Three takeaways: Young legs give Sharks a boost on road trip

Three takeaways: Young legs give Sharks a boost on road trip

It’s been a good week so far for the Sharks, who swept a two-game, back-to-back road trip through Colorado and Winnipeg, have the NHL’s longest active winning streak at six, and sit atop the Pacific Division standings with just one game left before the All-Star break. Here are our three biggest takeaways from the two wins (since the Tommy Wingels trade prevented us from doing one of these yesterday)…

1 – Marleau making history

Patrick Marleau is the talk of the NHL right now, becoming the first player in 20 years to score four goals in one period on Monday and following it up with a late game-winner on Tuesday. It’s a bit hard to believe that more than halfway through the regular season he’s second on the team in goals at 17, one more than Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski. He’s also just two measly goals away from becoming the 45th player in NHL history to score 500.

It’s worth pointing out, too, that Tuesday’s game against Winnipeg was the first in which Marleau actually started on the Couture line. For a guy that’s played up and down the lineup, and considering how much Pete DeBoer has shuffled his lines this season, that’s surprising. These are two guys that have spent a ton of time together in recent years, including the last three rounds of playoffs last season, but it’s almost as if DeBoer was doing everything in his power to keep them apart this year.

The common question I’ve seen lately is, does this make it more likely Marleau’s contract will be extended? I still think that’s more doubtful than probable, but if Marleau would be amenable to a one-year deal around the $3 million range, it might be worth it. Keep in mind this is a motivated player right now that wants to extend his career, wherever it may be. He tends to play his best hockey in contract years, too. If I were the Sharks, I wouldn’t do anything until the season was over.

2 – Young legs give Sharks a boost

The Sharks are an older team pushing through the most difficult part of their schedule. Tuesday’s game was their seventh in 11 days, and their last three games (in four nights) were all in different time zones.

(This is why the word “asinine” has been thrown around when talking about this season’s compressed schedule. But I digress…)

DeBoer mentioned late last week that it was incumbent on the players with younger, fresher legs to make an impact as the Sharks grind it out. That happened the last two games, as guys like Melker Karlsson, Ryan Carpenter, Brenden Dillon, David Schlemko and Mikkel Boedker all notched at least one point in the two wins. Even Barclay Goodrow, on his first shift in his first game of the season, drew a penalty in the first period against Winnipeg that helped lead to Brent Burns’ power play goal.

“We knew they were desperate considering where they're sitting, so it was going to take a whole team effort and we got some good contributions,” DeBoer told reporters after the game. “We stuck Carpenter and Goodrow in the lineup tonight for some fresh legs because of the schedule, and I thought our fourth line gave us some real good minutes."

3 – Carpenter earning a full-time spot

One more thought on Carpenter, and I mentioned this Tuesday night on Sharks Postgame Live – I think he has a chance to stay in the lineup even after Tomas Hertl returns (which I’m told could very well be on Thursday against Edmonton). Chris Tierney hasn’t had that breakout year that I thought might be coming, and if Carpenter has the ability eat up some more minutes on the penalty kill, Tierney could be the latest guy that finds himself looking over his shoulder.

If Hertl does in fact play on Thursday, it would probably make the most sense to put him on the left wing of the top line, move Karlsson back to the fourth line, and remove Goodrow. Carpenter, who has one point in four of his last five NHL games, including the primary assist on Marleau’s game-winner on Tuesday, has earned a chance to stay in the lineup for at least one more night.

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. 

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights

Couture scores in OT, helps Sharks make up ground on Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Seconds after almost costing the San Jose Sharks a game with a turnover, Logan Couture ended it with his backhand.

Couture scored 39 seconds into overtime after getting bailed out by goalie Martin Jones and the San Jose Sharks won their season-high sixth straight game, 2-1 over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

"I was able to make a move on their guy," Couture said. "(Marc-Edouard Vlasic) did a good job of driving their backchecker back and I was able to go far side."

Couture's goal came at the end of an opening shift of the overtime that started with him losing the puck in his own zone, giving Jonathan Marchessault a chance alone in front. Jones got enough of the shot to stop it, and then Vlasic sent the puck ahead to Couture for the winning goal that moved San Jose within seven points of first-place Vegas with eight games remaining in the regular season.

Brent Burns also scored and Jones made 24 saves to help the Sharks open a four-point lead over third-place Los Angeles in the Pacific Division with a game in hand as the Sharks close in on home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

"For us to get a win tonight was important," captain Joe Pavelski said. "Plus, just plant that seed. If we stay hot, you never know, we might be able to catch them and get home ice. We took care of business tonight and we'll try to keep playing well."

Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for the Golden Knights, who were kept in the game by a sterling performance by goalie Malcolm Subban. He stopped 42 shots but it wasn't enough for Vegas to come up with the win, although he helped earn a point that gave the expansion team 100 this season.

"It's impressive," forward James Neal said. "It's a great season for our guys. Guys came together real quick. A great job so far but we're not done yet."

The Golden Knights struck first on a pretty passing play early in the first period that ended when Marchessault found Tatar cutting through the slot ahead of Justin Braun. Tatar skated past Jones and backhanded the puck into the open net.

Vegas has been dominant when getting off to a lead, posting an NHL-best 31-5-1 record when scoring first heading into this game. But the Sharks carried the play in the second period, outshooting the Golden Knights 18-4 and getting the equalizer on a blast by Burns from the point after another strong shift by San Jose's fourth line.

"We want to be playing really good hockey this time of year and heading into the playoffs. I think that's the goal," coach Peter DeBoer said. "Whether we would have won tonight or lost, I like how we played for most of the game, so that's what I'm concentrating on."

Vegas managed to keep it tied despite the lopsided shot totals, killing off a four-minute penalty to Colin Miller and another late power play that started late in the second.

That penalty carried over until the third period and the Sharks got 25 seconds of a two-man advantage after Brayden McNabb was called for throwing his stick but still couldn't get anything past Subban.

The Golden Knights squandered a power-play chance later in the period when Miller was called for cross checking with the man advantage. That nearly led to a power-play goal for San Jose but Subban appeared to get a piece of a shot from in close to Joe Pavelski to keep the game tied at 1.

"He's the main reason we got the point," coach Gerard Gallant said. "He looked comfortable."

NOTES: Vegas G Marc-Andre Fleury didn't make the trip to San Jose with an undisclosed injury but is expected to join the team for Saturday's game in Colorado. ... Burns became the 15th player to play 500 career games with the Sharks.

Golden Knights: Visit Colorado on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Calgary on Saturday.