Sharks' skid continues with 4-3 shootout loss to Avalanche


Sharks' skid continues with 4-3 shootout loss to Avalanche

DENVER -- The road isnt so friendly to the Sharks, after all.San Jose concluded its brief three-game trek with an 0-1-2 mark after losing in a shootout to the Colorado Avalanche, 4-3, on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. The Sharks salvaged a point with a late goal from Patrick Marleau in the last minute of regulation, but Milan Hejduk and Gabriel Landeskog scored in the shootout to send San Jose to its seventh defeat in the last nine games (2-5-2).The Sharks were feeling pretty good themselves on Dec. 8, when they concluded a homestand with a convincing win over the Dallas Stars and the road trip on the horizon. San Jose had won seven of 10 games away from HP Pavilion at that point, and the players seemed excited about getting away for an extended trip for the first time since late October.

Instead, they lost a 1-0 decision to St. Louis on Saturday in which the offense was non-existent, followed by a 3-2 overtime defeat to Chicago where they surrendered a late lead.In fact, the Sharks blew 2-1 third period leads in the final two games of the trip, including Tuesdays loss.Thats probably the thing that sticks out to me, said Dan Boyle, who had a goal and an assist and was a 2 against Colorado. Were not scoring very many goals right now, we have to keep teams to one or two. Second game in a row we get the lead in the third, and we gave it away.There was that phase in the third period where we sat back on our heels, and you cant win like that, said Todd McLellan.The Sharks and Avalanche meet again at HP Pavilion on Thursday.Trailing 3-2, the Sharks tied the game at 19:38 of the third period. Logan Couture gathered in a loose puck, skated towards the net, and backhanded a perfect pass through the slot to Marleau who wristed it in.After a scoreless overtime, Landeskog and Hejduk scored on Antti Niemi in the shootout for the Avalanche, while the Sharks Joe Pavelski was the only one to get a puck past Semyon Varlamov.While surrendering a lead in the third period isnt ideal, the Sharks were able to prevent the trip from being a complete disaster with Marleaus late goal just his second in the last 10 games. Boyle, also, has not exactly been lighting it up on either end of the ice this season. He scored for the first time since Nov. 7 for just his second of the season.McLellan is hopeful that goals and points from some of his slumping players can help get things moving in the right direction offensively. Marleau and Boyle got the goals, but Joe Thornton, Pavelski and Couture all got on the scoresheet with assists.Lets hope so, because its been a long time coming, said the coach. Its great to see Boyle get on the board five-on-five, and Patty finally getting there. Were still waiting for some others.Colorado scored twice in the third period to take a 3-2 lead.First it was Daniel Winnik. After Niemi stopped Erik Johnsons blast, the Sharks goaltender leaned forward as if to gather in the puck. Winnik got to it first, though, and his wraparound beat Niemi before the goaltender was able to recover at 6:31.The Sharks 28th-ranked NHL penalty killing unit failed in its one and only attempt with Colin White off on a holding call at 10:16. Matt Duchesne was left alone at the point as Couture was caught out of position, and the shifty forward found the top corner at 11:51 to give Colorado a 3-2 lead it would maintain until Marleaus late marker.I thought they upped the ante and increased the speed and the play, said McLellan of Colorado. Not necessarily right away, but five or six shifts into the period. We didnt respond well until they scored, and then we got desperate again and started to play the way we were earlier in the game.We have the talent and the ingredients to play on our toes, so weve got to fix that.Playing on their toes is something the Sharks failed to do late in the first period, as well. With the game still scoreless and the clock winding down, Colorados Stefan Elliott skated end-to-end while flying past Jamie McGinn, Marleau and Marc-Edouard Vlasic before firing a wrist shot past Niemi from the circle.It was inexcusable goal, and a microcosm of the Sharks tendency to fall asleep at times.It was a line change, and we just backed right in. They came in, got a good shot off and it went in, but we definitely didnt get up in the neutral zone in order to force him to make a play, said Marleau. We gave him a lot of room to skate.The Sharks got on the board with just their second power play goal in the last nine games early in the second period. Boyle controlled the puck, skated towards the center of the ice high just inside the blue line, and spotted McGinn cutting towards the net. McGinns perfect redirection of Boyles low tape-to-tape pass evened the score at 3:16.That ended a 1-for-28 stretch for the Sharks with a man advantage, including an ineffective first period power play.San Jose took its first lead of the game at 13:39 of the second. Torrey Mitchell did the grunt work behind the net, finding Pavelski in the circle. Pavelskis attempt deflected off of Paul Stastnys skate to Boyle in the high slot, and the Sharks defenseman buried a wrist shot.It wouldnt last.Odds and ends: McGinn has five goals in his last seven games. Frazer McLaren and Matt Irwin were the Sharks healthy scratches. Colorado ended a three-game losing streak but increased its home winning streak to four. Niemi finished with 30 saves, while Varlamov had 27. The Sharks won 36 of 62 faceoffs (58 percent). Colorado out-hit the Sharks, 30-9.

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.

Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be


Play of Jones, Khudobin this season proof of how fickle goaltending can be

Martin Jones was a Boston Bruin for less than a week.

The “Original Six” franchise acquired Jones from the Los Angeles Kings on June 26, 2015. Four days later, Jones was traded back into the Pacific Division, this time to Northern California.

The Sharks gave up a first round pick and prospect Sean Kuraly for Jones. It seemed like a fairly high price at the time, but it’s one San Jose was happy to pay: No goalie started more games than Jones over the last two seasons, and the team signed him to a five-year extension this summer.

The first Jones trade in 2015 set off a flood of goalie transactions, as five netminders were traded during Jones’ extremely brief Boston tenure. One of those was Anton Khudobin, who will start for the Bruins as Jones backs up Aaron Dell against  his “former team” on Saturday night.

Khudobin was traded from Carolina to Anaheim, where he started seven games before getting sent down to the AHL. He then signed with Boston in 2016, returning to his former club as the Bruins tried to fill the hole that trading Jones left behind entrenched starter Tuukka Rask.

Jones and Khudobin will have taken vastly different paths to their respective creases on Saturday night. The former enters the game as his club’s undisputed franchise goalie, and the latter the unheralded backup.

Naturally then, Khudobin’s been the better goaltender this season.

Among the 46 goalies that have played 200 five-on-five minutes this season, Khudobin’s .962 five-on-five save percentage was the best entering Saturday, according to Corsica.  So, too, is his .954 save percentage off of high-danger shots.

Jones, meanwhile, ranks 27th (.920) and 14th (.833) in those respective categories.

What does it all mean? For one, it’s early in the season, and the fact that Khudobin’s made seven fewer starts undoubtedly plays a role in his superior performance to Jones.

Mainly, it speaks to just how fickle goaltending can be.

The Bruins backup is arguably getting the nod Saturday night because of how bad the man ahead of him has been. Rask, once one of the league’s best goaltenders, has steadily declined over the last three years and reached a new low this season: This year, he’s 40th out of 46 qualifying goalies in five-on-five save percentage.

Jones has demonstrated this, too. He’s stopped a lower percentage of low-and-medium danger shots at even strength than the last two seasons, but has stopped a higher percentage of high-danger shots.

Plus, he’s played behind one of the league’s best penalty-killing teams after playing behind one of its worst last season, and has benefitted from a corresponding bump in his shorthanded save percentage.

So much of what a goalie does is out of their control. Yet who’s playing in front of them, what kind of shots they see, and how often they see those shots all can affect their performance.

Khudobin and Jones are living proof of that this season.