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


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.

Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal


Sharks avoid arbitration, re-sign Chris Tierney to two-year deal

Just two days before one was scheduled, the Sharks avoided an arbitration hearing with center Chris Tierney, and re-signed the restricted free agent to a two-year deal on Wednesday, the team announced. The deal is reportedly worth just shy of $2.94 million annually, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman

"Chris had his best season as a professional last year and stepped up his level of play in multiple areas," San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said in a statement. "We've always known he was a responsible, defensive-minded player, but he took his offensive game to the next tier and showed that he can be a productive player in all three zones. We look forward to watching him continue his evolution in 2018-19." 

Last season, the 24-year-old Tierney set career-highs in goals (17), assists (23), points (40), shots on goal (118), and ice time (16:00). Tierney also generated expected goals at the highest rate of his career (0.62 per hour), according to Corsica Hockey. 

A 2012 second-round pick, Tierney entered last season in an uncertain place. He signed his one-year, $735,000 qualifying offer last summer, and head coach Peter DeBoer challenged him to improve. 

“I came into the year wanting to prove a point. I believe in myself. I think I’m a good hockey player,” Tierney told the San Jose Mercury News in December. “I wanted to come in and show people that I could play an offensive role on the team.”  

DeBoer used Tierney slightly differently this season, as the forward started a career-high percentage of five-on-five shifts in the offensive zone (31.12 percent) and a career-low percentage of defensive zone starts (29.68 percent), per Corsica Hockey. Tierney responded in kind with his aforementioned career-best offensive numbers, and seized the third-line center role after versatile forward Tomas Hertl stayed on the wing.  

With Tierney back in the fold, the Sharks now have just under $4.4 million in salary cap space, according to CapFriendly. That’s for a roster carrying 14 forwards, seven defenseman, and two goaltenders, and San Jose’s actual cap space may change depending on the outcome of various positional battles in training camp. 

This summer, Tierney became the fourth Sharks player since 2008 to file for arbitration. In every case, including with Tierney on Wednesday, a settlement was reached prior to a hearing. 

The Sharks also signed a pair of prospects to entry-level contracts on Wednesday. Defenseman Ryan Merkley, San Jose’s first-round pick this June, and 21-year-old forward Alexander True, who scored 28 points in 68 games with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda last season, both inked deals with the organization.

Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double


Martin Jones' new goalie mask will have Sharks fans seeing double

Sharks goaltender Martin Jones won't just enter the season with a different paycheck, the result of entering the first year of a five-year, $34.5 million contract extension that he signed last July. He'll also have a new mask.

Toronto-based artist Steve Nash unveiled a look at Jones' mask design for the upcoming season Monday morning on Twitter. The design again features San Jose's secondary logo but with some subtle differences.

Eagle-eyed mask afficionados will notice a couple of tweaks. First, there now are two sharks on the side, compared to only one last season. Those sharks boast orange eyes seen on the back of his mask last season

For comparison, here's a look at Jones' mask from last year.

The 28-year-old netminder is entering his fourth season in San Jose's crease. Jones posted a .915 save percentage in 60 regular-season starts and followed that with a .928 in 10 postseason starts as the Sharks advanced to the second round. 

We'll get our best look at Jones' new mask in action when training camp opens in mid-September, and, assuming he plays, in a game as soon as the Sept. 18 preseason opener against the Ducks.