Sharks

Sharks profess sense of urgency

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Sharks profess sense of urgency

The answer to your most common question can be handled by Sharks assistant, Jay Woodcroft.

"I think our players fully understand where we're at," said Woodcroft who has co-commanded the team behind the bench for the last 3 games in the absence of head coach Todd McLellan.

It's a San Jose club that now has 18 contests left in the regular season, has fallen to 8th in the Western Conference standings, and has been unable to win two in a row for more than a month's time. The lack of consistent results has given Sharks players a clear-cut emotion:

"Urgency," Dan Boyle told me. "I think urgency. We're in a fight here; we're in a battle. It's going to be tough, the last 10 games, it's all Pacific teams in our division, and everyone's got a crack at this thing."

The standings are pretty easy for Sharks players to be updated on... since they are posted prominently inside the team's player lounges, both at HP Pavilion and the practice rink.

"Certainly if you look at the standings board in the Western Conference its real tight," Woodcroft admits. "That provides all the motivation our team needs."

We are obviously in a funk," Douglas Murray said after the team's most recent loss on Saturday night. "We need to get out of it. We have to work hard, it is the same old clich, but we just have to get it going.

Hard to think Logan Couture is a playoff veteran at just 22 years old, but he is in the home stretch of his third career postseason push.

"Nothing's guaranteed right now," Couture said. "Where we're at in the standings, two points behind Phoenix with a bunch of teams on our tail to make the playoffs. So we need to approach every game with the sense of urgency that we need to win."

Getting to the playoffs has become almost an assumed lock amongst San Jose faithful, as the Sharks have qualified each of the last seven seasons. However there remains a little less comfort in how their invitation to the postseason will play out this time around.

"It seemed like it was always the race for 1, 2 or 3," Ryane Clowe told me.

He has been a playoff participant each of his prior six seasons with the Sharks.

"Now it's the race to get in there. If we go on a run, we'll set ourselves up nice. But the important thing is that you dont want to wait until that last minute. We've got to put it together right now," says Clowe.

Antti Niemi, Colin White and Dan Boyle are the three Sharks who have previously hoisted the Stanley Cup before. Boyle has a specific mindset about this time of the season.

"The one thing you can control is your work ethic," Boyle told me. "Some nights the puck is not going to bounce in. But you can work, you can control that. With the talent we have in this locker room, I think if we work harder than other teams, we're going to win most nights. And that's the one thing we can alaways control."

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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.

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

Sharks come up short in New York despite Couture's hat trick

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK — Anders Lee had two goals and an assist to lead the New York Islanders to a 5-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night.

John Tavares had a goal and two assists, Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist, and Andrew Ladd also scored to help the Islanders win for the third time in four games. Thomas Greiss stopped 28 shots.

Logan Couture scored all three goals for the Sharks, completing the hat trick with 1:52 remaining to pull them within one. Aaron Dell finished with 18 saves.

Ladd's goal at 3:12 of the third period broke a 2-2 tie. Rookie Mathew Barzal created the scoring chance by taking the puck around the net and then setting up Ladd in the high slot for his second of the season.

Lee's second of the game and fifth of the season gave the Islanders a two-goal cushion with 8:13 remaining as he converted an odd-man rush.

Tavares sealed the win with an empty-netter with 55.4 seconds remaining and helped improve to 22-4-4 in their two-plus seasons at Barclays Center. Tavares points were his first since he had two goals and an assist Oct. 7 against Buffalo, ending a five-game drought.

The Sharks scored the game's opening goal at 6:26 of the second period on the power play. San Jose came away with the offensive draw and Couture scored from the slot, redirected Brent Burns' point shot past Greiss.

The lead lasted just over a minute as Nick Leddy worked his way to the back of the net and then quickly fed Lee for the tying goal.

The Islanders went ahead 58 seconds later after Joe Thornton made a costly turnover in his own end to give Bailey a point-blank chance. Bailey was able to sneak the puck with a backhander between his skates and past Dell to put New York ahead 2-1.

However, an impressive effort by Jannik Hansen to spin past Brock Nelson in the neutral zone led to a quick feed to Couture, who took a few strides and then fired a shot past Greiss to even the score once again.

NOTES: The Islanders held a special pregame ceremony to honor alumni of the organization who were in town for an Islanders Alumni Weekend. Among the players on the ice were Bobby Nystrom, Clark Gillies, Bryan Trottier and Ed Westfall. ... The Islanders scratched D Scott Mayfield, F Josh Ho-Sang and F Nikulay Kulemin. ... San Jose scratched F Joel Ward, F Barclay Goodrow and D Dylan Demelo. ... The Islanders honored Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie by playing music from the band during warmups. Downie passed away on Oct. 17 after succumbing to brain cancer.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the New York Rangers on Monday night.

Islanders: Host Arizona on Tuesday night.