Sharks

Thornton: Blues were 'flat-out better'

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Thornton: Blues were 'flat-out better'

SAN JOSE It might not have occurred to Sharks captain Joe Thornton right away, even though it was painfully obvious to anyone who watched San Joses five-game, first round flameout to the St. Louis Blues in April.

But at some point during his summer vacation time in Canada and abroad in his wifes homeland of Switzerland, Thornton watched some of those Sharks-Blues games again and came to a distinct conclusion.

They were just a better team. Flat out, they were just a better team than us last year, said Thornton, who has returned to San Jose to begin training for a season that is likely to be delayed due to labor issues.

RELATED: Sharks captain Joe Thornton thinking about hockey, not lockout

Thornton couldnt (or, more likely, was unwilling) to put a finger on any specific reasons why the Blues were better, when asked the natural follow-up question of why. But, he doesnt really have to.

General manager Doug Wilson told a media contingent on July 1, during a conference call to announce the signing of Adam Burish, that the Sharks have to re-establish their identity of going after people. That was a follow-up to what Wilson said in late June, prior to the NHL Draft:

One of the bigger issues that we talked about initially was the identity of this hockey team. We got away a little bit from it, said Wilson on June 18. The passive reactive...thats not part of our identity or how we want to play. There were moments where it crept in.

Against St. Louis, the Sharks looked like the decidedly slower team could their lack of aggression, on the penalty kill and elsewhere, be the primary culprit for that? Thornton doesnt disagree with that sentiment.

Yeah, when were aggressive, were tough to beat, said the captain, who turned 33 in July. Weve seen that in past years, and well get back to that. Im sure Todd McLellan wants to get back to being more aggressive.

The Sharks moves this summer, although they didnt pull off anything earth-shattering, are an extension of Wilsons philosophy that the team didnt impose its will on the opposition nearly enough. Defenseman Brad Stuart plays an in-your-face style and immediately improves the Sharks defensive depth, while Burish is known as an agitating motor-mouth that can get under an opponents skin, as well as aid the penalty kill. New associate coach Larry Robinson brings a wealth of experience to the San Jose bench, and he wont be afraid to kick the Sharks in the butt, as a team or individually, when necessary. Assistant coach Jim Johnson is also on board, joining the Sharks from Washington, while Matt Shaw was fired by San Jose.

REWIND: Robinson hire brings experience, credibility to Sharks

Playing against Stuey in Detroit and LA, hes a really strong reliable d-man who plays physical and plays hard minutes, said Thornton of the player that was part of the trade to Boston that brought him to the Bay Area. Who wouldnt want a guy like that on your team? I think thats a huge upgrade for our defense.

Adam Burish should help address the penalty kill issues we had last year. Hes just a scrappy player from playing against him, and is the type of guy you want on your team and is tough to play against.

REWIND: Sharks sign Adam Burish

What the Sharks didnt do (up to this point, anyway) is break up their core group, despite some speculation that they would try to trade defenseman Dan Boyle or ask Patrick Marleau to waive his no-trade clause. Instead, San Jose is seemingly hoping that players like Brent Burns can have a more effective second season in teal, while young talents like Tommy Wingels, Andrew Desjardins, TJ Galiardi and Justin Braun can all continue to improve and have an impact.

RELATED: Sharks roster

Thats fine with Thornton.

I think we still have a great team, and I personally still believe in this team a lot, he said.

I still think were one of the best teams in the NHL. It would have been strange seeing some guys go after weve done some pretty good things. Obviously, we havent won a championship, and thats our goal, but with getting Stuey and getting Adam I think were a better team than last year. Hopefully we can show it.

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

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AP

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

BOX SCORE

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.

UP NEXT:

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.

There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens

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AP

There's one key difference between struggling Sharks, Canadiens

The San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens could not be more different in terms of tradition. But, on the ice this season, they couldn’t be more similar.

Both teams have placed their faith in a goalie that wears #31. The top defensemen on each team, Brent Burns and Shea Weber, are 32 and signed until 2025 and 2026, respectively. Tomas Hertl and Alex Galchenyuk are 2012 first round picks playing on the wing after being drafted as centers. Tomas Plekanec and Joe Thornton are favorites on the wrong side of 30, who may head elsewhere next summer.  Heck, both teams miss defenseman David Schlemko, who San Jose lost in the expansion draft and was eventually traded to Montreal, where he hasn’t yet played due to injury.

And both have struggled mightily so far. San Jose and Montreal have combined to win just two games, and sit 29th and 30th, respectively, in goals scored this season. It’s hard to imagine the Sharks and Canadiens scoring so little with all of that talent, but they can’t bank on good fortune, either.

Something’s got to give when the two face off at SAP Center tonight. After tonight, one team will feel much better about themselves, and the other team will be much closer to hitting the panic button.

That’s where the critical difference lies: Montreal’s already hit it, and San Jose probably won’t.

Last season, Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin fired Michel Therrien and replaced him with Claude Julien in February. Seven months after essentially siding with Therrien and trading star defenseman P.K. Subban, Bergevin ended Therrien’s time in Montreal, too. He surely can’t fire another coach, but a Galchenyuk trade is reportedly a possibility, according to TSN.

The Sharks, on the other hand, likely won’t do any of that. Even with the burden of high expectations in his tenure, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson’s never traded away a star player or fired a coach midseason. Even though Vegas pegs Peter DeBoer as the odds-on favorite to lose his job, it’s hard to envision Wilson making a change behind the bench during the year. He didn’t in 2015 when Todd McLellan seemed to lose the room, so why would he now?

Patience is what truly separates the Sharks and Canadiens, and that difference will likely determine how each front office reacts if their teams continue to struggle. Wilson’s shown a willingness to swing for the fences under these circumstances. He acquired Joe Thornton in 2005, after all.

But if you’re waiting on Wilson to take a page out of Bergevin’s book and fire the coach or trade away a key piece approaching their prime? Don’t hold your breath.