Sunday not-so-funday for Sharks


Sunday not-so-funday for Sharks

SAN JOSE It wasnt quite the textbook definition of a bag skate, as there were, in fact, pucks on the ice when the Sharks filtered out for their closed-door practice on Sunday on what was originally a day off.

But by the time the 50-minute session concluded with some one-on-one battle drills along the boards, after some high intensity drills and end-to-end rushes, most everyone on the team was in need of a breather. The players exited en masse after a Thats it, were done, proclamation from head coach Todd McLellan.

The Sharks have just one win in their last four games, and that only came via the shootout on Thursday against Montreal, after Ryane Clowes late goal forced the game past regulation.

Saturdays effort against the high-flying Panthers, a 5-3 loss that featured numerous misplays with the puck and a general lack of focus, were the biggest reasons for the Sunday-not-so-funday.

The intensity level wasnt a surprise.

It was pretty obvious. I think we all knew, said Brent Burns.

The coaching staff didnt take any pleasure in the day, but McLellan wanted to serve up a reminder to his club that it has to be more mentally prepared.

These days arent good for anyone, he said. Theyre not good for the players, because of the hectic schedule, and we get no satisfaction out of it. But, the goal was to remind them that the work ethic and commitment level has to come first. It comes before anything else systems, talent, power play, penalty kill.

Were human, and we all have to be reminded sometimes. I have to be reminded, my kids have to be reminded, and our team has to be reminded how important work ethic and commitment level is. Thats all today was.

McLellan saw some problems in the teams game dating back to its recent four-game winning streak from Nov. 17-23. He thought it was corrected when the Sharks lost a hard fought battle to Vancouver a week ago, in which the team played hard despite a 3-2 loss.

That was followed up by a poor effort in a 2-0 defeat in Los Angeles last Monday, Thursdays shootout win against Montreal, and Saturdays error-filled loss to Florida.

Former Wild and Devils head coach Jacques Lemaire used to talk about his team getting sick, and he used the analogy of the flu. By the times the symptoms show up, the bugs already in you, said McLellan.

We won four games and played some good periods and some average periods, but we felt we were getting sick a little bit. We addressed it, and I thought we responded well against Vancouver, but the germ is still in the team. Weve got to get it out.

Although they likely would have preferred to sleep in and watch football on Sunday, Burns said it was probably a beneficial day for the club.

I dont think its ever bad to do that, said Burns. You go out there, get a good skate, battle and kind of get back to basics.

Joe Thornton said: Its no problem. Thats what we do. We skate, were hockey players.

Odds and ends: Douglas Murray did not skate, taking a maintenance day, but McLellan said he should be ready for Tuesdays game against Minnesota. Marty Havlat showed no ill-effects from taking a knee to the back of the head from Floridas Sean Bergenheim, in which he was slow to get up. McLellan hinted that he might switch up his defense pairings before Tuesdays game.

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.