Sharks

Despite aggressiveness, same issues plague Sharks in loss to Golden Knights

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USATSI

Despite aggressiveness, same issues plague Sharks in loss to Golden Knights

SAN JOSE -- Two trends that have plagued the Sharks for much of the season once again reared their ugly heads and worked in concert during Thursday night’s loss to the Golden Knights: A lack of five-on-five finishing, and an inability to limit scoring chances.

San Jose opened its first-ever home game against Pacific Division-leading Vegas as the aggressor. The Sharks outshot the Golden Knights 12-4 in five-on-five situations, and 16-4 at all strengths.

Naturally, San Jose, the league’s sixth-worst five-on-five shooting team according to Natural Stat Trick, scored only once. The problem? So did Vegas.

“It’s a little more complicated than that, but you play like that in the first period, you should come out up,” head coach Peter DeBoer said. “And we didn’t, so that hurts.”

“Is that the story of the game? No, but it hurts.”

Ah, but for those pesky complications. The game changed after the Golden Knights escaped the first period with a tie scoreline.

What Vegas initially lacked in quantity, they certainly made up for in quality. The Golden Knights out-chanced the Sharks 31-28 in five-on-five play, including 25-18 over the game’s final 40 minutes.

They ultimately won the overall puck possession battle, too, out-attempting San Jose 40-22 in the second and third period. Immediately, they made the Sharks pay in the second period, scoring just 36 seconds into the middle frame.

San Jose eventually allowed four goals in the final two periods. The three non-empty netters could all be attributed to defensive breakdowns, according to Logan Couture.

“You’re up 3-2 with 10 minutes left,” Couture said. “You don’t need any more goals after.”

Yes, for an all-too-brief 101 seconds, the Sharks held a third period lead, thanks to a power play that has been red-hot since December. The power play has bumped San Jose to a respectable 2.83 goals per game, but has masked their poor five-on-five scoring rate (2.08 goals per 60 minutes, 27th in the league).

On Thursday, the Sharks didn’t finish, which gave the Golden Knights a chance. The defensive breakdowns over the last 40 minutes, then, gave their newest division rival the edge.

“I think we didn’t play our game for 60 minutes,” Timo Meier said. “I think at some times we were playing in their zone, we were dominating, but we gotta do it over 60 minutes.”

Add it all together, and San Jose has a major missed opportunity on its hands. The Sharks dropped into third in the Pacific Division standings, and they could (briefly) fall out of the playoff picture depending on Friday’s results.

If so, Thursday night’s turning point would be one in the standings as well.

Why Sharks firing coach Peter DeBoer doesn't solve all their problems

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AP

Why Sharks firing coach Peter DeBoer doesn't solve all their problems

SAN JOSE -- It was time for a shakeup, there’s no question about it. And when things go sideways, the head coach typically takes the bulk of the blame.

But, the Sharks still have a lot of work to do.

So while those calling for Peter DeBoer to be out of a job have gotten their wish, it needs to be understood that his firing isn’t the beginning nor the end of San Jose's problems.

Don't get me wrong. The first stretch of the Sharks' 2019-20 campaign has been downright rough. They lost the first four games of their season and, despite having plenty of talent in the lineup, have struggled mightily to dig out of the hole they are in. Even during the six-game winning streak, those games weren't always pretty.  

And through that stretch of wins, there were issues that San Jose needed to address, whether it was goaltending or lack of offensive depth or the penalty kill getting overworked.

Long story short: This isn’t just about coaching. Honestly, the Sharks might still lose a lot of games.

Please remember -- DeBoer took the Sharks to the Western Conference finals last season with Martin Jones and Aaron Dell posting save percentages under .900. And he took the team to a Stanley Cup Final in 2016 after beating two stacked teams in the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. This isn't the story of someone who can't coach a Cup-contending team.

So, what's the issue?

Even before DeBoer's firing, the Sharks have been in a team in flux. After the first four defeats, DeBoer had his own list of complaints as to how the team was playing defensively. And offensively. Quite frankly, he wasn't happy with how the team played as a whole during the winning streak in November.

Whatever the core reason is for San Jose's woes, something still has to change now that DeBoer is out the door. After nearly erasing their October deficit with a phenomenal record in November, San Jose has gone 0-4-1 so far in December, a slide that has dropped the team five points out of a playoff spot.

[RELATED: Sharks scuffling due to bad combo of scoring, penalties]

December is a weird month to try to right the ship. The Sharks a homestand coming up, but with two long breaks shoved in the middle. They have a three-day layover ahead of a back-to-back with St. Louis and Vegas and then another a few days later with the Kings and Flyers.

The Sharks absolutely could go on a run before the new year. Just don't expect the coaching change to solve all of their problems. 

Sharks fire Peter DeBoer, hire Bob Boughner as interim head coach

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AP

Sharks fire Peter DeBoer, hire Bob Boughner as interim head coach

In the midst of a five-game losing streak, the Sharks have decided to make a coaching change.

San Jose announced Wednesday that the team has parted ways with head coach Peter DeBoer. Assistant coach Bob Boughner will take over as the interim head coach. Also joining the Sharks' coaching staff are associate coach Roy Sommer, assistant coach Mike Ricci and goaltending coach Evgeni Nabokov.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman was the first to report the news.

The Sharks currently own a disappointing a 15-16-2 record, and are coming off a recent four-game road trip where they went 0-3-1. They currently sit in sixth place in the Pacific Division.

"When you have had a level of past success, change is never easy, but we feel this team is capable of much more than we have shown thus far and that a new voice is needed," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in a team statement. "As a team and as individuals, our play has not met expectations this year and our level of consistency has not been where it needs to be. This group of individuals who will lead our team moving forward are very familiar with our players, and we think this change can provide our group with a fresh start."

In a related move, assistant coaches Dave Barr, Steve Spott and Johan Hedberg were relieved of their duties. 

"Under the leadership of Pete, along with Steve, Dave and Johan, our franchise accomplished some great things, culminating in reaching the 2016 Stanley Cup Final," Wilson continued. "We want to thank them for their contributions to our organization's success over the last four years."

Boughner rejoined the Sharks as an assistant coach prior to the start of the current season, but recently served as head coach of the Panthers, leading Florida to a combined 80-62-22 record over the last two years. He originally joined San Jose's staff in 2015, and helped the Sharks reach the Stanley Cup Final in 2016.

Sommer, most recently the head coach of the San Jose Barracuda, is the all-time leader in games coached and wins in the history of the American Hockey League, and has promoted more than 130 players to the NHL.

Nabokov played for the Sharks for 10 seasons and remains the franchise's all-time leader in almost every major statistical goaltending category, including games played (563), wins (293) and shutouts (50). For the past five seasons, he has served as a scout and goaltending development coach, where he has worked closely with the Barracuda, who have had a goalie named to the AHL All-Star Game in each of the last three years under his tutelage.

Ricci played in 529 games over six-plus seasons in San Jose and has spent the last 12 as a development coach within the organization.

[RELATED: Sharks scuffling due to bad combo of scoring, penalties]

DeBoer had one more year left on his contract worth $3M per season, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun. In four-plus years at the helm in San Jose, he led the Sharks to a 198-129-34 regular-season record and playoff appearances in each of the last four years.