How Sharks' NHL playoffs win drove Avalanche to go big in free agency

How Sharks' NHL playoffs win drove Avalanche to go big in free agency

If your team gets booted from the playoffs, you're going to want to take stock in what got you eliminated and then improve on those things in the offseason, right? 

Just a few months after being knocked out of the playoffs by Sharks, the Colorado Avalanche did just that.

With the departure of captain Joe Pavelski headlining an emotional first day of free agency for the Sharks and their fans, it was probably easy to tune out what other teams around the NHL were doing. But the Avs made plenty of noise, and they did far more than just sign winger Joonas Donskoi to a four-year deal.

They specifically added to areas of their game that were lacking when they faced San Jose in the second round.

Hours after signing Donskoi from San Jose and depth center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare from the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado set hockey Twitter on fire by trading forward Alexander Kerfoot, defenseman Tyson Barrie, and a sixth-round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for center Nazem Kadri, defenseman Calle Rosen and a third-rounder. This came a week after dealing center Carl Soderberg to the Arizona Coyotes for blue liner Kevin Connauton, and days after bringing in Andre Burakovsky from the Washington Capitals for a pair of picks.

Sure, one motivation behind these moves is preserving salary-cap space. The Avalanche's flurry of moves have (so far) resulted in a little under $3.5 million in additional salary, leaving plenty of space to re-sign restricted free agents Miiko Rantanen and Burakovsky.

But did losing to the Sharks in the playoffs also inspire some of the moves the Avalanche just made? Here's how that's possible.

San Jose had two advantages over Colorado when the teams faced off in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. The Sharks had more offensive depth and were more physical. While Colorado stars Rantanen, MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog weren't always easy to contain, San Jose limited the trio on the scoreboard by using muscle to take away the center of the ice. Beyond that, the Avs weren't working with a ton of firepower.

Kadri and Bellemare bring scoring depth, as well as a boost in physicality. Bellemare plays a strong two-way game, and has enough skill to boost Colorado's bottom six forwards as he did in Vegas. Meanwhile, Kadri gives Colorado another center to help flesh out its lineup, plus he's good at drawing penalties -- in part because he's something of an agitator -- and producing on the power play. 

But the Avs are still a speed-and-skill team, which is where adding Donskoi and Burakovsky will help. Both players are coming off of up-and-down seasons, these are two dangerous forwards who have motivation to improve with a new team.

Donskoi also provides coach Jared Bednar some versatility, as he can be deployed on any of the Avalanche's top three lines. Plus, his eventual series-clinching wrapround goal in Game 7 on Colorado goaltender Philipp Grubauer likely made an impression as well.

[RELATED: Sharks might have to trade these players to free cap space]

Despite being in a different division, the Avalanche's additions make them a growing threat in the Western Conference for the Sharks. Colorado's newfound depth and physicality this offseason will lead to a more complete team next season, and one that is even more competitive.

It's hard not to see how the Sharks themselves influenced those moves after knocking the Avs out of the playoffs just a couple months ago. 

Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change


Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change

SAN JOSE -- Thursday could have been a fresh start for the Sharks. As shocking and emotional as it was to go through a midseason coaching change, they were presented with the opportunity to turn things around.

Unfortunately, Thursday's game against the Rangers featured a lot of the same problems. Missed opportunities, loose late-game play and yet another notch in the loss column.

Sure, getting accustomed to a new coach's ways can take some time. But that doesn't give the Sharks a pass when it comes to playing a full 60-minute hockey game.

"It's tough, it's difficult, but there's no excuse," captain Logan Couture said after the 6-3 loss. "Lots of teams have [gone through a coaching change]. A lot of teams in this league have done it and they've gone on winning streaks. The team that did it last year won the Cup. So, we've got to find a way. Tonight wasn't good enough once again."

San Jose did, in fact, have a great chance to get back into the win column in Bob Boughner's first game behind the bench. Even with New York continuing to grind away, the Sharks were able to take a 3-2 lead at the 4:12 mark of the third period thanks to a big goal from Brenden Dillon.

But then the defense took its foot off of the gas and Martin Jones couldn't stop Mike Zibanejad or Artemi Panarin from pushing the Rangers over the hump. In a matter of minutes, the Sharks went from defending a lead to being in a hole they didn't have time to dig out of.

"When you have a lead in the third with 15 minutes left, you have to defend a little bit harder and not turn the puck over like we did," Couture continued. "Play harder in our own end, which we did not. Defend our slot harder tonight, and I don't think we did."

Dillon agreed. "Frustrating when you have a lead like that. Especially at home, we have to be able to close it out. If we give up the tying goal, and then a couple more, it's just frustrating."

Letting up late isn't the only thing that is plaguing the Sharks right now. San Jose has struggled to play a full 60-minute game for the bulk of the season thus far. Thursday's loss showed yet again that San Jose isn't playing full games on a nightly basis -- regardless of who is behind the bench.

"I think we did some good things tonight, but obviously it still wasn't a full 60," interim head coach Bob Boughner observed. "I think in the third period we ran out of gas there a little bit."

[RELATED: Boughner confident in staff, wants Sharks to play inspired]

Martin Jones, who surrendered three goals in the third period, agreed. "Have to play a full 60 minutes, you have to," he said, acknowledging that having an adjustment period with a new coaching staff isn't an excuse. "They had more jump in the third period than us. We've got to find a way in a tied hockey game to come out with a little bit more energy. I don't know how many shots or scoring chances we had in the third, but we need to apply more pressure in a close hockey game like that."

Whether it's applying more pressure or tightening up, the Sharks clearly still have a laundry list of things they need to clean up. Now with the dust settling in regards to the coaching change, San Jose has no other option but to dig deep and keep working.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Boughner reminded everyone. "We'll have a good practice day tomorrow. Sort some things out."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in disappointing 6-3 loss to Rangers


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in disappointing 6-3 loss to Rangers


SAN JOSE -- Considering all of the chaos surrounding the Sharks over the last 24 hours, you might have forgotten that they still had a game to play Thursday night.

It wasn’t the tightest game San Jose has played this season, nor was it the most dominant. And while the Sharks were able to take a late lead thanks to Brenden Dillon’s first goal of the season, the visiting New York Rangers buried a few late-game goals to hand San Jose a 6-3 loss and extend the losing streak to six games.

Here are three takeaways from Bob Boughner's debut behind the bench:

Defense still needs work 

Clearly, the Sharks are still a work in progress. A coaching change isn't going to make them a different team overnight. So while aspects of their game looked better on Thursday, there are still areas they need to tighten up, with defense being the area that stuck out the most against New York.

San Jose did a good job early on of being stingy in its own zone and leading the charge with eight blocked shots to the Rangers' two. But in the second period, the Sharks began giving the visitors more room to move the puck up the middle of the ice which, in turn, made Martin Jones' job harder. It's no wonder the Rangers were able to score two goals less than three minutes apart in that frame.

Goaltending remains a question mark 

During Thursday afternoon’s press conference, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was adamant that the defense in front of San Jose’s net needs to be better, but so do the goaltenders. Jones made some nice saves against an opportunistic Rangers team that never slowed down throughout the game, but he wasn't at his best on San Jose’s third-period penalty kill when he gave up multiple goals that he should have had.

If the Sharks are going to rebound from the current losing streak, Jones must regain the confidence he played with at the end of November. There’s no way around it.

[RELATED: Boughner confident in staff, wants Sharks to play inspired]

Hertl is on the mend 

If there was one Sharks player who noticeably was better against the Rangers, it was Tomas Hertl. The Czech forward slowly has been recovering from an ankle injury that has encumbered his playing abilities. Against the Rangers, however, he looked like he's regaining some of his swagger.

Hertl's strength and patience paid off on the penalty kill when he beat netminder Alexandar Georgiev for a short-handed goal to open up scoring. But he also had a couple of chances later in the game that, despite not finding the back of the net, challenged Georgiev and New York's defense. Hertl might not be operating at 100 percent just yet, but at least he's showing flashes of the power forward he can be.