Sharks

Logan Couture addresses Sharks' lack of scoring through first 12 games

Logan Couture addresses Sharks' lack of scoring through first 12 games

There was speculation ahead of the 2019-20 season that the Sharks weren't going to score as many goals as they did last season. Just 12 games into the season, that problem is a regular theme in many of San Jose's games.

Following a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Sharks are being outscored 43-31 through 12 regular-season games. They're ranked fourth in the league with 3.58 goals-against per game and ranked 24th with 2.58 goals-for.

Even with better goaltending and the defense tightening up their game, the Sharks still aren't making good decisions or executing properly. And according to captain Logan Couture, no player is without blame as the offense struggles to finish plays.

"That's been a story this season, we aren't finishing," Couture told reporters at Canadian Tire Center, putting some of the blame on himself. "I can't be sitting at one goal right now. Tommy (Hertl) is at three, Timo's at two. We've got to score some more goals. We're at 12 games in and I can't be sitting at one goal."

The captain isn't pointing fingers necessarily, although he does make a valid point. He, along with the rest of the Sharks big scorers, are having trouble finding the back of the net with regularity. 

There are, unfortunately, multiple factors at play here. Decision-making is just one of the reasons this problem persists, which has resulted in costly turnovers. The other is difficulty establishing a constant forecheck -- which, as we've seen through San Jose's wins so far this season, makes a huge difference in their scoring. When the team really grinds to win battles and takes the ice away from the opponent, they have a much better chance of keeping the score in their favor.

Another issue, Couture said, is trying to do too much with the puck.

"Maybe when you're tired on a shift, chip it out and take the safe play," Couture suggested. "I think that's what's costing us right now. The safe play is there and we're not making it. We're trying something a little fancier and it's biting us right now."

At 12 games into the season, the Sharks really do need to cut down on making those mistakes on such a regular basis. They've played some strong offensive games, like in their win over the Montreal Canadiens last week. But the trouble with execution around the enemy's net is a problem from their four-loss start to the season that is hanging around in the Sharks' game, especially at five-on-five.

Let's face it. Having better goaltending and a dominant penalty kill doesn't make up for the fact that San Jose needs to score more goals.

The Sharks aren't catching any breaks after that tough Sunday loss to a sub-par team. San Jose closes out its East Coast road trip on Tuesday in Boston against the Bruins, who are currently one of the best teams in the league sitting at 8-1-2. If a team like the Senators can make the Sharks pay for their lack of offensive execution, what's going to happen when they face a team like the Bruins?

Even with problems looming and the tough task ahead, Couture insisted the team's scoring woes aren't from a complete lack of trying.

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"I don't think guys are going out there not trying, I think guys are trying as hard as they can," he said. "Giving it everything they can. It's just mistakes. Mental mistakes. When you get out on a shift -- tired mistakes. I think that's hurting us a little bit right now. But it's definitely not lack of effort."

Now the Sharks need to turn that effort into more goals.

Sharks lament 'poor, poor effort' in third period of loss to Lightning

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AP

Sharks lament 'poor, poor effort' in third period of loss to Lightning

For the first 40 minutes of Saturday's game in Tampa Bay, the Sharks had the Lightning within their reach. Sure, San Jose went into an early 1-0 hole, but they kept grinding in an effort to even up the score.

But after finding themselves down 3-0 in the waning minutes of the second stanza, the Sharks' effort took a backseat on their way to losing 7-1. It collectively became a game San Jose wants to put in the rearview mirror as quickly as possible, but also served as an important lesson as the Sharks continue to iron out mistakes.

"It was a strange game," head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters at Amalie Arena after the loss. "At the end of 40, I was pretty happy with how we were playing. I didn't think we deserved to be down 3-0, but that was the reality. The third period was just unacceptable. A poor, poor effort. I think instead of sticking with it we started feeling sorry for ourselves after that fourth goal and maybe started thinking about tomorrow and you can't do that in this league. Throw that one out."

Logan Couture agreed with DeBoer's assessment.

"I thought we played pretty well through two, I thought we had some good five-on-five looks," Couture said. "I didn't like our third period. We gave them some many freebies and let our goalies down. For the first 40 I thought we played hard, it could have been a one or two-goal game."

San Jose generated a couple of good looks in the first 40 minutes, with a Kevin Labanc chance in the second being the best. But through two periods -- and most of the third period -- San Jose was unable to find the back of the net.

"I don't think we started as bad as maybe the score was telling us," Erik Karlsson said. "That's the way it goes sometimes."

Bolts' netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy stood tall as he came within minutes of handing the Sharks their first shutout loss of the 2019-20 season, but Couture insisted San Jose didn't put enough pressure on him.

"He played well, he made saves, but I think we could have done a better job with traffic," Couture said. "There were second opportunities around him and they did a good job of boxing us out. We've got to be hungrier around their net to score goals."

Even though the Sharks seemed content overall with how they play through the first two periods, there's no denying that the first five minutes set a tone for the rest of the evening. The Sharks were granted six minutes of power-play time thanks to a tripping penalty on Ondrej Palat 15 seconds into the game and then high-sticking double minor on Mathieu Joseph a little over five minutes later. San Jose couldn't convert on any of their chances, stretching their power-play goal drought to a ghastly 0-for-22.

While the power play isn't the only thing the Sharks have to correct after Saturday's loss, it has definitely raised concern.

"I've been trying to be patient through it," DeBoer admitted, "but it hasn't been good and it's getting to the point now where, tonight a big difference in the game was special teams. Especially when we get those early ones, that's a chance to grab some momentum on the road."

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The Sharks are fortunate enough to have a quick turnaround after Saturday's loss, heading to Sunrise to face the Panthers in a Sunday matinee.

"Overall, I think this is a game we're going to have to learn from," Karlsson summarized. "We've got to figure out a way to be successful no matter who we are playing. Today was a tough one on the score sheet, but we have a game again tomorrow. We have to fix the things that make us successful."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 7-1 blowout loss to Lightning

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 7-1 blowout loss to Lightning

BOX SCORE

The Sharks' Saturday night faceoff against the Lightning wasn't nearly as fast-paced as their previous game against the Hurricanes. And, unfortunately for the Sharks, it wasn't as good of a performance.

While the Tampa Bay squad has struggled this season, they overpowered San Jose thanks to a strong performance from their netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, handing the Sharks a 7-1 loss.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game.

The other guy was better

It wasn't as if Martin Jones didn't make a couple of big saves early in the game. (At least, up until he was pulled from the game.) However, Vasilevskiy was superior on the other end of the ice.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner was a brick wall against San Jose, coming within minutes of handing the Sharks their first shutout loss of their season.

It wasn't as if the Sharks weren't trying. They got good o-zone time and outshot the Lightning through the first 40 minutes of play. But even with a ton of pressure from San Jose's third line in the second period, Vasilevskiy remained un-phased. By the third period, the wind had been taken out of the sails of the Sharks' offense.

Doomed by special teams

This isn't the first time this season that the power play has come under scrutiny. Far from it, actually -- San Jose entered Saturday's game on a 0-for-19 stretch. But things got worse against the Bolts, as the Sharks got three opportunities in the first frame -- one minor penalty 15 seconds into the game and double minor later in the period -- and couldn't capitalize on any of them. Being on the man advantage almost looked to zap San Jose's energy.

When the Bolts got their own chance on the four-minute power play in the second stanza, they didn't have the same problem that the Sharks did. San Jose's league-leading penalty kill was almost all of the way through a Kevin Labanc high-sticking double minor when Steven Stamkos's shot picked the corner and beat Jones for Tampa's third goal on the evening.

Back on the hunt for a four-line effort

This one might seem obvious since the Sharks almost got shutout, but the effort put out by all lines needs to be noted. For a second straight game, the Joe Thornton-led third line was the strongest in San Jose's forward attack. But unlike in the Sharks' previous game, the other lines didn't generate too many good looks.

Simply put, the Sharks aren't going to win games if the majority of their team is playing a passive game like they did on Saturday. Even against a middle-of-the-pack team like the Bolts, San Jose's collective effort just wasn't good enough.