Sharks

How Sharks' penalty kill lived up to high expectations in win over Sabres

How Sharks' penalty kill lived up to high expectations in win over Sabres

The power play may have been the main focus of the Sharks’ Thursday night victory over the Sabres, but Team Teal wasn’t the only team with multiple chances on the man advantage. 

Buffalo spent their fair share of time on the power play, particularly in the latter portion of the first frame when the teams were trading off penalties. But even when Jack Eichel and the Sabres’ top power play unit was gaining momentum, the Sharks’ penalty kill robbed them of capitalizing on their opportunities.

Martin Jones had a front row seat to view how the penalty kill performed.

“We knew when to pressure the puck, and knew when to sit back and get in lanes and block shots,” the starting goaltender said after the game. 

Jones himself made some of his best saves of the evening, most notably when the Sharks came off the kill in the last two minutes of the first frame when a save on Jason Pominville resulted in Jones laying on his back to stop a flurry of Buffalo’s shots finding the back of the net.

“He was solid and bailed guys out when (Buffalo) had opportunities,” Joe Pavelski complimented Jones after the game.

This rendition of the Sharks' penalty kill has high standards set for itself. The Sharks' kill ranked second overall in the league last season at 84.4 percent -- far superior to its toughest opponents like the Vegas Golden Knights or the LA Kings. That same caliber of kill made an appearance on Thursday evening.

And although the Sharks likely want to spend less time in the penalty box than they have over the last two games, knowing the penalty kill is firing on all cylinders has to give them confidence, especially going up against its next opponent.

The Sharks play against the Islanders, who have four power play goals in six games played. While that may not look so intimidating on paper, New York’s power play already found a way through the Sharks penalty kill during San Jose’s visit last. Halting New York’s power play can give the Sharks’ kill a boost before it heads on the road next week – where they’ve given up a power play goal in three out of five games.

The Sharks rematch with the Islanders takes place Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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.