Sharks

Notes: Sharks to see Canucks a lot; Burns honored, getting love from Vegas

Notes: Sharks to see Canucks a lot; Burns honored, getting love from Vegas

SAN JOSE – When the Sharks play the Canucks on Thursday at Rogers Arena, it will be the first of five meetings between the teams before the end of the season. Put another way, approximately 16 percent of San Jose’s remaining schedule is against Vancouver in a weird quirk to the final two-and-a-half months.

Although the Canucks aren’t having a spectacular season at 23-21-6, good for sixth place in the Pacific, it’s much better than what was expected by many at the start of the year. They’ve been particularly strong at home, where three of the five games with the Sharks will take place, boasting a 17-6-3 mark (they are just 6-15-3 on the road).

“We’re anticipating a really good team [Thursday],” Pete DeBoer said. “They’re very good at home, they’re desperate, they’re in the middle of the playoff picture. They’re coming down to decision day on whether they’re going to be in or out in the next month. 

“We’re going to see a very good team playing in a tough rink to win in. We’re expecting that, and we know we’re going to have to play a good game.”

Another note regarding the Sharks’ schedule is that they won’t see another team that’s currently in the top 11 in the league standings (either points-wise or percentage-wise) until March 5 when they visit Minnesota. 

San Jose used to struggle with weaker teams in the past, but under DeBoer, that really hasn’t been an issue. This season, the Sharks are 15-5-1 against teams that sit out of playoff position as of the first day of February. That includes 12 wins in their last 13.

“We recognize that we have to treat every game the same,” DeBoer said. “I think we know the importance of the points, and separating ourselves and solidifying a playoff spot.”

“You’re not going to win all those games, obviously, but I know we’ll be prepared and we’ll be in the right mindset.”

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Sharks defenseman Brent Burns was honored by the league as its Third Star of the Month for January. Burns posted 18 points (6g, 12a) in 14 games, including six multi-point efforts. He continues to lead the NHL in scoring among defenseman with 53 points – 12 more than Erik Karlsson, and just six behind Connor McDavid for the overall league lead.

He’s also getting plenty of love from Las Vegas, too. According to Bovada, Burns is the heavy favorite to win the Norris Trophy (1-to-3 odds), and has the fourth-best odds to win the Hart Trophy (10-to-1). 

Only McDavid (6-to-5), Sidney Crosby (9-to-5) and Evgeni Malkin (7-to-1) have better odds than Burns for the league’s MVP award.

* * *

Joonas Donskoi remains out with an upper body injury, and won’t go with the team to Vancouver. He has missed six of the last nine games, and DeBoer confirmed that his latest injury – on a hit from Colorado’s Andreas Martinsen on Jan. 23 – is an aggravation of a previous injury suffered on Jan. 11 at Calgary.

 

Sharks' fourth line must keep rolling to force decisive Game 7 vs. Vegas

Sharks' fourth line must keep rolling to force decisive Game 7 vs. Vegas

SAN JOSE – Sure, it’s something of a cliché to say a team has to “roll four lines” in order to be successful. But it’s true. When the Sharks have been at their best this season, it’s because their depth has shown through. 

In their crucial Game 5 victory over the Golden Knights on Thursday evening, San Jose’s depth was a key factor yet again, with their fourth line putting on a show. It’s something Team Teal needs if the Sharks are going to play past the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially since their current opponent also has a fourth line that can have an impact on the game.

“I thought those guys were good,” Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said of the trio of Barclay Goodrow, Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi. “They’re getting some effective minutes from their fourth line, whether it’s on the scoresheet or just softening up the next group going out there. We have to do the same thing and I thought those guys did.”

When asked about his line’s performance, Goodrow told the press they accomplished what any fourth line should.

“You just look to create energy,” he said. “We want to spend as much time in the offensive zone as possible. Hold onto pucks, create cycles, make plays.”

Goodrow and Karlsson have been staples on that fourth line since the start of the regular season, while Donskoi only recently joined them after an injury took Micheal Haley out of the lineup. While Donskoi didn’t get on the scoresheet in Game 5, his hard work was rewarded when DeBoer moved him up the lineup in the third frame. 

“I thought Donskoi was on,” DeBoer said. “He had good jump, he had good energy, he was inside.”

Of course, the biggest contribution the fourth line made was in the second stanza when Goodrow found the back of the net. San Jose was holding onto a 2-1 lead when the fourth-line center redirected a Justin Braun shot from up top to give the Sharks a much-needed two-goal cushion.

“That’s a big goal for us by Goodie at that point,” DeBoer said of the goal, which was also Goodrow’s first playoff marker. “We needed that.” 

The goal also countered the attack of Vegas’ fourth line, which thrives off of strong physical play and knocking their opponent around. Goodrow’s line was able to halt that attack by playing a more offense-forward game.

“Whenever you can keep their fourth line out of your end, it kind of limits their physicality,” Goodrow summarized.

[RELATED: Why two-day break before Game 6 is crucial for Sharks]

San Jose will need those fourth-line contributions to continue if they’re going to have success Sunday when the series returns to Las Vegas.

They have yet to hold a lead at T-Mobile Arena, and the fourth line has yet to contribute to the Sharks’ cause in a game played in that building. But if they can put forward the same effort they did in Game 5, the Sharks are going to have a much better chance at bringing the series back to San Jose for Game 7.

Banged up Sharks making full use of two-day break ahead of Game 6 in Vegas

Banged up Sharks making full use of two-day break ahead of Game 6 in Vegas

SAN JOSE – Up until this point in the first round, the Sharks and Golden Knights have squared off every other night. Now, after staving off elimination with a crucial Game 5 victory, Team Teal has a whopping two days to prepare for Game 6 back in Las Vegas.

“We have two days now,” Tomas Hertl said after San Jose’s 5-2 victory. “Have to take a little breath and rest and be ready for that.”

This isn’t to say that San Jose is playing at any more of a grueling pace than other teams in the playoffs. But bumps and bruises are quite common this time of year. Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed two straight playoff games after being hit by a puck during Game 2, Erik Karlsson is still bouncing back from a regular- season injury -- heck, Logan Couture is the second player who has had to make a trip to the dentist after losing teeth during a game.

Between the ailments being common and the current series being incredibly physical, getting an extra 24 hours in between games is a big help, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told the media on Friday morning following.

“We’ve got to use it to get rest, to get guys healthy,” DeBoer said, before adding: “But also to prepare. I think we’re going to have to find another level in our game obviously to win Game 6 in there. That’s what the two days have to be used for, too.”

DeBoer isn’t wrong. The Sharks haven’t faired well in many of their visits to the Knights’ home barn, particularly during the current best-of-seven series. San Jose was outscored 11-3 in Games 3 and 4 at T-Mobile Arena and went 1-for-7 on the power play, which is not good when you’re trying to defeat a team that is stealthy at capitalizing on their opponents mistakes. While their Game 5 performance was a vast improvement – they finally kept that Pacioretty-Stastny-Stone line off the scoreboard, for starters – they still need to use the two days prep for Game 6 wisely.

Plus, Vegas gets that time to prepare as well.

“They get the same luxury,” Karlsson pointed out, before adding that San Jose isn’t putting too much thought into what the other team is doing. “I think our biggest focus is on ourselves and what we have to do to be successful.”

[RELATED: Five observations from Game 5 win]

After finding that success on their home ice, the Sharks are even more motivated to put on a good showing in Sin CIty on Easter Sunday, forcing a Game 7 back in San Jose. It's no easy feat, but two days worth of prep can help.

"We know it will be really hard, but we are ready for this challenge," Hertl said on Friday morning. "We want to show them we can beat them there too."