Three takeaways: Sharks thoroughly outplayed by elite Wild

Three takeaways: Sharks thoroughly outplayed by elite Wild

Facing a team above them in the standings for the first time in more than a month, the Sharks were outclassed by the best team in the Western Conference, dropping a 3-1 decision in Minnesota. Here’s what we’re taking away from the game…

1 – Sharks have some work to do

Sure, the Minnesota Wild is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, with a balanced offensive attack, stingy defense and strong special teams. But in a game that was supposed to be a meeting between two of the top teams in the Western Conference, it was surprisingly one-sided in Minnesota’s favor.

The Sharks were fortunate they weren’t down by multiple scores after 40 minutes, as the Wild generated the better of the scoring chances from the opening drop of the puck. Then in the third, when San Jose should have been pressing for the equalizer, it took until two minutes left in regulation before it had an actual chance to tie it courtesy of Chris Tierney.

That the Sharks were still in the game at that point was a minor miracle.

“We knew it would be a tough game in here,” Pete DeBoer told reporters. “They came as advertised. They were very good. We were not as good as them. It was the proper result.”

In fairness to the Sharks, the Wild was very pleased with its effort as Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau called it maybe their best defensive game all season, particularly in the third period, according to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo.

Still, if the Sharks are going to get to where they want to go, they’ll have to figure out a way to be better than they were against a (fellow?) elite team. Fortunately, we’ll get to see another one shortly, when the league-leading Washington Capitals visit SAP Center on Thursday. If the Sharks – who will likely dress a better lineup – drop that one decisively, it might be time to worry. If they respond with a better effort, perhaps Sunday’s loss to the Wild was just a blip on the radar.

2 – Power play changes remain overdue

It’s time to wonder just what has to happen for the Sharks’ coaching staff to make modifications to the power play units, particularly the top unit. The Sharks have just two power play goals over their last eight games (2-for-20), and since Nov. 1, they are 26-for-166 for a miserable 15.6 percent success rate. 

They’re standing still, they’re not getting second chance opportunities, passes are off the mark, and they aren’t winning battles. In a game that was there for the taking on Sunday despite the ice being tilted the wrong way, a power play goal could have helped them to steal at least one point.

“We had our power plays, we didn’t get a lot done on them,” Joe Pavelski told reporters.

DeBoer said: “That’s the kind of night where you’ve got to win the special teams battle, and we didn’t.”

The Sharks will get one of their final two-day breaks between Monday’s game in Winnipeg and Thursday’s at home against Washington. If the power play has another fruitless performance against the Jets, Wednesday’s practice should be all about the man advantage. It’s simply not championship caliber right now, and it hasn’t been since October.

3 – Jones responding to rest

It appears that no Sharks player has benefited more from the bye week than Martin Jones, who was spectacular in a losing performance with 25 saves. He made a number of stops in the early going, before Brent Burns left Zach Parise wide open in front of the net for a power play score. He got a little lucky with that strange neck-hole save on Chris Stewart, but also stopped three breakaway attempts throughout the course of the game.

“He was great,” Pavelski said of his goalie. “He made some huge saves, and it wasn’t our best game.”

The goalie called it a “good, hard, playoff-style game tonight.”

Jones, if you recall, saw his save percentage decline month-to-month from November to before the bye week in late February when he was overworked. In three starts since the break, though, he’s stopped 80 of 84 shots (.952 save percentage).


Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night

Kane leads Sharks to critical win on four-goal night


CALGARY, Alberta -- Evander Kane scored four goals to lead the San Jose Sharks past the Calgary Flames 7-4 on Friday night.

Tomas Hertl had a goal and an assist for the Sharks, who have won three straight and four of five. Kevin Lebanc and Eric Fehr also scored, and Martin Jones made 30 saves.

It was the first NHL hat trick for Kane, acquired from Buffalo just before the Feb. 26 trade deadline.

Micheal Ferland had a goal and an assist for the Flames, who are four points out of a playoff spot. Troy BrouwerMark Jankowski and Johnny Gaudreau also scored for Calgary.

Three nights after stopping all 28 shots he faced against the Oilers, Calgary goalie Mike Smith had a rough outing as he made just 14 saves before being replaced by David Rittich early in the third period. Rittich went on to stop all seven shots he faced in a relief appearance.

The Sharks opened the scoring six minutes into the first period when Kane's wrist shot beat Smith to the glove side.

The Flames pulled even at 16:42 when Brouwer chipped a pass from Curtis Lazar into the top corner behind Jones. Matt Stajan stole the puck from Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon behind the San Jose net to get the play started.

Jankowski took a pass from linemate Garnet Hathaway and wired a shot to the top corner, glove side behind Jones to put Calgary up 2-1 at 2:10 of the second period.

Kane then redirected Dillon's point shot past Smith at 6:29 before Gaudreau cut into the slot and snapped a shot past Jones at 10:16 to put Calgary back up by a goal.

That lead lasted just 1:26 as Lebanc fired a shot from a sharp angle into the top corner past Smith to pull the Sharks into a 3-all tie.

Kane completed his hat trick at 16:32 when he swatted in his own rebound before Hertl poked the puck through Smith's legs with 1:58 remaining before the second intermission.

The Sharks added an insurance goal 62 seconds into the third when Kane redirected a pass from Joe Pavelski past Smith.

Ferland backhanded a shot past Jones to pull Calgary within two goals with 5:35 left in regulation and Rittich on the bench for an extra attacker. Fehr rounded out the scoring with an empty-net goal 1:37 later.

NOTES: Jankowski suited up for the Flames after sitting out Tuesday's 1-0 win over Edmonton. Fellow forward Kris Versteeg returned to Calgary's lineup after missing the past 49 games with a hip injury. ... Gaudreau extended his point streak to six games (three goals, five assists).


Sharks: At the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night.

Flames: At the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday.

Jones set for big workload down the stretch


Jones set for big workload down the stretch

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones is on pace for the lightest overall workload of his career as a starter. After starting 65 games in his first two seasons in San Jose, Jones can only play a maximum of 62 if he appears in each of the team's 12 remaining games. 

Yet simultaneously, he is also on pace for the largest stretch-run workload of his career. Jones will make his 10th straight start, and 51st overall, Friday night in Calgary. 

Friday will also mark his eighth consecutive start since the trade deadline. Over the last two seasons, Jones made 13 and 14 starts, respectively, from the deadline onwards. 

It's easy to envision Jones far surpassing that workload. Entering Mar. 16 each of the last two years, the Sharks held, respectively, 10-point and 18-point leads over the West's ninth-place team, the closest among the squads on the outside looking in at the postseason. As a result, James Reimer and Aaron Dell spelled Jones for eight and seven starts, respectively, to keep him rested ahead of the postseason. 

This year, San Jose's only three points clear of the ninth-place Anaheim Ducks. There's also only one back-to-back remaining on the post-deadline schedule, compared to five in 2016-17 and two in 2015-16, and 10 of the next 12 games are against teams within four points of a playoff spot. 

Taking all of that into consideration, Jones should pretty easily exceed the mark of 14 post-trade deadline starts he set last season and ultimately start more than 60 games for the third consecutive season, barring injury. 

Should the Sharks clinch a playoff spot, it will be fair to wonder what kind of effect Jones' stretch-run starts will have on his postseason performance. Jones posted a .923 save percentage in San Jose's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016, and a .935 save percentage in the first round last year after receiving a good amount of time off. 

But the Sharks have to get there first, and it's understandable they will rely on Jones in order to do so. The recently-extended Aaron Dell remains one of the league's better backups, but has come a bit back down to earth this season (.914 save percentage) after earning the role last year (.931). 

Jones, for his part, has handled the increased workload well so far, winning five of nine games and posting a .922 save percentage. How well handles his 10th consecutive start, and any that follow, will have a profound impact on the Sharks' hopes of making the playoffs.