Sharks

NHL Gameday: Sharks, Flames still jostling for playoff position

NHL Gameday: Sharks, Flames still jostling for playoff position

Programming note – Sharks-Flames coverage starts today at 5:30 p.m. with Sharks Pregame Live on CSN California

WHERE THEY STAND

Sharks: 43-27-7, 93 points, 3rd Pacific Division
Flames: 43-30-4, 90 points, 4th Pacific Division

PREGAME NEWS AND NOTES

***Now down to third place in the Pacific Division after their latest defeat, the Sharks will try and hold off Calgary, which would pull to within just one point of San Jose with a regulation win tonight with four games left. On the other hand, the Sharks could move back into a tie in points with Edmonton if they are able to win.

“Right now we’re playing for home ice advantage every single night,” said Jannik Hansen, after the Sharks’ 3-2 loss to the Oilers last night. “That kind of creates a playoff intensity and atmosphere out there. I think it’s a good lead-in to what’s to come.”

Despite the defeat last night the Sharks seemed mostly content with their effort, as they outshot the Oilers 40-22 but were burned by a few mistakes.

“We played really well,” Marc-Edouard Vlasic said. “One of our best games of late. Dictated the pace. [Made] two miscues.”

The Sharks, who have lost seven of their last eight in regulation, conclude their three-game road trip in Vancouver on Sunday. They wrap up the regular season with a three-game homestand next week against the Canucks, Oilers and Flames, in that order.

***The Sharks did not hold a morning skate in Calgary on Thursday, so no word on the starting goalie or any lineup changes. In their last game at the Saddledome on Jan. 11, Aaron Dell – from nearby Airdrie, Alberta – took the loss with three goals allowed on 28 shots in a 3-2 Flames win.

Still, with the importance of this game and the lowly Canucks on the horizon on Sunday, Martin Jones could very well get both ends of the back-to-back after he took the loss last night.

***Calgary won 10 games in a row from Feb. 21 to March 13. Since then it is 4-4-0, including a rough-and-tumble 4-1 home loss to the Kings on Wednesday. The Flames would clinch their spot in the postseason with a win tonight, or a Kings loss to the Canucks.

“Of course, we want to get it done as soon as possible,” Mikael Backlund told the Calgary Herald. “We didn’t play our best game [on Wednesday] but we have another chance [Friday] night. We’ll just refresh and regroup.”

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Sharks: Jannik Hansen. The Sharks forward has opened the scoring in the past two games, his first two goals in a teal sweater. He seems to be finding some chemistry with fellow Denmark native and longtime pal Mikkel Boedker, and his Gordie Howe hat trick on Thursday night – including a fight with Adam Larsson – was the 17th in team history.

Flames: Matthew Tkachuk. Although still just 19 years old, Tkachuk has shown he has no fear of getting his nose dirty to go with his ability to score. In 71 games, he has 46 points (13g, 33a), fifth on the team in scoring, and a team-leading 105 penalty minutes. In three games against the Sharks, the rookie has five points (3g, 2a).

PROBABLE LINES

Sharks
Melker Karlsson – Joe Thornton – Joe Pavelski
Jannik Hansen – Tomas Hertl – Mikkel Boedker
Joonas Donskoi – Patrick Marleau – Joel Ward
Micheal Haley – Chris Tierney – Timo Meier

Paul Martin – Brent Burns
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Justin Braun
Brenden Dillon – David Schlemko

Martin Jones
Aaron Dell 

Flames
Johnny Gaudreau – Sean Monahan – Michael Ferland
Matthew Tkachuk – Mikael Backlund – Michael Frolik
Kris Versteeg – Matt Stajan – Troy Brouwer
Lance Bouma – Sam Bennett – Alex Chiasson

Mark Giordano – Dougie Hamilton
T.J. Brodie – Michael Stone
Matt Bartkowski – Deryk Engelland

Brian Elliott
Chad Johnson

INJURIES

Sharks: Logan Couture (face) is out.

Flames: Ladislav Smid (neck) is out.

QUOTEABLE

“It is a race to three every night in this league and the first team that usually gets there usually wins. We've been getting to one or two too often." – Pete DeBoer

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

jonesap.jpg
AP

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

SAN JOSE – Goaltending has been a hot topic all season for the Sharks. Even when they’ve been winning games, the performance between the pipes has been under scrutiny.

Now, with the playoffs just a couple weeks away and San Jose tryng to snap a season-long five-game winning streak, the performance of Sharks goaltenders Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is yet again being scrutinized.

There’s no mistaking it – they need to be better.

Even Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who isn’t one to call out players after a loss, seemed particularly perturbed with the Sharks' play in net. He said just as much after San Jose's fifth straight defeat, a 4-3 loss to the lowly Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat it, but I think we had them for six chances, and they scored four goals,” he said at the time. “You can’t lay it at one guy's feet, but you can’t win in this league with [an.800 to .900] save percentage. 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 isn’t wrong. Jones might be tied for third place among all NHL goalies with 34 wins under his belt, but his .898 save percentage is 58th out of 69 goalies who have played at least 10 games. Dell's .887 save percentage is 67th. Combined, the Sharks' .891 save percentage is last in the league.

In March, a month in which the Sharks have gone 6-4-1, San Jose has scored 37 goals and allowed 36. Those aren’t stats you want to see heading into the postseason.

To be fair, all the blame can’t be laid at the feet of the netminders, much like DeBoer said. Defensive breakdowns in front of the net don’t do Jones and Dell any favors – and with a banged-up blue line that’s missing Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek, those mistakes become more apparent.

It also doesn’t help the Sharks' offense has dried up, scoring no more than three goals in each of the last five losses. Leading goal-scorer Joe Pavelski has missed the last three, making matters worse.

But San Jose still, as DeBoer mentioned, needs to get more key saves from its goaltenders. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks believe five-game skid will strengthen them]

Now, with the Sharks having secured a playoff spot over the past week, the last few games of the season are going to be focused on being ready for the first round. In addition to getting the lineup healthier, the Sharks also have to focus on allowing fewer goals. A better defensive effort will go a long way, but Jones and Dell also have to buckle down and stop the puck more if San Jose is to hang on to home-ice advantage in the first round.

Don’t expect the goaltending conversation to cool off during these last weeks of the regular season. Goaltending is going to be a major focus as the playoffs get closer. If the Sharks want to still be playing hockey in May and June, it simply has to be better than it is right now.

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.”