Rewind: Sharks' Dell thrives despite layoff; Vlasic injured

Rewind: Sharks' Dell thrives despite layoff; Vlasic injured

SAN JOSE – Not only had Sharks backup goalie Aaron Dell not played a game in nearly three weeks, it took awhile on Friday night against Philadelphia for him to see many pucks directed his way, to boot. The Sharks had their legs going in the first period, attacking the Flyers in waves over the first few minutes and keeping it in the offensive end.

Just as he has been all season, though, Dell was calm and composed in his goal crease. The first and only shot he saw over the first half of the first period was a difficult one, when Dale Weise let a wrist shot fly from the faceoff dot.

The 27-year-old turned it away, as well 20 more over the course of the game. Dell recorded his first career NHL shutout in a 2-0 Sharks win, their fourth straight and eighth in their last nine overall.

In six games this season, his first in the league, Dell is now 4-1-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .936 save percentage. Those numbers are especially impressive in that he typically goes several weeks between starts, including on Friday, his first since Dec. 10.

“He’s played awesome when he’s come in. It’s not an easy job not seeing a lot of action,” Joe Pavelski said. “He’s a gamer, so he steps up tonight and makes a lot of big saves.”

Dell said: "I just try to play every game the same way, [and] trust my preparation.”

The Sharks as a team had two days to prepare for Philly after they somehow got past Anaheim on Tuesday, 3-2 in overtime, despite not playing all that well. The extra energy showed in the first period, although it took them until the 16th minute to capitalize.

It came on the power play, a source of frustration in recent weeks. Patrick Marleau found a Marc-Edouard Vlasic rebound for his 10th of the season at 16:29.

It was important that the Sharks, who outshot the Flyers 12-7 in the opening frame, didn’t waste that early territorial advantage. 

“We definitely had some good jump,” Pavelski said. “I think guys were making plays.”

While Dell was solid in making that lead hold up until Justin Braun added some late third period insurance, the Sharks as a team were exceptional in front of him. The Flyers simply didn’t have many good looks at the net, finishing with 21 shots in total. Philadelphia had 18 of its attempts blocked.

Coach Pete DeBoer was pleased that the team responded from its lackluster effort against the Ducks – albeit under difficult circumstances of having to travel the day after the Christmas break – and it appeared his pair of practices on Wednesday and Thursday had the desired effect.

“I thought it was a real solid game for us. Probably one of our most complete games all year, and nice after the Anaheim game,” DeBoer said. “We wanted to come back today after a couple good practices and play a real solid game. I thought we did that.”

Despite leading 2-0 in the final minute, the Sharks went all out to preserve the shutout for their teammate in net. The Flyers pulled goalie Anthony Stolarz and got set up in the offensive zone, when a Shayne Gostisbehere slap shot deflected up into the face of Vlasic, who was protecting the crease.

The defenseman took several moments to get to his skates, and was eventually helped to the dressing room. DeBoer, who said that Vlasic was unlikely to play in Los Angeles on Saturday, offered the following update after the game:

“As bad as it looked and as bad as it probably is, I’ve got my fingers crossed. The initial reports are that I don’t believe it’s that serious, so that’s good,” he said.

Braun revealed that the shot hit Vlasic underneath the visor. He saw him after the game, and said, “He looks alright. A little swollen. It's hard to see your teammate take one of those, as bad as it looked.”

And Braun’s message to his D partner?

“I told him, ‘good block.’"

Dell appreciated the effort from Vlasic and the rest of his teammates from start to finish.

“I think I had a pretty easy night tonight,” he said. “I think that was probably the best all-around game we've played all year."

And, of course, they appreciated him right back.

“It was great to see Deller get that shutout,” Braun said. “He's been working a long time for that, and it's great."

Sharks are taking their sweet time being supposed Stanley Cup contenders

Sharks are taking their sweet time being supposed Stanley Cup contenders

Your head tells you it would take awhile for the San Jose Sharks to become the Stanley Cup favorite they were ordained to be when they traded for Erik Karlsson in September. Your heart tells you 22 games ought to have been enough time to at least be shifting into third gear and finding some open highway.
But your eyes are telling you they’re not there yet, and your gut is starting to churn because you’re worried that this might be yet one more unfulfilled tease from the reigning masters of Not Quite Yet.
Of those body parts, your head and eyes have figured them out best, and you’re not happy with either of their conclusions. The latest reason for this frustration was demonstrated Tuesday when they managed to hack up three more leads and lose to the Edmonton Oilers in overtime, 4-3.
The same Edmonton Oilers who have missed the playoffs in 11 of the last 12 seasons while having the best player in the game. The same Edmonton Oilers who fired their coach, former Sharks boss Todd McLellan, Tuesday morning after flying him down with the rest of the team to begin a road trip. The same Edmonton Oilers who have spun more No. 1 draft picks into less gold and more zinc than any team maybe ever.
And yes, we include the Philadelphia 76ers, who were trying to go south when they did the same thing.
In short, the Sharks could not maintain pace, drive or focus on a team that should be have been at best confused and at worst dispirited. Or, in the words of head coach Peter DeBoer, “Tonight is a disappointing one because I thought had we got a little bit better effort from everybody — from 20 guys — we should have got two points. We didn’t have enough participants tonight.”
Captain Joe Pavelski was a bit more granular, saying that yet again the Sharks allowed the Oilers too many odd-man rushes that turned into worrisome scoring chances in particular for McDavid and linemate Leon Draisaitl: 
“There was something just missing as far as a little jam to our game, and getting in there and getting some momentum or getting on the forecheck,” he said. “Same thing, they didn’t have a whole lot either. It was kind of a quiet game, to be honest.”
Well, fine then. Only this is the 14th game out of 22 in which they had a lead and couldn’t hold it, including in eight of their 11 losses. Maybe more participants would help, and maybe more jam would help, but the real issue here seems to be that they are taking their sweet time getting around to being the team they expected themselves to be when all this began.
It’s not like their path is too difficult to traverse; the Pacific Division they currently lead by a mere point over Calgary (the only team in the division to have won more than half its games) is top to bottom the worst in the league. The cumulative record of 75-78-15 is poor, and with McLellan gone, the division has also fired one-fourth of its membership in the first quarter of the season.
In short, the Sharks have wasted some prime opportunities to dismiss the rest of the division, and don’t have injuries as an excuse. They are healthy enough – they just haven’t devoted enough energy to the defensive grind that sent them to the Cup final in 2016 and has marked their play under DeBoer for most of his time in town. The 68 goals they have allowed puts them squarely in the bottom third of the league after being 10th, fifth and ninth the previous three seasons, and their pro-rated 253 goals allowed would be the most since 1996-7, when they were still expansion-level awful.
In other words, the Sharks are not making the game uncomfortable for the opponent, and the opponent seems perfectly willing to wait for their moment to counterattack. This can easily be fixed, but the fact that it hasn’t yet makes one wonder if they haven’t taken their fan base for another walk like so many others.
It’s too early to say that, of course, but it shouldn’t take a full quarter-season to figure that basic bit of standard hockey out. This isn’t Rams-Chiefs from Monday night, where the idea of defense was having the ball. Discomfiting the opponent shouldn’t be this spotty an exercise.
But there you go again, listening to your gut. Even on Thanksgiving, that’s a bad idea.

Sharks 'didn't have enough participants' in lethargic loss to Oilers

Sharks 'didn't have enough participants' in lethargic loss to Oilers

SAN JOSE – After a team loses, there’s always a need to pinpoint what went wrong. What play changed the course of the game. What specific mistake from that contest led to the loss.

In regard to the Sharks’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers, it wasn’t just that familiar problem with odd-man rushes. Tuesday's game just wasn’t the team’s best offensive effort, and a disappointment after their dominant win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

“We didn’t have enough participants tonight,” coach Peter DeBoer told the media after the loss. “Didn’t play good enough for long enough stretches. I don’t have an answer why. It wasn’t one or two guys, it was almost everybody. It’s just one of those nights.”

Captain Joe Pavelski agreed: “We didn’t create a lot of offense all night. There was something missing as far as a little jam to our game.”

This isn’t to say the Sharks got steam-rolled. The offense that was generated, whether it was on Marcus Sorensen’s first-period goal, or on Logan Couture’s second period marker, looked as though it could give San Jose that push to take over the pace of the game. 

Even then, the Sharks had trouble holding onto a lead. Not that their opponents were much better.

“[The Oilers] didn’t have a whole lot either,” Pavelski pointed out. “It was kind of a quiet game.”

The embattled Edmonton team, which was playing just hours after their head coach was fired and ultimately replaced, didn’t exactly play the desperate game a seasoned hockey viewer may expect. In fact, even with the Connor McDavid-led first line being difficult to contain, the Oilers never had a lead until scoring the game-winning goal in overtime. 

There was a suggestion after the game that the short-handed goal the Sharks gave up in the second period was the turning point in the game. But Pavelski disagreed.

“We’re not hanging this game on that play,” the captain said. “There’s a lot of other plays throughout the night.”

The night is something the Sharks obviously want to turn the page on quickly. They’re now 3-1-1 on their long homestand, and want to end it on a high note against the Vancouver Canucks on Friday. 

“This league doesn’t allow you to get frustrated for too long,” DeBoer said. “We’ve had a good homestand, we’re picking up points. We’ll take the good and look at the bad, and try and get it fixed.”