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.

After beating Vegas, Sharks can't suffer emotional letdown vs. Avalanche


After beating Vegas, Sharks can't suffer emotional letdown vs. Avalanche

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks and Avalanche enter their second-round series of the NHL playoffs on very different pages. San Jose will be just three days removed from their Game 7 overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Avs haven't played since booting the Calgary Flames from the playoffs on April 19. 

When asked if there was an advantage to not having time to get rusty, Sharks’ coach Peter DeBoer tried to suppress a laugh. 

“If you’re asking me if I’d rather have a week off, I’ll take the week off,” he told NBC Sports California with a smile.

Granted, San Jose is dealing with multiple injuries sustained during their contentious first-round bout with the Golden Knights. But more than anything, DeBoer wants his team to be able to keep their intensity high after a come-from-behind series win over Vegas. Extracurriculars, off-ice chatter, and back-to-back games going extra long can really zap the energy out of a team, and San Jose has to be ready to bounce back from that. 

“I’m more worried about our emotional level than our physical,” DeBoer admitted. “You’re fighting for your life for three games in a row, that taxes you emotionally. So we’ve got to get our emotional levels back up when we come out on the ice on Friday night.”

There is one advantage San Jose has over their next opponent, however: getting to start the series in their own building.

“It’s nice to not be traveling today to Colorado,” DeBoer said. “It’s nice, especially after a seven-game series, to not have to travel.”

Defenseman Brenden Dillon agreed. “I think any time you get to play at home and you don’t have to travel three or four hours, different time zones, it’s going to play to our advantage. Especially after a big series like that, a physical series where guys are banged up. Any time you’re able to sleep in your own bed I think is a positive.”

Dillon and the rest of the Sharks’ defensemen have a tall task ahead of them in shutting down Colorado’s speedy offense, which did quite a bit of damage against the Flames in their first-round series. Top-line center Nathan MacKinnon and second-line winger Mikko Rantanen led the charge with a combined 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) against Calgary, while Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar finished his first NHL playoff series with two points (one goal, one assist) and a plus-four. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Pavelski unlikely to play in Game 1 vs. Avs]

Much like shutting down Vegas’ Mark Stone line, San Jose will have to solve the MacKinnon combo if they’re going to be successful. 

“We’ve got to be aware of them,” DeBoer said, explaining that facing the Avs' offense in the playoffs will be different than facing them during the regular season. “The regular season you throw out the window this time of year. We watched them against Calgary and what they did to them against a really good d-corps. We know what we’re dealing with and that’s going to be the challenge of the series.”

Sharks' Joe Pavelski day-to-day but unlikely to play in Game 1 vs. Avalanche

Sharks' Joe Pavelski day-to-day but unlikely to play in Game 1 vs. Avalanche

SAN JOSE – Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer is classifying Joe Pavelski as day-to-day after the captain sustained a scary injury during San Jose's Game 7 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.

Pavelski left Game 7 at the 9:13 mark of the third period after getting cross-checked off a faceoff by Cody Eakin and falling to the ice and hitting his head. No. 8 was bleeding profusely and had to be helped off the ice by a few of his teammates with a towel being held to his head. DeBoer wouldn’t specify exactly what Pavelski’s ailment was, but said the top-line forward was “feeling the effects” of the injury and likely won’t be in the lineup for Game 1 of the Sharks' second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche.

“It could’ve been worse, you could’ve been dealing with a fractured skull,” DeBoer told the media after Thursday’s morning skate. “Thankfully, we weren’t.”

Pavelski did not take the ice for practice Thursday, although the press was told he was in the building.

Teammates Melker Karlsson and Tim Heed were also missing from practice Thursday morning. Joonas Donskoi, who missed Game 7 against the Knights with an unspecified injury, skated in a non-contact orange sweater early Thursday morning but left the ice before practice got underway. Micheal Haley returned to practice for the first time since sustaining an injury during Game 3 against the Knights.

When questioned about the status of players missing from practice, DeBoer chalked it up to the team being banged-up just like every other team still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.

“Like anybody this time of year, we have a lot of game-time decisions,” DeBoer said.

[RELATED: NHL apologizes to Vegas for mistake on major penalty call]

The Sharks will open up their second-round series against the Avalanche at SAP Center on Friday.