Three takeaways: Jones struggles, Pavelski shows honesty

Three takeaways: Jones struggles, Pavelski shows honesty

CALGARY – More mistakes, leaky goaltending, and another special teams battle lost all added up the Sharks dropping their eighth game in the last nine against the Flames at the Saddledome on Friday night. Let’s get right to our three takeaways…
1 – Jones gets pulled
It wasn’t all that surprising that coach Pete DeBoer went back to Martin Jones for Friday’s game despite it being a back-to-back situation. The goaltender has had plenty of rest lately, and the meeting with the Flames was an important one. Jones wasn’t to blame for the loss in Edmonton, either, as none of the three goals allowed were his fault.
But against the Flames, Jones struggled. DeBoer made it clear that he thought that at least a couple of the Flames goals “probably shouldn’t have gone in.”
Of course, it’s not like the Sharks have been all that buttoned up in front of their goaltender, whether its Jones or Aaron Dell. On the Flames’ third goal, the eventual game-winner, they couldn’t move the puck up the ice despite several attempts, and ended up with a tired group after Marcus Sorensen’s clearing try was gloved down by Michael Stone. The result was Matt Stajan’s goal that put Calgary ahead 3-1 at the time.
Jones probably could have prevented that one, but everyone on the ice was complicit. 
What’s been the biggest issue with the team’s defense, from Jones’ perspective, as the Sharks have allowed 35 in the last nine games?
“I don’t know. We just need to execute better,” said Jones, who is 1-4-0 with a 4.53 goals-against average and .842 save percentage in his last five starts. “Better execution, a little harder to play against in our own end, and we need more big saves.”
2 – Home ice slipping away
As I mentioned on the intermission during yesterday’s broadcast, home ice is shaping up to be particularly important in the Pacific Division. Anaheim is fifth in the league (and second in the Western Conference) with a 26-8-4 home mark, while the Sharks have also been much better at home than last season (24-10-4). The Flames, meanwhile, have now won 10 of their last 12 at the Saddledome, while Edmonton has won its last seven at Rogers Place.
For the Sharks to have home ice in the first round, they have some work to do. They are two points behind the Oilers and three behind the Ducks, each of whom have a game in hand. Edmonton hosts Anaheim on Saturday night.
For his part, DeBoer downplayed the importance of playing at home before Friday’s game.
“I don’t know the answer to that. We’re in the playoffs. There’s some very good teams that aren’t in the playoffs,” he said. 
“Whether you start on the road or at home – obviously I’ve talked that you want the easiest path, but at the end of the day you’ve got the 16 best teams in the league. I think we play well on the road. I don’t think at the end of the day that makes a huge difference.”

Playing well on the road, though, isn’t something the Sharks have done well lately. They are 1-7-0 in their last eight road games, including six straight losses, and have been outscored a whopping 30-13 over that span. At this stage, there’s not much reason to believe this team can win a seven-game series if it doesn’t have home ice advantage.
3 – Honest assessment from the captain
The Sharks players are likely getting sick of talking about it. I can’t imagine many of them have gone through this kind of stretch before.
With that in mind, it’s evident that captain Joe Pavelski is trying his best to give an honest assessment of what’s gone wrong. Pavelski spoke for several minutes after the game on just a few questions, and for those of us that have covered him for years, the sincerity in his voice was easy to detect.
“It's been one or two plays,” he said. “Each night it's kind of been a different guy. If I have an off-night, or someone else has an off-night, it catches up with us for whatever reason. It's been burning us. It's frustrating, as a group. It's been frustrating. 
“You don't go through stretches like this and you're happy with what you're doing. There's better hockey out there for us.”
Pavelski still believes the Sharks’ game is fixable by the playoffs.
“I believe so, for sure,” he said. “It really does feel like there's moments every night…we haven't grabbed them right now. I think as one of the leaders on this team, that’s probably started with me. There's moments tonight – I have the puck in the slot, some of the looks I had tonight, you've just got to cash in. We're getting outplayed that way. So, fix our game a little bit, and I think it'll all fall [into place].”
Does Pavelski’s bluntness mean anything in the long run? Who knows. But hopefully Sharks fans can appreciate that the team’s leader is not just rattling off a string of clichés.

Sharks on longest winning streak since 2013 after extinguishing Flames


Sharks on longest winning streak since 2013 after extinguishing Flames


SAN JOSE -- Evander Kane scored twice to give him six goals in his past two games against Calgary and the San Jose Sharks won their seventh straight game, beating the Flames 5-1 on Saturday.

Kane followed up his four-goal performance in Calgary a week ago with another impactful performance, scoring a short-handed goal in the second period to give the Sharks a 3-1 lead and an insurance goal in the third. He also used his physical play to get into a scrum with Mikael Backlund and a fight with Travis Hamonic.

The Sharks improved to 10-2 since acquiring Kane just before the trade deadline last month, including this current streak that is the longest for San Jose since a seven-gamer from March 25 to April 5, 2013.

Brenden DillonJannik Hansen and Justin Braun also scored for the Sharks, who moved six points ahead of Los Angeles in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Kings played later Saturday in Edmonton. Martin Jones made 37 saves.

Michael Stone scored the lone for the Flames, who have lost five straight to fall out of the playoff race. Calgary trails Anaheim by nine points for the final playoff spot with just six games remaining. David Rittich made 28 saves.

The Flames were controlling the play in the second period before Kane's goal turned the momentum back in San Jose's favor. Calgary held San Jose without a shot on goal for more than six minutes to start the period and had just started a power play when Kane struck for his goal.

Chris Tierney skated into the offensive zone and held the puck near the net as Johnny Gaudreau skated past Kane, who was set up in front of the crease. Tierney then slid a pass to Kane, who knocked it into the open net for his sixth goal with the Sharks and 26th on the season.

Kane then had his run-ins with the Flames late in the second and early in the third before the Sharks broke it open with goals from Braun and Kane midway through the third period.

Dillon, who assisted on Kane's second goal, then got into a fight late in the game with Garnet Hathaway to complete the Gordie Howe hat trick.

The Sharks started fast and scored twice in a span of 74 seconds midway through the first period. San Jose took advantage of a turnover by Calgary in the offensive zone to go on a rush. Timo Meier fed Chris Tierney, who gave a behind-the-back pass to Dillon, who beat Rittich from the high slot.

The Sharks kept the pressure up and quickly added to the lead when Hansen redirected Brent Burns' point shot off defenseman Mark Jankowski's skate and into the Calgary net.

The Flames got one back with a blast from the point through traffic by Stone.

NOTES: The Sharks honored Jonathan Cheechoo, who recently announced his retirement. ... Burns' assist on Hansen's goal was his 49th of the season, breaking the record he set two years ago for Sharks defensemen. ... Flames F Matthew Tkachuk (upper body) and D TJ Brodie did not make the trip for the two games in California.


Flames: Visit Los Angeles on Monday

Sharks: Visit Chicago on Monday.

Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return


Paul Martin rewarding Peter DeBoer's faith in NHL return

When Sharks defenseman Paul Martin confirmed reports in January that he was willing to go elsewhere for more playing time, his head coach was insistent that the team would need the veteran blueliner. 

"I really believe we need eight NHL defenseman here," DeBoer told reporters in January (via The Mercury News). "If it happens that he isn't here, then that'll be disappointing for us. I'm not hoping that's where this goes. I'm hoping this goes to a place where he can maybe go down, play some games and keep himself ready, because I know we're going to need eight defensemen."

That's pretty much exactly what's happened.

After clearing waivers in January and playing with the AHL's San Jose Barracuda, Martin was called up ahead of the Sharks' four-game road trip at the end of February. He did not play until last Saturday in Vancouver, when an upper-body injury to rookie defenseman Joakim Ryan, whose play pushed Martin down the depth chart in the first place, created an opening alongside Brent Burns. 

Martin's now played three straight games with Burns, his defensive partner for the vast majority of the previous two seasons. It's the first time Martin's played in three consecutive NHL games all season, and although he hasn't played much (11:53 in average time-on-ice), he's acquitted himself nicely in a sheltered role.

His five-on-five possession numbers (52.78 percent corsi-for; 53.33 percent fenwick-for) are the second-best marks among Sharks defensemen over the last three games. Burns, too, has posted better possession numbers with Martin (47.62 percent corsi-for; 50 percent fenwick-for) during the last three contests than without his longtime partner (43.40 percent corsi-for; 41.67 percent fenwick-for). 

The Sharks have also outscored (3-0) and outchanced (17-16) opponents with Martin on the ice, neither of which was the case in Martin's first three appearances earlier this season. The former is owed to a decent amount of puck luck, as the Sharks have converted on 17.65 percent of their shots with him on the ice, but the latter is an extension of his solid underlying numbers. 

Martin's played the least amount of total minutes among Sharks defensemen since coming back, even as Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed time in two of the last three games, and has barely been used in special teams. His days of averaging 20-or-more minutes a night are likely behind him, but the 37-year-old has played well in a limited role. 

Considering Martin's NHL days appeared to be behind him as recently as last month, his play has been a pleasant surprise. With the exception of his head coach, that is.