four assists) during a six-game point streak. ... Couture, who leads San Jose with 15 goals, returned after missing four games because of a concussion. ... The Sharks had not allowed more than five goals in a game before Sunday. ... The six-goal win was Dallas' largest margin of victory. ... Pitlick has seven goals this season. Three times he has scored twice in a game.

UP NEXT

Sharks: Play the second game on a five-game trip on Tuesday night at Montreal.

Stars: Host Columbus on Tuesday night.

DeBoer: Now healthy, series-clincher Hertl can reach 'another level' in playoffs

DeBoer: Now healthy, series-clincher Hertl can reach 'another level' in playoffs

SAN JOSE -- Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer thought Tomas Hertl’s series-clinching goal on Wednesday, in the midst of the best season of his five-year NHL career, was a long time coming.

“He would’ve gotten to this level earlier than this year if he had been healthy,” DeBoer said after San Jose swept the Anaheim Ducks out of the first round with a 2-1 win in Game 4. “He’s had some really bad luck with some really bad injuries. He’s healthy and he’s playing at another level, and I still think he’s got another level he can get to, too.”

Hertl deflected Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s point shot through Ducks goaltender John Gibson’s legs for the game-winner with 10:51 remaining in regulation, and just over a minute after Anaheim tied the game. As NBC Sports California statistician Darin Stephens noted, it was the Czech forward’s second career game-winning goal in the postseason.

Since entering the league in 2013-14, Hertl’s tied for 37th with 22 game-winning goals in the regular season and playoffs, according to STATS. Only Joe Pavelski (32) and Logan Couture (23) have more during that time, and Hertl’s played 85 fewer games than Pavelski, and 26 than Couture.

Were it not for recurring right knee issues that caused him to miss 45 games his rookie season, cut short his Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and forced him to miss another 33 last year, he’d almost certainly be higher on the list.

Five-on-five, only 11 players that played a minimum of 500 minutes have generated expected goals (xG), or shot attempts that account for quality, at a higher rate than Hertl (0.95 xG/60, according to Corsica Hockey) since he entered the league. If you include the postseason, he jumps into the top 10.

DeBoer’s right to think Hertl can reach another level, too. The 25-year-old’s 21 non-empty-net goals matched a career-high, no player underperformed their expected goals total across all situations more than Hertl, as Sean Tierney of HockeyGraphs and The Athletic pointed out.

With health back on Hertl’s side, DeBoer doesn’t see this as the young forward finally maximizing his potential. Instead, the head coach thinks Hertl is just beginning to reach it.

“This wasn’t about anyone pushing him…[He’s] been healthy and he’s starting to find the level that he’s capable of being at, I think, for a long career.”

Five things to ponder when thinking about the Sharks' sweep of the Ducks

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AP

Five things to ponder when thinking about the Sharks' sweep of the Ducks

Round 1 can be summed up this simply for San Jose: The Sharks generally got better as the series progressed, while the Ducks further unraveled with each outing.

The biggest exception to that was Game 4, where in spurts, you could see Anaheim start to play the style they should have presented all along.  Skating the puck into the offensive zone instead dumping, getting possession established behind San Jose’s cage to set up scoring opportunities in front of Martin Jones, and most importantly - showing defensive discipline and taking far less penalties.  

But as the saying goes, “too little, too late." San Jose answered with a clutch coach’s challenge, and series clinching goal from Tomas Hertl.

In true Las Vegas fashion, I’m doubling down on my motto entering the playoffs: Expect the unexpected.

1) Martin Jones stopped 128 of the 132 Ducks shots he faced.

I could conclude my observations right here.  When you allow just four goals in four games, you’re probably getting three wins at the minimum.  However with the Sharks offense pouring in 16 goals over 12 periods, there was plenty of “run support” for Jones.  I’ll take it a step further and remind you that two of the four Ducks scores came on the power play, and I generally let the goalie off the hook for those.  Hard to pick an MVP with such wide-ranging contributions in this first round, but nobody would deny it going to Martin.

2) San Jose’s 4th line was the x-factor in the series, and Marcus Sorensen was a standout.

The smallest player on the Sharks ended the round on a three-game goal streak.  Whether it was his early equalizer in Game 2, his momentum gaining breakaway finisher in Game 3, or his tone-setting conversion in Game 4 — Sorensen scored some incredibly timely tallies for the club.  And it wasn’t just him, there were important contributions from Eric Fehr and Melker Karlsson over the course of the series, too.  Pete DeBoer has found incredible chemistry with his forward lines into the first few playoff games, top to bottom.  And this established depth is something we remember being very critical to that Cup Final run of two seasons ago.

3) The Sharks coaching staff should be credited with a goal in Game 4.

It was a rough second period for the Sharks.  They got out-shot 14-7, and took three minor penalties.  The last one came with a minute left, meaning that Anaheim would get about 60 seconds of advantage to end the period, then another 60 seconds with fresh legs and fresh ice to begin the 3rd period.  With time ticking down before 2nd intermission, Ryan Getzlaf buried a puck about one second after the clock had expired.  No goal.  Then at :27 seconds into the 3rd period, Rickard Rakell blasted one past Jones, except - Pete DeBoer challenged Anaheim’s entry into the zone, which turned out to be offside.  No goal again.  My math tells me preventing a goal is equally important to scoring one.  So in a 2-1 final score, the Sharks bench and coaching staff should be credited for catching what they saw.  And making the bold move (risking a minor penalty) to issue the challenge.

4) Pacing for the playoff marathon, not a sprint.

The best thing about San Jose sweeping is not even handing four straight losses to a SoCal rival.  Although wow, nobody is complaining about the bragging rights it brings.  It’s actually the efficiency of exerting yourself as few times as possible while advancing to the next round.  One thing we learned in the run of 2016, was the physical and mental toll an extra 24 games brough.  If it took San Jose 6 to eliminate Anaheim, that’s 6 more periods of risk, wear, and tear.  When you put yourself in position to end rounds quickly, you MUST capitalize.  Playing into mid-June becomes a battle against physical attrition.  Might as well play your cards well early.

5) Who is the underdog between San Jose and Las Vegas in Round 2?

Here’s a fancy fact: This will be (only) the eighth time that two teams have met in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while each sweeping their prior opponent to advance.  On the Sharks side, it’s a group that has generally been together for years of playoff runs.  They have tons of experiences, both wining and losing as a group.  A total of 89 playoff games since 2010 alone.  With Las Vegas, you have many individuals with postseason experiences, but, certainly nowhere near the same level of experience (four games) together under the Golden Knights banner.  Naturally, you’d have to expect the pundits to favor the Golden Knights.  They won the division.  They are a storybook team.  Who are the Sharks to interfere with inaugural-season-destiny?   Pete DeBoer said he knew they “weren’t a mirage” after playing them head-to-head the day after Thanksgiving.  But if you’re the Sharks, gladly give the title of “favorites” to Las Vegas, and all the pressure it comes with.