Sharks sluggish in 3-1 loss to Blues


Sharks sluggish in 3-1 loss to Blues


SAN JOSE The Sharks had a chance on Saturday night at home to at least give some credence to their claim that they should still be in the discussion of the best teams in the Western Conference.

After a 3-1 loss to the impressive St. Louis Blues San Joses 10th defeat in the last 15 games the Sharks instead illustrated why they dont deserve to be considered among those elite few anymore.

The Blues (41-18-7, 89 points), who swept the four-game season series from the Sharks, all in regulation, are just one point behind Vancouver for the most in the conference. Thats a full 16 points better than the nose-diving Sharks (33-24-7, 73 points), who look like nothing more than a second-class citizen with just 18 games remaining in the regular season.

The Sharks werent necessarily outworked, despite getting out-shot 32-19. The Blues simply looked like the more tenacious and therefore more talented team, that San Jose would be wise to avoid in the playoffs if they even manage to qualify.

It wasnt good enough. No line really generated a lot of chances. Its unfortunate right now, Logan Couture said. We need to win more battles in the other teams end and be hungrier for pucks to create some chances. They were the hungrier team tonight. They out-shot us, outplayed us, and beat us.

Matt Shaw, once again filling in for an ailing Todd McLellan, said: Those shot totals, or the way the stat sheets look, might be generous tonight. I dont know if it fully portrayed our lack of ability to create any sort of net pressure or zone time or put them back on their heels.

After falling behind 1-0, the Sharks tied the game after a rare extended shift in the Blues zone. Torrey Mitchell threw one towards the net from the boards, and it somehow got past Jaroslav Halak at 15:29. It was Mitchells first goal in 20 games.

St. Louis responded just 20 seconds later, when TJ Oshie deflected a Carlo Colaiacovo shot past Antti Niemi to give the Blues the lead back.

The Blues out-shot the Sharks 12-3 in the second period, but special teams was the difference as they increased their lead to 3-1 after 40 minutes.

With Justin Braun off for cross-checking at 11:39, Oshie drove hard to the net from the corner boards. Kevin Shattenkirk was in front and knocked in a loose puck at 12:38 to give St. Louis a two-goal cushion.

The Sharks had a pair of man advantage chances to get back to within a goal before the intermission. Vladimir Sobotka went off for cross-checking Tommy Wingels into the boards at 14:24, but an inept power play was abbreviated on a boneheaded holding penalty by Joe Thornton at 15:39.

Wingels drew another penalty with less than two minutes to go in the second, but the Sharks were once again unable to set up in the offensive zone.

The Blues killed off all three Sharks power plays relatively incident free, by the time the night was through. What was the problem?

Outworking us, Couture said. On a power play youre got five, theyve got four. When youre outworked, youre not going to score.

Shaw said: There were some plays that weve seen our team make time and time again, that we werent making. If youre not executing very well your power play is not going to do a thing, and ours didnt do a thing tonight.

St. Louis took a 1-0 lead on the power play thanks to a fortunate bounce. Shattenkirk dumped the puck in from center ice, and as Niemi went behind the net to play it, it caromed off of the boards to the front of the net where Andy McDonald easy tapped it in at 2:52 of the first period.

The Blues finished 2-for-5 on the power play.

The Sharks nearly took the lead a couple times before McDonalds goal. Thornton set up Pavelski with a nice pass in front of the net in the games first minute that was stonewalled by Halak. Marleau had a shorthanded rush just before that opening score, but Halak stopped it.

Those may have been the Blues goaltenders two toughest saves of the night, and they came on the first two Sharks shots. After that, the Blues consistently prevented the Sharks from setting up shop in their zone.

Theyre a great defensive team. Thats what they do, and we only got one, Marc-Edouard Vlasic said.

Shaw said: Hockey is a physical game and their compete level and level of success in those one-on-one battles, which you always talk about, was dramatically better than ours.

The Sharks welcomed back two key players to their lineup. Couture returned from a two-game absence with an apparent knee injury, while defenseman Douglas Murray played after missing the last eight games with a fractured Adams apple.

Murray brought some energy and physicality to the lineup, but was just as frustrated as his teammates, who lost for the eighth time in the last 10 games (2-7-1).

Its small details right now, Murray said. Obviously, a bad bounce on the first goal, but you earn bounces, too. You not only have to work hard, youve got to execute, too. They had better execution that we did.

The Sharks remained in seventh place in the Western Conference, once again failing to move back into the Pacific Division lead after Phoenix lost earlier in the night.

Odds and ends: Michal Handzus, Jason Demers, Benn Ferriero and Andrew Desjardins were scratched for San Jose, all coachs decision. Daniel Winnik recorded his first point as a Shark with an assist on Torrey Mitchells goal. Mitchell's goal ended the Sharks scoreless streak against the Blues at 164:11 after they were shutout in the previous two matchups, both in St. Louis. The Sharks barely used their fourth line forwards in Jim Vandermeer (1:43 of ice time), Brad Winchester (2:13) and TJ Galiardi (2:30). The Blues blocked 19 shots. The Blues finished their road trip 5-1-0.

Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are


Sharks headed in right direction, road trip to reveal who they really are

The difference between a 2-3-0 start and a 1-4-0 start is bigger than two standings points.

The former is far from ideal, but if you squint hard enough, there's enough wiggle room to improve. There's still time with the latter, too, but the margin for error is much thinner moving forward.

The Sharks experienced that difference firsthand after Tuesday’s 5-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. It's not an ideal record, but they’ve managed to salvage a poor start. 

There are still some flaws, to be sure. The power play isn't just the Kevin Labanc show after the top unit scored all three power play goals Tuesday, but is still carrying a disproportionate offensive load. The penalty kill’s scoreless streak came to an end, but they were called into action six times.

Despite all that, Tuesday's win was San Jose’s best effort this season. Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, and Joe Thornton all had multi-point games for the first time this year. Martin Jones had another strong game, and appears to have shaken off his slow start.

In short, San Jose’s game is headed in the right direction. It needs to be, with a five-game road trip beginning on Friday. 

Now comes the hard part.

It's on the road where we’ll get our best sense of who this team really is. Peter DeBoer won’t have the benefit of last change, and won't be able to dictate matchups. 

Under these circumstances, we’ll begin to really see if Joakim Ryan is ready for a top-four role, whether Kevin Labanc is a viable first-line winger, and how the rest of the young reinforcements stack up. They will have less time off, too, as all but one game occurs after one day (or less) of rest and travel. That missed practice time isn't ideal for any team, let alone one still trying to work out the kinks.

Fortunately, the competition is forgiving, at least on paper. Other than the Devils, none of the Sharks’ four other road trip opponents have winning records as of this writing. The topsy turvy nature of the standings, though, show how little “on paper” means this early in the season.

We’ll know a lot more about who these San Jose Sharks are by the time their road trip ends. Their record still won't tell the whole story, but by then, they'll have played about an eighth of the season. 

And by then, we’ll have a much better idea of how good this team really is.

Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens


Sharks' offense comes alive, leads charge in win over Canadiens


SAN JOSE — Logan Couture credited a teammate for scoring his second goal. He took credit for the first one.

Couture scored a pair of goals and the San Jose Sharks extended their dominance of the Montreal Canadiens with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night.

Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl also scored for the Sharks, who have won the past 11 home games against the Canadiens, a streak that dates to Nov. 23, 1999.

On a power play late in the third period, rookie Tim Heed took a shot off a face-off that bounced free in front of the net. Pavelski couldn't get his stick on it but managed to kick it across the net for Couture, who found a huge opening.

"That was pretty special," Couture said. "I don't know if he knew I was there but he kept his balance and kicked it over."

Couture opened the scoring 3:30 into the first period, grabbing a rebound off the back board, skating across the front of the net to get Price to commit and then firing into an open net.

Jonathan Drouin and Shea Weber scored for the Canadiens, who are winless since an opening night victory at the Buffalo Sabres.

"It's a very poor start from our team, from myself, from a lot of individuals," Canadiens' Max Pacioretty said. "It's a good time to look in the mirror and see what we're made of because a lot of people are probably doubting this team right now."

Martin Jones stopped 28 of 30 shots for the Sharks, who finish their season-opening homestand with a 2-3 record.

"The biggest thing is finding that energy for the whole game," Jones said. "We started OK and then we got better as the night went on."

Carey Price, who stopped 31 of 35 shots, fell to 2-7-1 in 10 games against the Sharks.

The Canadiens responded 36 seconds later when Drouin picked up a pass from Artturi Lehkonen close in and fired it over Jones' left shoulder and into the net.

Pavelski gave the Sharks the lead for good when he redirected Kevin Labanc's shot just under a minute into the second period. The shot hit Weber's left shin pad and bounced into the net.

"There were a lot of good things out there," Pavelski said. "We didn't have the homestand we wanted but we can leave on a positive note to take on the road."

Hertl padded the lead midway through the second on a power play. Standing on the right side of the net, he was trying to control a pass from Joe Thornton but the puck fluttered off his stick and got behind Price.

"I'll take it any way I can get it," Hertl said. "There are times I've had great shots that just bounced off the post."

Weber's power-play goal two minutes later kicked off Jones' skates for the score.

The Sharks needed five seconds to score on a power play late in the second period. Tim Heed shot on goal and it bounced off Pavelski's skate. Couture picked it up and found a huge opening.

NOTES: After allowing three power play goals over their first five penalty kills, the Sharks killed off 14 straight until Weber scored in the second period. ... Couture recorded his 24th career multi-goal game. ... Sharks D Tim Heed recorded his first NHL point with an assist on Couture's power-play goal. ... Brendan Gallagher needs one assist for 100 with the Canadiens.


Canadiens: plays at the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in their second back-to-back of the season.

Sharks: open a five-game road trip on the east coast with a game at the New Jersey Devils on Friday.