After blowing division, Sharks await first round destination

After blowing division, Sharks await first round destination

SAN JOSE – An evening of channel flipping is likely ahead for the Sharks’ coaching staff, and probably a few of the players, too.

Although the Sharks know they’ll start on the road next week for the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it has yet to be determined whether they’ll be headed to sunny Anaheim or still-unthawing Edmonton. 

Anaheim is in the driver’s seat for the division title, which would give it a first round matchup against Calgary. If the Ducks get at least one point against the Kings, or the Oilers lose in any fashion to Vancouver, then the third-seeded Sharks will go to Edmonton. If the Oilers beat the Canucks and the Ducks lose to the Kings in regulation, then the Sharks will charter to Southern California. 

The Kings-Ducks game at Honda Center begins at 5:30 p.m., while Oilers-Canucks at Rogers Place is at 6 p.m. The full first round playoff schedule is typically revealed shortly after the games are complete.

“It doesn’t really matter for us what kind of building we go into. We’ve been able to win tough games on the road before,” Chris Tierney said. “I think when you go on the road in a playoff game you dial in even more almost than home ice. We’re going to be hungry to go, and try to win the first one.”

Brent Burns offered a more unique view when it was pointed out that Anaheim is a much shorter flight than Edmonton. 

“If you travel longer you get to watch more shows,” Burns said.

No matter what kind of spin they want to put on it, though, the Sharks would have surely rather started a series at home. It’s still somewhat remarkable that they had a nine-point lead on the division as recently as March 15, but dropped to third place anyway after a stretch of losing eight of nine games in regulation.

San Jose finished with a 26-11-4 mark at SAP Center this season, as opposed to a 20-18-3 record on the road. They lost six straight on the road from March 20 – March 31, before capturing their road finale against lowly Vancouver on April 2.

Brenden Dillon admitted that seeing that Pacific Division title slip through the Sharks’ grasp was “a little frustrating.” Still, he doesn’t expect anyone to dwell on it, and pointed out that last season the Sharks won the first round against the Kings and Western Conference Final against St. Louis despite not having home ice.

“I think something about this group of guys that we've had this year is managing the highs and lows,” Dillon said. “We were at a high at the beginning of March, and obviously a bit of a low towards the end. But at the end of the day, we understand the road we had last year.

“We had to start on the road in almost every series, except for [the second round against Nashville]. We were able to have success there, and I think it's something that we can have some confidence in going into Edmonton or Anaheim."

While the overall health of the club will surely play a role in whether it has success, as Logan Couture and Joe Thornton remain questionable, head coach Pete DeBoer pointed towards the intangibles that should allow the Sharks to raise their level from the brand of hockey they’ve displayed over the past few weeks.

“I think it's some experience and a veteran group, and I also think it's the character of your group,” DeBoer said. “We've got a lot of character in there. They know this is what we've been waiting for."


'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far into future after loss to Vegas

'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far into future after loss to Vegas

SAN JOSE – Monday night’s contest between the Sharks and Golden Knights was billed as a potential playoff preview. So naturally, when San Jose lost 7-3, there were questions as to how concerned the team was about possibly having to play Vegas in the first round.

But the team was adamant they shouldn’t be looking too far into the future. They believe they need to stay focused on the games at hand, and fix the things that led them to drop three contests in a row – not on who they may play in the postseason.

“You can’t think about that,” Justin Braun said. “You can’t be worried about what you’re doing three weeks from now. You need to get points now.”

Bench boss Peter DeBoer agreed, telling the media afterward that no matchup is necessarily more ideal than another. 

“I don’t think there’s going to be an easy match,” DeBoer admitted. “I don’t think anyone wants to play (Arizona) the way they’re playing now or Dallas or whoever ends up in there. It doesn’t matter once you get in. Everybody you play is going to be a very good and a very good test. So we’re just going to try and win as many games as we can and whoever we get we’ll show up and be ready to play.”

Winning games now means cleaning a few things up on San Jose’s end. They haven’t been happy with how they’ve played in their last three contests, from not having enough energy on one night to making too many mistakes the next.

“I’m concerned, we haven’t played well,” Logan Couture said. “We’re giving up too many chances, too many goals. We’re giving up odd-man rushes. Every time we give them an opportunity like that they’re going to put it in the back of our net.”

Which was primarily the story of Monday’s game against the Golden Knights. The Sharks made too many small mistakes, from turning pucks over in the neutral zone to making too many trips to the penalty box. Couture went so far as to say the Sharks “handed them goals tonight.”

“Some lessons learned tonight that you can’t chase the game, or if you do get behind in a game against that team you’ve got to handle it with a little more composure," DeBoer said. "We knew that, but we shot ourselves in the foot.”

The only thing left to do now is take what went wrong against Vegas and turn it around – particularly on San Jose’s upcoming two-game road trip against the Kings and Ducks down in Southern California.

“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, you’ve got to keep rolling forward,” Braun said.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 7-3 home loss to Golden Knights

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 7-3 home loss to Golden Knights


SAN JOSE -- Monday’s Sharks-Golden Knights showdown was billed as a hard-hitting matchup and boy, it didn’t disappoint. Unfortunately, things did not swing in the home team’s favor and San Jose dropped their third game of the season against Vegas, 7-3.

Here are three takeaways from Monday’s game:

The Sharks struggled without Joe Pavelski

San Jose was without their captain for the first time this season, as was sidelined with an undisclosed injury. With their top goal-scorer out, the Sharks needed all their skaters to step up to the challenge and make up for his absence. While they scored three good-looking goals -- two of those markers coming from Logan Couture -- and made a really nice push late in the game, not enough of their grade-A chances found the back of the net.

The Sharks also got into a lot of penalty trouble. Vegas is the type of team that is really good at making their opponents pay for making little mistakes, and they were able to wear San Jose down by sending them to the penalty box six times in the first two periods alone.

The Knights survived without Marc-Andre Fleury

San Jose had an opportunity to jump on Vegas with their star netminder out of the lineup. Fleury has unmistakably been the Knights’ best player all season, and a big reason why the Sharks got shut out in their first trip to T-Mobile Arena earlier this season. But backup goaltender Malcolm Subban stood his ground and was able to minimize the damage San Jose tried to create.

Subban also had a lot of help in front of him. Vegas was very good creating barriers around him and clogging up the lanes, making even the Sharks’ best efforts moot. 

Was this an accurate playoff preview?

Not exactly. Remember, both teams are missing key players because of injury. So Monday’s game probably wasn’t the best example of how these teams could matchup up if they end up playing each other in Round 1.

That being said, we got a pretty darn good look at how contentious a playoff series between these two teams would be. The Golden Knights have quickly become one of the Sharks’ biggest rivals, and all games between the two teams have gotten vicious. (Heck, Micheal Haley tried to pull Ryan Reaves off the bench to fight, for pete’s sake.) If these two teams meet up in the postseason -- a time when the refs typically let more hits slide -- it could end up being a blood bath.