Sharks

Rewind: Sharks showing more balanced offense, beat Flames 4-1

Rewind: Sharks showing more balanced offense, beat Flames 4-1

SAN JOSE – After grinding out a difficult yet successful road trip in which they played four games in a six-night span, the Sharks were well aware that they might be getting the Flames on Tuesday night with their opponents’ tanks a little drained.

Calgary had competed in Arizona the night before, beating the Coyotes before flying to San Jose immediately afterwards to get ready for the second of a back-to-back.

After a first period in which the Sharks outplayed Calgary yet it remained a scoreless affair, they exploded for four unanswered goals in the second period to take control of their division rival in a 4-1 win.

“We knew they played last night, so I think we just got stronger as the game went on and you could just see we kind of wore them down,” said Joe Thornton, who had a pair of assists in his 1400th career game.

Last year, though, it was the Sharks that never looked all that energized in the first game back at home after a multiple-game road trip. In a stat that’s been mentioned several times, they were just 1-8-1 in such situations, with the lone win a shootout over Edmonton.

Joe Pavelski has heard that number before, giving an ever-so-slight scowl to one reporter who asked about it after Tuesday’s game. It’s still a worthy topic, though, as San Jose is now 3-0 this season when getting back in their own building after being away, outscoring the opposition 10-2 in wins over the Ducks, Devils and now Flames.

“Part of it is our confidence at home right now,” Pavelski said. “That goes a long way, I think anyone knows that.”

Perhaps its time to give some partial credit the Sharks’ sleep doctors, too. On two of the three occasions, the Sharks have stayed over in a Midwest city rather than charter home immediately after the game, as is customary. They spent Sunday night in Chicago after losing to the Blackhawks, flying back to San Jose on Monday morning. 

DeBoer has mentioned previously that the Sharks’ awful home record last year was part of the reason they changed the protocol for this year. It is helping?

“I think that's part of it,” he said. “The other part of it is an attention to detail from our group. We've got to make sure that we're ready for these games right after a long road trip.”

The Sharks are also slowly but surely getting a more balanced offensive attack. 

Joonas Donskoi was the leader on the scoresheet on Tuesday, getting his first goal in 23 games in the second period and then quickly adding another less than two minutes later. Linemate Timo Meier continues to get chances after his first NHL goal on Friday in Montreal, Mikkel Boedker seems to be improving on a nightly basis and was all over the puck on Tuesday, while Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson both scored on the recent trip. 

San Jose looks like it may have something going with its top three scoring lines lately.

“I liked our line combinations tonight. I thought all the lines looked pretty dangerous,” DeBoer said.

Donskoi, who has been energized since he was a healthy scratch last Wednesday in Ottawa, was pleased to finally contribute.

“That's a long time ago since I scored the last time. I didn't even remember how good it feels,” he said, referring to his previous score on Oct. 29. “So, it was great to get those goals.”

The win was also the Sharks’ 20th of the season, as they became just the second Western Conference team to reach that mark. They are back along in first place in the Pacific, and have a five-point gap on the Flames, who will likely be in the mix for a playoff spot themselves.

They’ll try and close out their pre-Christmas schedule with a win against the upstart Oilers on Friday. They’ll have the added benefit of sleeping in their own beds for the next three nights, too.

“Our division is so tight right now, every game is a four-point game,” Thornton said. “We got one more before Christmas, so get some confidence after tonight and win that next one, and have a nice break.”

Timo Meier, Connor McDavid helping 2015 NHL Draft live up to hype

meiermcdavidusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Timo Meier, Connor McDavid helping 2015 NHL Draft live up to hype

SAN JOSE -- Timo Meier was briefly Connor McDavid’s linemate. 

The Sharks winger played with the Edmonton Oilers center at the CHL’s top prospects game in 2015. They were two of the best players in Canadian major junior ahead of that year’s draft, ranked No. 12 and No. 1, respectively, in NHL Central Scouting’s midseason rankings of skaters playing in North America.

Yet, it was clear to Meier that McDavid was a cut above the rest. 

“You could tell that McDavid,” Meier said Monday at the Sharks’ practice facility, “and [eventual No. 2 pick Jack Eichel] were ready to be top guys in the NHL. You could see that right away.” 

Meier’s Sharks will play McDavid’s Oilers for the first time this season Tuesday, and both players are on pace for career years. McDavid scored 28 points in his first 20 games, more than any of his previous seasons. Meier, meanwhile, scored 12 goals in his first 21, and was tied for 11th in the league entering Tuesday.

They’re not alone, either.

As of Tuesday morning, three of the NHL’s five leading scorers this season were 2015 draftees. Winger Mikko Rantanen, who the Colorado Avalanche picked one spot after Meier at No. 10 overall, led the league with 32 points. Toronto Maple Leafs winger Mitch Marner -- the No. 4 pick -- was tied for third with McDavid.

In fact, nine of the 64 players who scored at least 18 points by then were drafted in 2015. That was more than any other draft class, and equaled the two preceding drafts combined. 

Of those nine, McDavid and Eichel were the only ones playing on their second contracts. 

“Everyone's looking for cheap talent,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said Monday, “and the only cheap talent there is is young guys [on their entry-level contracts]. I think that's opened the door for teams to be a little more open-minded about giving young guys some looks maybe earlier than the past.”

The 2015 draft class is rising to the occasion. Five players drafted in 2015, including McDavid and Eichel, made an All-Star team before this year. That group doesn’t include Marner, Rantanen, reigning Calder Trophy winner Mathew Barzal or Thomas Chabot, currently the NHL’s second-highest scoring defenseman. 

DeBoer considers the 2003 draft class the best he’s seen in the last 20 years. He coached, or coached against, much of them in juniors and later in the NHL. He’s not alone in his assessment either, since 28 players -- including current Sharks Brent Burns and Joe Pavelski -- from that class made an All-Star team of some kind. 

It remains to be seen whether or not the 2015 class will reach those heights, as the most experienced players are only in their fourth season. But, their impact early in the 2018-19 campaign is undeniable.

Meier said he hasn’t followed his draft peers’ exploits too closely. He does occasionally keep tabs, however, and he said seeing their success can be a strong motivator. 

“You try to push yourself when you see guys that are your age do that well,” Meier said. “So I think it's a motivation to see that, and you wanna obviously compare yourself with those guys and push your game to get better."

Joe Pavelski proves hard work pays off with hot start to Sharks season

Joe Pavelski proves hard work pays off with hot start to Sharks season

SAN JOSE – Sharks fans were undoubtedly happy when they woke up on Monday morning and saw that Joe Pavelski was named one of the NHL’s Stars of the Week.

He deserved it, too. The captain has lit up the scoresheet all throughout San Jose's season-long six-game homestand, tallying a multi-point effort in four consecutive games dating back to a three-point effort against the Calgary Flames last Sunday. He registered nine points over those four games after tallying just seven points up to that point on the early season.

This isn’t to say Pavelski wasn’t getting good looks in the earlier part of the 2019 campaign – quite the opposite, actually. The difference through this homestand is that those looks are finding the back of the net. 

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told the media after Monday’s practice that Pavelski’s point streak is no surprise given how he “stuck with it” despite not depositing as many goals right at the start of the season.

“I think like all scorers, just reminding himself that he was getting looks, he was getting chances, that they were going to eventually go in,” the coach explained.

And go in they have. While continuing to grind and get good chances – leading all Sharks skaters with a 21.3 shooting percentage, mind you -- Pavelski now has a team-leading 13 goals with four markers coming on the power play. 

His second period goal against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday evening was indicative of the work he’s put into getting that goal streak going. With just a little over six minutes gone in the frame, Pavelski set up linemate Timo Meier for a shot right in front of the net. Meier’s shot bounced off netminder Chad Johnson’s skate and ended up on Pavelski’s stick. No. 8 was falling over, but stayed committed to the play as he flipped the puck into the back of the net. 

[RELATED: Sharks’ win over Blues has them 'back in the right place']

It was like many of the goals that have become staples in Pavelski’s repertoire. It perfectly encompassed how hard work leads to production.

“That’s the big thing with scoring,” DeBoer said. “As long as the foundation is there, you can’t overreact to the fact that maybe the puck isn’t going in for you that week or that month. Keep reminding yourself to stick with it, that you will come out the other end of it.”

The Sharks would certainly love it if their captain’s hot streak continues as the homestand wraps up. San Jose hosts two division rivals in the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks this week – two teams giving up more goals than almost everyone else in the league. Pavelski keeping that hot streak alive could help the Sharks not just win games, but create some space between them and their opponents in the Pacific Division. 

[RELATED: Sharks hopeful Hertl can return to lineup Tuesday vs. Oilers]

“We know that a lot of these teams are going to get their footing and be hanging around in the second half,” DeBoer said. “You want to give yourself as much cushion as possible.”