Sharks

Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for

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Sharks-Red Wings: What to watch for

SAN JOSE The Detroit Red Wings werent very pleased after their 2-1 loss on Tuesday in St. Louis. The Sharks didnt like their mental approach to Saturdays 3-0 shutout loss to Phoenix.

One of them still wont be content after tonight, when the rival clubs meet for the second time this season and first at HP Pavilion.

Neither of us played the game we wanted to in our last outing, said Todd McLellan. Somebodys going to fix it tonight, and somebody wont.

One thing the Sharks would like to do, especially at home, is score the first goal. In eight home games this season, San Jose has jumped out to a 1-0 lead just twice. Overall, the Sharks are 5-0 when they open the scoring.

Saturdays loss to Phoenix was a good example why it's a focus for the Sharks. After taking an early lead, the Coyotes were able to clog up the neutral zone and not take as many chances offensively, while playing in front of a strong goaltender that plays the puck well in Mike Smith.

Something we need to work on is our starts, said Logan Couture. We find ourselves behind too often, especially here at home. Its a tough rink to play in for other teams, so we have to start getting the first goal.

The stats, maybe more this year than any other year, bear fruit to scoring first and playing with a lead, said McLellan. We saw the other day how a team can quickly get a one or two goal lead, clamp down and play good defensively. The goaltending is superior, and its hard to come back in that situation.

The Sharks were able to score first against the Red Wings on October 28 on a Ryane Clowe power play goal, when they beat Detroit at Joe Louis Arena, 4-2.

Keep Wings' PP frustrated: The Red Wings have not won a road game since Oct. 15, although, to be fair, they have played just four games away from home in that span.

Still, a win at raucous HP Pavilion could be just what they need to put their early road struggles behind them.

As a player you circle these games in your mind. You feel the rivalry, especially with these guys playing them the last two years in the playoffs and us beating them, said Couture. Im sure in that dressing room they really want to beat us, and the feeling is mutual.

One big reason the Red Wings have only won two of six road games is the power play. When they arent at Joe Louis Arena, they have converted just two of 24 chances with a man advantage. Thats tied for 28th in the NHL.

Overall, the Red Wings' power play is just 14.3 percent, or 21st in the league.

It will come to life, I just hope that happens later on in the week and not tonight, said McLellan.

Conversely, the Sharks much-maligned penalty kill has been better its last two outings, killing off three chances apiece against Phoenix on Saturday and Minnesota last Thursday.

According to Michal Handzus, the penalty-killers are succeeding due to more play as a unit and not as many breakdowns, he said.

Like McLellan, Handzus isnt looking at the Red Wings lackluster power play stats.

They are very dangerous, it doesnt really matter what happened before, he said. They have great players and two good units. We have to worry about ourselves. The last two games weve been better, and we want to build on that.
Defensive changes: As mentioned in an earlier Sharks Talk post, Jason Demers will be inserted back into the lineup in place of Justin Braun. Demers hasnt played since Oct. 31 in Madison Square Garden against the Rangers.

RELATED: Demers nervous, but ready to return

For the Red Wings, they are still dealing with a broken cheekbone injury to Ian White, who did not make the trip. The recently recalled Brendan Smith, all of 22 years old, will play in his first NHL game and hes had plenty of time to watch San Jose as an observer.

I really enjoy watching the Sharks. They are such a great team, said Smith. Just knowing a little more of their tendencies and stuff is going to help me defensively and offensively.

Hitting the reset button: The Sharks had plenty of time to stew over their loss against Phoenix on Saturday, but it also gave them a welcome break in the schedule with four days off between games.

A veteran like Dan Boyle, who had a game to forget against the Coyotes with a -3 rating and turnover leading directly to a goal against, was glad to get some practice time and some rest.

For me, it was a reset button, said Boyle. We went through a pretty good streak and then had a pretty bad game against Phoenix. It was time to press the reset button here and start over.

Odds and ends: Joe Thorntons two goals led the way in the 4-2 win in Detroit on Oct. 28. The Red Wings had won four straight before losing to the Blues on Tuesday, in what was the first of a four-game road trip. The Sharks conclude a six-game homestand tonight, and are 3-1-1 through the first five. Patrick Marleau has five points in the last three games. Along with White, the Red wings will be without Todd Bertuzzi, who is on IR with a sinus infection that has caused dizziness.

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Process there even if results aren't for Sharks early in new season

Saturday’s loss to the New York Islanders is one with which Sharks fans have become all too familiar.

The Sharks held a decided 41-23 edge on the shot count, but trailed 3-1 on the scoreboard. Since 2005, no team in the league has lost more games (59) in which they shot 35 or more times, and held their opponent to 25 or fewer shots.

No, your instincts haven’t deceived you over the Joe Thornton era: San Jose has lost a lot of games where they’ve otherwise outplayed their opponent. Of course, they’ve won plenty of those games too. More often than not, in fact, winning 72 of 131 times under those circumstances.

Frustration under those circumstances became readily apparent in the second period on Saturday, when Joe Pavelski broke his stick over Thomas Greiss’ net. The captain had plenty of reason to be unhappy, as his goalless drought to start the season has mirrored his team’s inability to finish at even strength.

So far this season, only Dallas and Montreal have scored on a lower percentage of their shots at even strength than San Jose, according to Natural Stat Trick. Both the Stars and Canadiens, unsurprisingly, are seventh in their respective divisions. The Sharks are sixth in the Pacific, thanks only to the still-winless Coyotes.

This early in the season, bad results can mask a strong process. They can’t finish, but the Sharks have been, statistically, one of the league’s best puck possession teams at even strength. That can happen over such a short stretch, but that’s easy to lose sight of when the team’s sitting in the division’s basement.

Right now, the Sharks just aren’t scoring enough at even strength, even as they’re playing well elsewhere. The power play’s begun to find an identity, particularly on the Kevin Labanc-led second unit. The penalty kill hasn’t allowed a goal since allowing three in the season opener, and have climbed all the way to 13th in the league.

If the Sharks continue to play this way, the goals, and wins, should come. They may not, of course, especially if Peter DeBoer struggles to find combinations that click for more than a game at a time. But eventually, the results should align with the process.

Saturday night was “one of those games” that have been surprisingly common in recent Sharks history, but it shouldn’t be chalked up as anything more than an amusing anomaly. Sometimes, one team is better, and still finds a way to lose.  

Sometimes, it truly is that simple.

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

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USATSI

Greiss strong in net as Islanders hand loss to Sharks

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Thomas Greiss guided the New York Islanders on a night when they played it a little bit too safe.

Greiss stopped 40 shots, Brock Nelson scored a tiebreaking goal in the second period and the New York Islanders rallied to beat the slumping San Jose Sharks 3-1 on Saturday.

The Islanders improved to 1-1 on their three-game, five-day West Coast trip. The Sharks are 1-3 on their season-opening five-game homestand.

Nelson made it 2-1 at 13:33 of the second period, capitalizing on an open look in front of the goal after Joshua Ho-Sang's pass from behind the net.

"After we got the lead we just kind of held on, we bent but we didn't break and we needed some big saves from Thomas," Islanders coach Doug Weight said.

"These teams, when they're down, they're gonna push. ... You don't want to sit back but I think it's human nature. We have to get it out of our heads. We want to play aggressive and we want to put the puck in good spots. We started making some shoddy decisions, our feet stopped moving for a while, but give (the Sharks) credit, they made a good push. Tommy was great."

The Sharks led after Kevin Labanc's power-play goal at 4:16 of the first. Labanc was in the left circle when he rebounded a deflection and fired a wrist shot that slipped through Greiss' pads.

The Islanders tied it when Anders Lee tipped one in at 17:02 of the first.

Cal Clutterbuck scored an empty-net goal at with 1:10 left in the game.

"It's nice, first road win of the year, a good bounce back," Nelson said, referencing a 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday.

"I thought we did some good things in Anaheim and weren't rewarded. It's nice to come out on top here."

The Islanders failed to score on three power plays. The Sharks penalty killing unit hasn't allowed a power-play goal in 12 chances over its last three games.

The Sharks had a short-handed scoring chance after Joakim Ryan was called for holding at 14:33 in the third period, when Greiss turned away Chris Tierney's shot in front of the goal.

Greiss survived relentless pressure in a third period in which the Sharks had 15 shots on goal.

"It felt like it was going to break, it just never did," Sharks center Joe Pavelski said. "A little bit of credit to Greisser over there, but with us, we've got to keep pushing and find a way.

"I thought we were going to tie it, but encouraging to see the way guys played for a second straight game here. Wanted a better result, for sure, but guys played hard."

NOTES: Islanders C Alan Quine (wrist) is with the team on its West Coast trip and has been practicing. He'll likely go to Bridgeport of the AHL on a conditioning assignment if he's ready when the team returns home on Monday. ... RW Clutterbuck (hip) was in Saturday's lineup after missing the last three games and C Jordan Eberle was on the ice a day after missing Friday's practice with an injury he suffered in practice the previous day. ... Sharks D Paul Martin missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. Coach Pete DeBoer said the injury is day-to-day.

UP NEXT

Islanders: At the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night.

Sharks: Host the Montreal Canadians on Tuesday night.