Ailing power play costs Sharks in final game before All-Star break

Ailing power play costs Sharks in final game before All-Star break

SAN JOSE – There’s hasn’t been a whole lot that’s gone wrong for the Sharks so far this season, as they sit atop the Pacific Division at the All-Star break. 

Their defensive structure in front of All-Star goalie Martin Jones is outstanding, Brent Burns is the Norris Trophy favorite, some promising rookies have burst onto the scene, and they are mostly healthy, even getting Tomas Hertl back after a 32-game absence.

But one area has been a glaring bugaboo -- the power play. It cost them on Thursday night at SAP Center in a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers that snapped their six-game winning streak.

The Sharks went 0-for-4 with a man advantage, including a four-minute power play early in the third period with a chance to tie the game at 2-2. They didn’t get the job done, though, and Drake Caggiula’s goal at 11:31 made it a fairly stress-free final half of the third period from surging Edmonton’s perspective.

“In those situations you’ve got to find a way to score, and create a little momentum,” Joe Pavelski said. “At the end of the day you need the production, and we didn’t get it there. It was the difference in the game.”

Since Nov. 1, the Sharks are just 19-for-128 on the power play (14.8 percent). Perhaps that’s why coach Pete DeBoer figured the lengthy third period advantage was a good time to drastically shuffle his units. 

He knows that’s one area that the Sharks, who finished third on the power play last season, could be a whole lot better. They sit in 22nd currently.

“Yes, just because of historically where this group has had this power play, and how dangerous it has been, and what a weapon it’s been – and it hasn’t been,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to find a way.

“The good news is, we’ve got time, and these guys have done it before. We’ve got to dig in here.”

Power play woes aside, the Sharks are in a good place as the league breaks for a few days for the annual festivities in Los Angeles. Although the loss to Edmonton was discouraging, especially considering it allowed the Oilers to tie the Sharks in points (San Jose has one game in hand, so they are technically still in first), San Jose just completed a brutal stretch of eight games in 13 days. 

Prior to winning six of their final seven, the Sharks trailed Anaheim by five points. Now, they and the Oilers have a one-point lead on the Ducks.

“You always have stuff to work on, but it’s just about getting points, and we did that for the last little bit,” Burns said.

DeBoer said: “It’s tough after a game like this to feel good, but it’s been a hell of a month. I’m real proud of the group and how we’ve dug in and handled the adversity of injuries and travel and schedule.”

The Sharks could have pulled out Thursday’s game, too, despite not getting that power play conversion. Edmonton had just 21 shots to the Sharks’ 33, while San Jose out-attempted the Oilers 81-41.

Andrej Sekera’s two goals were both a bit lucky, as his first went off of Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and his second, a power play point shot, may have deflected off of Melker Karlsson. Those two scores turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 Oilers lead.

“They threw some pucks to our net, and obviously they got a couple good bounces going their way,” Patrick Marleau said.

DeBoer said: “The defensive game wasn’t what lost us the game, it was the inability to score.”

Cam Talbot was outstanding for Edmonton, and other than Connor McDavid, he’s probably the biggest reason the Oilers look like a surefire playoff team. Edmonton also did a nice job suppressing Burns, who had two shots on goal and eight attempts blocked after two periods.

Now comes the All-Star break, and in less than a month, the bye week from Feb. 20-24. A more potent power play would help their cause for those final 32 games before the playoffs.

“As a staff we’ll do some work over the break and look for some solutions, and come back and try and get it fixed,” DeBoer said.

Sharks rival Drew Doughty doesn't think Brent Burns deserves Norris Trophy


Sharks rival Drew Doughty doesn't think Brent Burns deserves Norris Trophy

We're down to two weeks remaining in the NHL season, and there's still plenty left to be determined.

Only five of what will be a grand total of 16 playoff spots have been clinched, and the races for many of the other 11 are likely to come down to the final days of the season. The same can be said for certain individual award races.

The former of those types of races doesn't really apply to the Sharks. They've already clinched a playoff spot and barring something crazy, they likely will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round.

As for the award races, there's still plenty at stake and how certain players finish their respective individual seasons could prove to be the deciding factor in who goes home with the hardware and who will have to wait at least another year.

Both San Jose's Brent Burns and Calgary's Mark Giordano have been jostling back and forth for pole position in the race for the Norris Trophy -- given to the league's top defenseman -- practically all year long. And it appears they'll finish it that way, as well.

One former Norris Trophy winner -- Los Angeles' Drew Doughty -- was asked his thoughts on the current race ahead of the Kings' game in Calgary on Monday, and let's just say he didn't mince words when it came to evaluating Burns' candidacy.

Burns currently leads the Sharks and all NHL defensemen with 77 points -- one more than he had in 2016-17 when he won his first Norris. Giordano, meanwhile, ranks second among all NHL defensemen with 72 points. Burns has played in two more games than Giordano so far this season, but his 1.03 points per game still rank slightly ahead of Giordano's 0.99.

Giordano's Flames are the odds-on favorite to finish with the most points of any Western Conference team, though, and that could certainly work in his favor in such a close race.

[RELATED: Sharks need better goaltending with playoffs around corner]

Meanwhile, Doughty's Kings are currently dead last in the Western Conference, 10 points behind the next-closest team. Any realistic shot at the playoffs went out the window a long time ago, and Doughty himself is on pace for his fewest points in a season in which he played more than 48 games.

Doughty has a Norris and a couple of Stanley Cups to his resume, so his comments can't be completely disregarded. But that sure sounds like sour grapes from a frustrated veteran towards a longtime division rival, which -- given the history between the Sharks and Kings -- shouldn't really come as a surprise.

Sharks vs. Red Wings watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs


Sharks vs. Red Wings watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks are looking to snap their longest losing streak this season. They’ll have the opportunity to get back in the win column on Monday evening when they host Gustav Nyquist’s former team, the Detroit Red Wings.

Team Teal returns home after tallying just one point on their two-game trip down in Southern California with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks. San Jose currently sits with 95 points in the standings -- five points ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights and six points behind the Calgary Flames.

The Red Wings are the second-worst ranked team in the Eastern Conference, but visit San Jose coming off a 3-2 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Golden Knights. “They always give us a hard time,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said of the Detroit squad. “Their speed. They’re young, they’re enthusiastic. They’re playing, really, with no pressure on them. Those are dangerous teams.”

The Sharks will continue to play with captain Joe Pavelski, who is continuing to recover from a lower-body injury. DeBoer told the media Pavelski was “heading in the right direction,” though. “If it was playoffs, he’d probably be able to play. But there’s no sense rushing that right now.”

Detroit will play without Thomas Vanek, who has been sidelined with a mid-body injury, per Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. The Red Wings will roll out 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Sharks.

This is the second and final time the Sharks and Red Wings will play each other this season. Through 93 total games played between the franchises, San Jose holds a 34-49-4-6 record.

Sharks projected lines and pairs:

Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Gustav Nyquist
Evander Kane – Tomas Hertl – Joonas Donskoi
Marcus Sorensen – Joe Thornton – Kevin Labanc
Lukas Radil – Barclay Goodrow – Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Tim Heed
Joakim Ryan – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Justin Braun

Martin Jones – projected starter
Aaron Dell

[RELATED: Sharks need better goaltending with playoffs around corner]

Red Wings projected lines and pairs:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Dylan Larkin – Anthony Mantha
Luke Glendening – Andreas Athanasiou – Taro Hirose
Frans Nielsen – Darren Helm
Ryan Kuffner – Christoffer Ehn – Matt Puempel

Dan DeKeyser – Filip Hronek
Niklas Kronwall – Madison Bowey
Brian Lashoff – Luke Witkowski
Dylan McIlrath

Jonathan Bernier – projected starter
Jimmy Howard