Sharks

McLellan, McDavid visit Sharks in battle for first place

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USATSI

McLellan, McDavid visit Sharks in battle for first place

SAN JOSE – Current Sharks coach Pete DeBoer and former Sharks coach/current Oilers coach Todd McLellan first spent significant time together as part of Team Canada’s staff at the 2015 World Championships. McLellan had just departed the Sharks after seven seasons, and DeBoer was a few weeks away from being named his replacement.  

The two have maintained a relationship since then, and DeBoer was even supposed to be a part of McLellan’s staff for Team North America at the World Cup before pulling out to spend more time with his family.

“I would say we’re friends,” DeBoer said this week, as the Sharks get set to host McLellan’s Oilers at SAP Center on Friday.

Anyone in San Jose who got to know McLellan would never have imagined the coach to have any sort of feelings of ill will towards his employer last spring, when the Sharks were on their run to the Stanley Cup Final just one season after the divorce. 

It’s no surprise, then, that DeBoer indicated McLellan wished him the best after they spoke right around the Stanley Cup Final, which was won by Pittsburgh in six games.

“Absolutely. This business, you have to move on,” DeBoer said. “It’s a little easier moving on I think when part of it is your choice, which I understood that it wasn’t a situation where like I got fired in New Jersey, and you don’t have a choice. I think it was a mutual parting, from what I understand. When you have situations like that you throw yourself into the next job, and there’s no hard feelings, I wouldn’t think.”

“I’m sure he was emotionally invested in this group. You don’t spend seven years and win the number of games and have the type of people we have here without that, so I’m sure that stings a little bit. They’ve got a bright future there, and they’re doing a great job.”

McLellan has the Oilers on the right path, as they are tied in points with the Sharks for first place in the Pacific Division (each has 41, but the Sharks have two games in hand). The Oilers have, of course, gotten a huge boost from 19-year-old Connor McDavid. They have scored 103 goals, the most in the Western Conference, paced by McDavid’s league-leading 40 points (12g, 28a).

There is simply no combination of speed combined with tremendous skill in today’s NHL like McDavid, who is arguably already the best player in the league in just his second season.

“His quickness and acceleration is second to none,” Logan Couture said.

“It’s almost effortless the way he skates, the way he uses his edges – it’s like he doesn’t even dig into the ice. He’s just kind of on top of it. It’s pretty special to watch as a fellow NHL player, to see how well he skates. It’s great for this game to have him in this league.”

Marc-Edouard Vlasic will surely see plenty of McDavid on Friday.

“He uses his speed anywhere – he outskates guys, skates past the fastest guys with his speed, and he can handle the puck at high speeds,” Vlasic said.

The Sharks, who have won five of their last six, desire to be in sole position of first place at the Christmas break. The team has three CBA-mandated days off from Dec. 24-26 before resuming its schedule in Anaheim on Dec. 27.

In a division that’s more competitive this year, including the resurgent Oilers, that would be an accomplishment.

“Obviously we understand they’re a much better team and they’ve been playing good, playing hard,” Joe Pavelski said. “It’s a team we don’t take lightly, by any means. They got McDavid, they got a few guys that are scoring. Their defensive systems are better. 

“We want to worry about ourselves and make sure we finish this game here before the break playing hard.”

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Well, the Sharks certainly made it interesting. Every time the Ducks scored a goal on Friday evening, the Sharks came back and were able to tie things up. They even got the game-tying goal late in the third period that took their contest into overtime – at least, before they lost 4-3.

Perhaps at a different time of year, getting their first point in five games would feel better. Not on this night. 

The focus remains on the work to be done with just seven games left in the regular season. For Team Teal, they need to clean their game up and get back into the win column.

“It’s better than nothing, but overall, we’re just not finding ways to win games now,” Timo Meier told the media in Anaheim regarding the single point. “We’ve got to find a way to win games. It’s an important time of the year. Playoffs are really close.”

San Jose put a better effort on the ice on Friday than they did the previous evening in LA against the Kings, but the opportunistic Ducks were able to bury more of their chances,

"I don’t think we gave them very much," Peter DeBoer said. "Every chance they got, they stuck in the net, though."

DeBoer was more critical of the team a second night in a row, and rightfully so. Despite outshooting the opposition, the Sharks weren’t able to find the back of the net enough times. They allowed two goals while playing on the penalty kill and tallied 14 giveaways. Plus, outside of Meier’s power-play marker, San Jose still went one-for-five on the man advantage. Despite tying the score up three times, the Sharks couldn’t keep the Ducks from responding.

Clearly, all areas of the game need to be tweaked.

“We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal,” DeBoer said. “We could’ve used a power-play goal tonight -- another one.”

Perhaps the only silver lining, as Meier put it, is that the Sharks are going through this stretch now instead of once they get into the playoffs. San Jose is still trying to get some of its key players healthy and into the lineup so they can make a deep playoff run with the lines and pairs they want. The goal, at least at the moment, is to make sure this five-game skid is a lesson to learn from and not a prelude to the future.

"Get stronger as a team, get tighter as a group, and learn," Meier said. "It’s going to make us stronger going into the playoffs because there are going to be lots of ups and downs coming up. It’s going to make us stronger and we’ve got to react the right way.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from overtime loss to Ducks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from overtime loss to Ducks

BOX SCORE

All the Sharks needed was a win. Just one win on Friday evening against the Ducks. Two points to salvage the road trip, stop the losing streak, and get back to hunting for first place in the division.

Not surprisingly, Team Teal made things interesting with a game that stayed tied up heading down the stretch. Unfortunately for San Jose, the Ducks were the victors in overtime 4-3.

Here are three takeaways from Friday’s game:

How did the power play look?

In a few words: nonexistent until the third. San Jose had three opportunities on the man advantage through the first 40 minutes of play and couldn’t make anything happen. They even gave up a couple breaks the other way that Dell had to stop. Had the power play converted, the Sharks might’ve been up by two or three goals after two period of play.

Timo Meier came up big with the power-play goal in the third period to tie the score up 2-2. While they couldn’t capitalize on the power-play opportunity immediately followed, Meier’s marker will hopefully open up the flood gates for the power play.

Who else stepped up?

Sharks’ bench boss Peter DeBoer didn’t mince words after Thursday’s loss to the Kings, saying that the team needed someone to step up during this stretch with injured superstars and be a hero.

“You’ve got to get a great performance from somebody in a game like this and I don’t think we got that,” DeBoer said on Thursday.

In all honesty, the whole team looked better even with the loss. The fourth line had a couple very memorable shifts, cycling low and establishing pressure. Joe Thornton’s line was clicking, which was clear from Kevin Labanc’s goal.

Gustav Nyquist was a solo standout – despite not finding the back of the net, he played a heck of a game and had some incredible looks. Of course, you can’t talk about this game without talking about Justin Braun scoring the big game-tying goal in the third frame, which was his first marker since December 2.

How did Aaron Dell do?

In all fairness, Dell gave the Sharks a chance to win for the majority of the game. No. 30 has looked good in his last couple of outings – save his relief effort against the Golden Knights earlier in the week when he had little defense to help him out – and he made a couple great saves in Anaheim as well, especially when the Ducks had a couple short-handed breakaways.

Unfortunately for Dell, he gave up the two power-play goals in the third frame. While Braun was the hero and scored the tying goal late in the third to help take the game into overtime, Dell still couldn’t hold down the fort in overtime. It doesn’t matter if he’s the backup or not – at this time of the season, playing too loose late in games isn’t good.