Sharks

Sharks hold off Wings for 4-2 win

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Sharks hold off Wings for 4-2 win

BOX SCORE

DETROIT, MI Whether the Sharks want to admit it or not, and even though its early in the year, theres still something special about beating the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena.

Against what is perhaps their biggest rival, the Sharks used a breakaway goal by Joe Thornton and then an empty-netter by the captain to claim a 4-2 victory in Detroit - their fourth straight regular season win here. The Sharks remain perfect on their road trip (4-0), and moved two games over .500 for the first time this season (5-3-0).

It was, in all probability, the biggest win of the young season.

Just because they are an elite team and they are competitive, coming in and getting a win does feel nice, said Patrick Marleau, who had a goal and an assist. That said, its always a hard-fought game.

Two good teams just going at it, said Thornton.

The names on the score sheet were familiar ones. Along with the pair from Thornton and one from Marleau, Ryane Clowe scored a power play goal in the second period for the Sharks. Detroits goals came from Henrik Zetterberg and Tomas Holmstrom.

In a game with two teams that are so narrowly matched, it often comes down to who makes the biggest blunder. Thats what happened to Detroit on Thorntons breakaway goal at 18:18 of the second period that broke a 2-2 tie.

Joe Pavelski played a wrap around pass around the boards from Marleau, and quickly wheeled and found Thornton all alone, streaking down the middle of the ice. Ian White, Dan Cleary and Nicklas Lidstrom all somehow lost track of the Thornton, and he fired it through the five hole of Jimmy Howard for what ended up being the game-winner.

Thornton actually turned around once he received the pass, probably out of shock that he could be left so alone.

I saw Pav grab the puck and I just bolted out, Thornton said. I was a zone and a half away from everybody. I dont know how I got that open.

McLellan joked that he was just happy to see one of the games best passers fire the puck.

It was nice to see Jumbo shoot it, he had nobody to pass to. But he did look behind him, which worried me, said the head coach.

Thornton and Marleau werent the only ones putting up multiple-point nights, though. Marty Havlat registered two more assists, and now has five in four games with the Sharks.

Hes the first San Jose player to register an assist in his first four games with the club since Thornton did it in eight straight in December 2005.

Marty had his best night as a Shark, in my opinion, said McLellan. Very slippery on the ice and very smart with the puck. Logan Couture and Clowe benefited from it. The trust between him and I, and him and his teammates, is growing on a daily basis.

Havlat helped the Sharks even the game in the second period after Zetterberg had given Detroit the lead in the first. On a Sharks power play, Marc-Edouard Vlasic threw the puck towards the slot, and it ended up bounding onto Havlats stick. Havlat quickly backhanded it to his left to an open Clowe, who easily fired in his third goal of the year at 2:10 of the middle frame.

San Jose took its first lead when Marleau outraced former teammate White to a puck that was tossed high into the zone off of the glass by Douglas Murray. Marleau was able to chip the bouncing puck past the glove hand of Jimmy Howard at 7:57 of the second.

Dougie got a play off the glass and out, and just a couple pretty fortunate bounces on my side, said Marleau. Unfortunately for Whitey, it bounced over his stick there. I was just able to get it for a split second and get a shot off.

Holmstrom re-tied the score with a deflection of a shot by Pavel Datsyuk at 14:44 of the second on the power play, but was all Detroit would get past Niemi, who finished with 30 saves.

The Sharks' goalie, making his fifth straight start, was a bit fortunate in the first period when an apparent goal by Holmstrom was waved off as the referee ruled incidental contact. That would have made it 2-0, Red Wings.

Niemi was asked if he thought the call was legitimate, or if he felt the Sharks caught a break.

A little of both, he said. Youve gotta be lucky when you get one waved off.

McLellan made a couple tweaks to his lineup, both before the game and during it. Colin White played after a two-game absence, paired with Justin Braun as the third defense pair.

Forwards Andrew Desjardins, Benn Ferreiro and Jamie McGinn did not see the ice at all in the third period, as McLellan shortened his bench. Michal Handzus skated between Brad Winchester and Andrew Murray for the second half of the game.

Halfway through the night I wasnt overly pleased with a couple guys, McLellan explained. I thought they could make a bigger difference in the game, and rewarded some others that were going well. It will allow us to make some changes Saturday, and look at getting some better efforts out of a few people.

That was the lone blemish on the night. For now, mark it down as another win for the Sharks in one of the best matchups the NHL has to offer.

We always enjoy playing them and they always enjoy playing us, and its been a pretty good rivalry over the years, said Thornton.

Odds and ends: Torrey Mitchell and Jim Vandermeer were the scratches for San Jose, but look for Mitchell to get back in the lineup on Saturday against the Islanders Niemi may get the night off on Saturday for the second of back-to-back games. Thomas Greiss has not played since a 4-2 loss to St. Louis on Oct. 15. The Sharks won just 20 of 54 faceoffs. San Jose was 1-for-3 on the power play, and 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.

The world’s most famous arena is a house of horrors for Sharks

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USATI

The world’s most famous arena is a house of horrors for Sharks

Whenever the NHL's schedule comes out, a trip to Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers is usually a highlight. A matchup against one of the league's biggest teams, in the country's biggest city, in a historic venue? That's a date worth circling.

If the San Jose Sharks circle it, it’s for entirely different reasons.

Throughout the entirety of the franchise’s 26-season existence, the Garden has been anything but welcoming. The Sharks have traveled to the world’s most famous arena 17 times, and have only skated off with a win four times. They didn’t even win a game there until October 19, 1999, in San Jose’s eighth appearance in the building.

Madison Square Garden has been “King” Henrik Lundqvist’s castle against the Sharks. The king in the castle is also the moat surrounding it: In four career appearances against San Jose at home, Lundqvist has only allowed four goals.

The Sharks haven’t been able to solve his squires, either, losing games to two of his most recent back-ups: Martin Biron, now on television, and Antti Raanta, now in Arizona. Lundqvist will likely start on Monday night, but if he doesn’t, this is probably the one instance where San Jose wouldn’t want to face Ondrej Pavelec, even though he’s never managed to eclipse a .920 save percentage in a season.

That’s because the team’s most recent appearances at the Garden have been among their worst. The Sharks have been shut out twice in their last four visits to Manhattan, and have only scored five goals over that span. They did manage to win one game, thanks to a Lundqvist-like shutout from then-goaltender Antti Niemi in 2014.  

Martin Jones, on the other hand, has been decidedly unlike Lundqvist. He’s allowed nine goals on 55 shots in two road starts against the original six franchise, good for an .837 save percentage. The skaters in front of him exactly helped Jones, either. The Sharks have played from behind in their last two trips to Madison Square Garden, failing to score first and trailing after the first two periods both times.

Those recent struggles are especially strange, given Peter DeBoer’s relative success in the building. He won big road games against the Rangers before assuming his role behind the Sharks’ bench, most notably two in the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals, when DeBoer’s Devils upset the top-seeded Rangers. Once you coach this team in that arena, though, all bets are off.

Somehow, in a month known for horror, there may be nothing scarier than the thought of the Sharks playing in Madison Square Garden.

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

Something smells fishy about Sharks' early success on power play

By many traditional measures, the Sharks’ power play is off to a strong start.

They’ve scored seven times on 30 opportunities, including once in Saturday’s 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders. That mark, 23.3%, would have been good enough for third in the league last season, and is nearly seven percent better than the Sharks were in 2016-17.

San Jose’s made some changes on the man advantage, and are getting a different look on their top power play unit with Tim Heed there instead of another forward. Second-year forward Kevin Labanc is playing a significant role on the second unit, operating as something of a focal point.

The puck’s found the net a lot for the Sharks on the power play, but a deeper look at the numbers reveals that success may be a house of cards.

According to Natural Stat Trick, San Jose ranks in the bottom third of the league in shots, shot attempts, and unblocked shot attempts per 60 minutes. Using those rates allow us to compare teams empirically, equalizing for the amount of time each team has spent on the power play. Those rates, by the way, are not very good.

And each of those are lower than last season, when the Sharks finished 25th in power play percentage. This season, the Sharks are converting more shots, despite attempting less.

It would be tempting to think San Jose can hang their helmets on higher shot quality, but they’ve struggled in that area, too. The Sharks finished just shy of the top ten in high danger chances per 60 minutes last season, but are in the bottom third of the league this season, according to Natural Stat Trick.

So the Sharks are shooting at a lower rate and generating chances at a lower rate than last season, when they had one of the league’s worst power plays, but are scoring at a much higher clip. They’ve converted on about 19% of their shots on the power play, almost doubling their conversion rate (10.5%) from a season ago.

If this doesn’t seem like a sustainable mix, that’s because it’s not. In a small sample size of seven games, the power play’s been good enough, but the Sharks can’t count on converting nearly a fifth of their power play opportunities if they continue to struggle generating shots and chances.

Of course, stranger things have happened in a hockey season, so it’s possible the Sharks can ride a sky-high shooting percentage all season long. Banking on that, however, would be foolhardy.