SAN JOSE – At the official midway point of the preseason schedule the Sharks’ decision-makers are still likely in evaluation mode much more than they are concerned with wins and losses. The result of Saturday’s affair with the Ducks was a 2-1 loss that wasn’t overly stimulating to the average spectator.
To those who are tasked with evaluating how the various pieces will fall into place by Oct. 7, though, the game provided more time for appraisal.
What was learned?
On defense, Dylan DeMelo seems to be outplaying both Matt Tennyson and Mirco Mueller, and would be the odds-on favorite to skate on opening night with Brenden Dillon against the Kings. Tomas Hertl, with a slimmer and more powerful frame, seems like a different player compared to this time last year and got another look at center. Although his faceoffs need work (he was just 2-for-9 in the circle), Hertl looked comfortable and showed some flashes of being the player he was before the unfortunate collision with Dustin Brown.
The Brent Burns and Paul Martin duo is trending the right direction. Burns attempted a whopping 13 shots on goal, with six making to the net. Each assisted on Joel Ward’s first period marker, when the new forward redirected Martin’s point shot.
Ward is seemingly cemented into the right wing spot on a line with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau, and has impressed coach Pete DeBoer.
“What I’ve seen of Wardo is I’ve felt that every game that he’s played and every day he’s practiced, he’s looked better and better,” DeBoer said. “I think a lot of the vets have been the same.”
“Just learning every day, trying to get better and gain as much chemistry as possible,” Ward said.
DeBoer was tight-lipped when it came to publicly evaluating some of his young players. Regarding DeMelo, he would only comment that the 22-year-old is “in the mix” with the others vying for that position, and that “it’s too close to call to be giving anybody the job right now.”
DeMelo is pleased with how his camp has been going.
"I know my game and I think I’m playing really well," he said. "I think I’m showing kind of what’s advertised with me and my game.”
Hertl as a centerman was a point of contention between Todd McLellan and Doug Wilson last year, but Saturday marked the second preseason game that DeBoer had the affable young Czech native in the middle.
“We’re considering him there. We’re considering him in some other places, too,” DeBoer said.
As for the game, the coach thought his club deserved to be ahead more than 1-0 after two periods. The Sharks were outshooting a veteran Anaheim lineup 17-11, and were perfect on the penalty kill including fighting off a first period boarding major to Frazer McLaren.
In net, Martin Jones extended his preseason shutout streak to 100 minutes before it was broken shortly after by the Ducks’ Chris Wagner three minutes into the third. Corey Perry’s power play goal with seven-and-a-half minutes left was the difference.
“I didn’t think we gave up a whole lot tonight,” Jones said. “I thought we did a really good job defensively. A couple bounces at the end and that was the game.”
The Sharks will likely trim some of the fat from their roster on Sunday, when the players have a day off. After that, a fairer evaluation of the team will begin on Tuesday when San Jose hosts Vancouver.
“We still haven’t dressed close to our opening full roster,” DeBoer said. “We’ve basically been in a split-squad mode here in the last week. Hopefully this week we’ll get more semblance of our group and get some guys in some slotted spots.”