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Sharks fall to 'soft' Rangers in road trip finale

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Sharks fall to 'soft' Rangers in road trip finale

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NEW YORK, NY -- It was a bittersweet finale for the Sharks at Madison Square Garden on Monday night, as they dropped the last of their six-game road trip to the Rangers, 5-2.The Sharks go home with 10 points out of a possible 12, which several players and the coach admitted they would have taken in a heartbeat two weeks ago.But their performance against the Rangers was their worst of the trip, and it was a game that they should have won fairly easily, if you believe the captain.To be honest with you, they were probably the softest team we played against on this road trip, said Joe Thornton. We played some good teams, and I think we probably should have beat these guys, to be honest with you.RELATED: Coaches respond to Thornton's jab

Thornton was probably being a little more blunt than usual. The Sharks and Rangers wont meet again this season, and his comment isnt going to show up on any bulletin boards in the newly renovated locker room at Madison Square Garden. Regardless, the Sharks didnt seem too happy with their game against the Rangers or Saturdays on Long Island when they beat the lowly Islanders in overtime, 3-2.Well be thinking about this game and the Islanders game. We havent been nearly good enough, said Joe Pavelski, who had a goal and an assist. We were able to find a way on the Island, and this team we battled back, and then we let a few things go.Pavelski is referring to the Sharks erasing an early 2-0 deficit before they surrendered three unanswered goals to New York. He himself put San Jose on the board when he put in the rebound of a shot off of the post by Doug Murray late in the first period, and Logan Couture rocketed a one-timer past Martin Biron at 11:03 of the second to tie it at 2-2.A delay of game call on Colin White less than a minute after Coutures goal led to the first of two goals by the Rangers Ryan Callahan. New York regained momentum when the Rangers captain whacked in a perfect pass through the slot by Erik Christensen that somehow got through Murray at the 14-minute mark. It was officially an even strength goal, although White was just stepping out of the box at the time.White explained what happened on his penalty.I just swatted at it, tried to bump it by Brandon Dubinsky, and it ended up going over the glass, he said.That was the turning point, as the Sharks struggled with their penalty kill all night. They have allowed at least one power play goal in four straight games, but it was some of the penalties themselves that could have been avoided. Along with Whites, there were two others that could be considered careless: a too-many-men call at 2:17 of the first period, and a Dan Boyle high stick at 4:29 of the third. We just have to stay out of the penalty box. The penalties we were taking were just ones that are definitely avoidable, said Thornton. When your penalty kill is not going good and you take some sloppy penalties, its definitely tough to kill.Todd McLellan didnt want to pin the loss on special teams, even though the Sharks gave up essentially two power play goals and were 0-for-3 on the man advantage.Lets look at it from a whole, he said. We werent a very good team tonight. When youre not doing it five-on-five, the odds of you doing it on special teams isnt very good.Two minutes and 42 seconds after Callahan made it 3-2, Artem Anisimovs backhanded water bottle goal over the short side shoulder of Antti Niemi gave New York its two-goal lead back. I should have been further out to challenge more. I was a little bit too deep, said Niemi. Good backhander on the roof, it surprised me a little bit.The Rangers werent done, when Brad Richards fired one towards Niemi that hit the goaltender squarely in the chest. It squirted to Callahan, who tapped it in while falling to the ice at 19:12 of the second for a backbreaking goal.Im not overly pleased with what we threw out on the ice. Were a better team than that, individually and collectively, and its a little bit disappointing, said McLellan.Despite the loss, the Sharks trip as a whole has to be considered a successful one. When they left San Jose, they were just 1-3 and some of their top players were not finishing their numerous chances.They come home as winners of five out of six, with their key forwards all contributing. Pavelski is leading the way with 13 points, while riding a six-game point streak. Couture also has at least one point in six straight.Leaving San Jose the way we did, if somebody said you could come home with 10 points, wed be ecstatic with that, especially in some of the buildings and teams we played against, said McLellan.The hurdle now is that the Sharks return home on a losing note, and will face one of the best teams in the league on Thursday when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit HP Pavilion.Well have this bad taste in our mouth and well carry it with us the rest of the week, said the head coach.Odds and ends: Patrick Marleaus point-streak ended at four games. Ryane Clowe and Brandon Prust dropped the gloves for an extended bout just seven second after the opening faceoff. Neither played landed any significant blows, though. Jim Vandermeer, Benn Ferreiro and Justin Braun were scratched for San Jose. Crazy coincidence of the night: Faceoffs (29), hits (26) and missed shots (12) were all exactly even. The Rangers outshot the Sharks, though, 31-26. Biron started just his second game of the season, and the Rangers earned their first home win in three tries.

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out

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USATSI

Young Sharks fitting in, not neccessarily standing out

 

The message for the San Jose Sharks’ prospects was quite clear this offseason.

After general manager opted not to re-sign Patrick Marleau, or sign any free agents of consequence, it was readily apparent the Sharks would need to rely on their young players to fill any holes.

Before the quarter mark of the season, that youth movement is underway. Five first or second-year players will suit up at SAP Center Monday night against Anaheim. 

Partially, the infusion is due to injury, as Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson, and Paul Martin are all on the mend. But as the season wears on, the young players’ presence is becoming a necessity. 

Joakim Ryan looks like a natural fit alongside Brent Burns, and the Sharks are a decidedly better puck possession team with him on the ice than when he’s not. Tim Heed leads Sharks defensemen in scoring, and Danny O’Regan assisted San Jose’s lone goal in his season debut on Saturday. 

That assist set up the goal that ended Timo Meier’s drought, and he looks primed to break out: he’s third on the team in five-on-five shots despite playing the ninth-fewest five-on-five minutes this season, according to Corsica Hockey.  Kevin Labanc’s cooled off since his scorching start, but is still tied for sixth on the team in scoring and skated on the top line at Monday’s morning skate, according to the Bay Area News Group’s Curtis Pashelka.

There’s still room for improvement, of course. Labanc and Meier could stand to score more, but the same can be said about most everyone else. Ryan’s made his fair share of mistakes, but Burns has struggled plenty of times alongside him, too. 

So the young players are fitting in, even if all of them aren’t necessarily standing out. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. 

Meier’s the only first-round pick of the lot, but he’s also only been able to legally buy a beer for a month. Ryan and Heed have made the best adjustment, in no small part because they’re the oldest (24 and 26, respectively) of the Barracuda call-ups, and thus have the most professional experience. 

Of course, fitting in isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is, however, far from ideal, when that’s what many other players on the roster are doing. 

Having all of their young players stand out is what will ultimately make the Sharks stand out from the rest of the pack. It hasn’t quite happened yet, and San Jose’s one of 22 teams separated by six points or fewer. 

And if it doesn’t, the middle of the pack is where the Sharks will remain.

 

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

Bad offense, not bad officiating, is main culprit for Sharks' skid

For just the second time this season, the San Jose Sharks have lost consecutive games.

It’s the first time since the club opened the season 0-2, and were outscored 9-4. San Jose played much better in Thursday’s loss to Florida and Saturday’s defeat at the hands of Boston than they did to start the campaign, but have now been on the wrong side of four goal reviews.

The Sharks have lost each of the last two games by two goals, so there’s an understandable temptation to chalk these losses up to questionable officiating. Yet even if you disregard the notion that the officials got each call right (which they did), it’s one that must be resisted.

Their actual lack of offense, not a perceived lack of good officiating, is the main culprit behind the losing streak.

Timo Meier’s goal on Saturday stands as San Jose’s lone tally on this three-game homestand. It’s not for a lack of trying: The Sharks pumped 72 shots on net in the last two games, but could not solve Roberto Luongo or Anton Khudobin.

You can blame the officiating in San Jose’s last two losses all you want, but a good offensive team would have converted subsequent chances to make up for the goals taken off the board. The Sharks have not been a good offensive team this season, and could not make up for it.

San Jose’s inability to finish chances has been their main weakness all season, but they were still able to win games thanks to their defense and goaltending. The latter’s lapsed at times over the last two games, and the former let them down on Saturday when Aaron Dell allowed three goals on only 20 shots.

But that, as well as the discussion around the recent officiating, only serves to mask the Sharks’ real issue. San Jose just simply cannot score.

They’ve only scored on 7.41 percent of their shots this season, according to Natural Stat Trick, which is the third-worst rate in the league. There’s too much talent on the roster to expect that to continue all season, but the Sharks faltered offensively down the stretch last season, too.

Plus, they’re relying significantly on players on the wrong side of 30. Brent Burns, 32, hasn’t scored a goal, and Joe Pavelski, 33, is on pace to score fewer than 20 goals.

He hasn’t failed to reach that mark in a decade. At some point, it must be asked: are the Sharks just unlucky, or is age catching up to their star players?

The answer is probably a bit of both. How much of a role either factor has played is up for debate, but that either has led to San Jose’s failure to score goals is not.

Poor officiating is easier to diagnose than a poor offense, but it’s the latter, not the former, that’s responsible for the Sharks’ most recent skid.