Sharks responding well to adversity


Sharks responding well to adversity

SAN JOSE The Sharks have picked up a pair of wins in their last two games at what is the most important time of the season, but that doesnt mean theyve been perfect.

Of course, a flawless 60-minute game is hard to come by at any point in the year, and there are bound to be moments where things dont go the right way. Its how a team responds to that adversity that can define whether or not it wins or loses.

In the victories over Boston on Thursday and Phoenix on Saturday, the Sharks have not let mistakes or letdowns that end up in the back of their net get them down. On Thursday it was a late goal by Zdeno Chara that the Sharks brushed aside in winning, 2-1. Saturday's game against Phoenix featured a goal with half a second left in the first period to tie it, and then another early in the second to give the Coyotes the lead. Daniel Winnik re-tied it shortly after.

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Its a positive sign for the remaining seven games, and something that was missing during the teams 4-11-3 run from Feb. 4 to March 10.

Were finding ways to win games when a couple weeks ago we were finding ways to lose games. Thats changed, Logan Couture said on Sunday. You go through ups and downs in a period or entire games, but weve dealt with it better as of late.

Torrey Mitchell said: Theres been good responses at those times where weve been down, so thats been a plus lately.

Is that a reflection that the Sharks, 5-2-1 in their last eight games, are a more confident club from as recently as two weeks ago?

Possibly, Couture said. A lot of guys in this room have been through a lot in the playoffs and down the stretch. They know how to handle that, so I think that has something to do with it, as well.

When youre playing well and youre winning, it just feels like theres no doubt, Mitchell said. When we get down a goal or they score, we feel a little more confident like were going to come back as opposed to being in a slump and thinking here we go again.

As Couture alluded to, one thing the Sharks have in spades is veteran experience. Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and others have seen just about everything there is to see in their years as professionals.

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That was on display after the first period against the Coyotes, after several mental lapses led to a game-tying goal that could easily have taken the wind from the Sharks sails. The early goal in the second giving the Coyotes a 3-2 lead only compounded the potential problem.

But, San Jose answered back with Winnik's goal and went on to collect a shootout victory.

When we walked off after the first period, youre always concerned about where the team is going to go when we start again, Todd McLellan said. I liked what our leadership group was saying. You could hear them on the way in. It was almost like the coaches didnt need to go in a lot and talk to them, they were taking care of it and saying the right things.

"Now, we go out and get scored on right away and then youre really worried, but we still found a way to respond, and that was a good thing.

Its a trait that will be necessary in the final two weeks of the season, starting with Monday night against Colorado.

McLellan said: It probably is about feeling better about yourself, and knowing that you can recover from those mistakes. Really, right now, we have no choice but to recover. We cant wallow in pity and feel sorry for ourselves when something doesnt go our way. Weve got to respond immediately and get back at it.

Having a short memory isnt just for losses or bad goals, either, Mitchell pointed out.

When it goes wrong you want to forget about it, but even when you win a game we need to turn it around and focus on Colorado now, he said. Every game is a playoff game; its do or die for us pretty much. You need to turn the page as soon as you wake up the next morning.

Odds and ends: The Sharks held an optional skate on Sunday at Sharks Ice. The players that did not skate were Brent Burns, Dan Boyle, Marty Havlat, Dominic Moore, Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski. The Coyotes host the St. Louis Blues on Sunday night in the only other Western Conference game involving a bubble team. Phoenix is then off until Thursday, when it hosts the Sharks. ... Coyotes forward Alexandre Bolduc was fined 2,500, the maximum allowed under the CBA, for his slew-foot of Clowe in the second period on Saturday.

Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes


Labanc, Sharks overcoming even strength scoring woes

Kevin Labanc’s first period goal in the Sharks’ Sunday win over the Ducks certainly didn’t look like it was just his fifth of the season, or only his third since opening night.

The 22-year-old, sprung in alone on a breakaway, sold Anaheim goaltender John Gibson on a fake shot with a leg kick, and snapped the puck past him into the top corner. You know a ‘goal-scorers goal’ when you see it, and you saw it 3:38 into the second period.

Labanc not only broke a 12-game, month-long goalless drought, but picked up his third point in as many games after scoring zero in his previous six. Despite his emergence as a force on the power play, all three points came during five-on-five play.

He’s generated six scoring chances in five-on-five situations in his last three games, according to Natural Stat Trick. That’s as many as Labanc accounted for in the six games preceding this run.

The same can be said about his five-on-five shot attempts (seven) and high-danger chances (two). His six shots on goal in his last three games are just one shy of also matching his five-on-five output over his six games prior.

In those categories, Labanc ranks third, third, and tied for second among Sharks forwards, as well as third in five-on-five scoring chances. He’s also tied with Mikkel Boedker for the forward-lead in five-on-five points over the last three games, despite playing only the eighth-most five-on-five minutes.

As Labanc’s broken out of an extended slump, so have the Sharks. Since returning from the bye week on Jan. 13, San Jose is fifth in five-on-five scoring rate (3.1 goals for/60 minutes), compared to 28th before their bye (1.91).

They’re also 5-1-0 during that time.

The Sharks, much like Labanc, were too reliant upon power play production prior to the NHL-mandated week off. Over half of Labanc’s points came with (at least) a man advantage, and 32 of San Jose’s 108 were scored on the power play.

Since, the second-year forward has only scored five-on-five points, while only five of the Sharks’ 23 goals were power play tallies. The power play’s still converting, but it’s not been the sole driver of San Jose’s offense.

It’s only a six-game sample, but the early five-on-five, post-bye week returns are promising for Labanc and the Sharks. The next step for both is to maintain that pace.

If Labanc and San Jose can, the Sharks may not need to shop for a top-six winger at the trade deadline after all.

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights

Sharks dominate Ducks for two wins in two nights


ANAHEIM -- Mikkel Boedker had two goals and an assist, Joe Thornton had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 on Sunday night.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kevin Labanc and Melker Karlsson also scored for the Sharks, who have won five of six. Aaron Dell stopped 33 shots.

Rickard Rakell and Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim. John Gibson stopped only 17 of 22 shots and was replaced after giving up his fifth goal. Anaheim had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

Four goals came in the third period. First, Anaheim pulled within one when Ondrej Kase stole the puck from behind the net and quickly fed Getzlaf, who fired it past Dell.

One minute later, the Sharks answered when Thornton's slap shot went in.

Boedker's second goal gave San Joe a 5-2 lead, and Karlsson's goal on goalie Ryan Miller made it a runaway.

The Ducks first found the net in the final minute of the second period, but that took a two-man advantage and a bit of luck.

Rakell was camped a few feet below the crease when he snapped a shot. San Jose's Justin Braun stuck out a stick, but it deflected the puck off the back of Dell's arm and into the net.

It was Rakell's team-high 17th goal this season.

San Jose appeared to take a commanding 3-0 lead on a power play in the second period. Boedker fired a shot from the top of the right circle that whistled past Gibson.

The Sharks took a 2-0 lead early in the second period when Anaheim's No.1 line turned the puck over. Thornton snapped it out to Labanc, who popped free for a breakaway. He beat Gibson on his short side for his fifth goal.

The Sharks took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on a nifty give-and-go when Tomas Hertl skated down the far side and sent a pass through the legs of Anaheim's Brandon Montour and right to Vlasic in front of the net.

Vlasic snapped it past Gibson for his seventh goal of the season.


Sharks: Return to San Jose on Tuesday night to play the Jets.

Ducks: Remain at home to play the Rangers on Tuesday night.