Rewind: Unlike Sharks, Penguins looking just fine after Cup run

Rewind: Unlike Sharks, Penguins looking just fine after Cup run

SAN JOSE – The Sharks and Penguins have surely heard the phrase “Stanley Cup hangover” plenty of times since training camp began.

Metaphorically speaking, the surging Penguins look like they’re regularly tucked in before 10 p.m., well rested and energized. The Sharks look like they stayed out too late and downed a few too many Fireball shots.

Despite concluding a four-game, nine-day road trip, Pittsburgh hammered the Sharks on Saturday night at SAP Center, 5-0. It was the first appearance for the Penguins in San Jose since they lifted the Stanley Cup here on June 12, and while they look primed to try and do it again this season, the Sharks are flailing.

“A lot of hard areas of our game, we're just a step behind right now,” Joe Pavelski said.

The Sharks’ start wasn’t necessarily a bad one, as they trailed 1-0 but had a distinct territorial advantage for more than eight minutes in the opening frame. The equalizer never came, though, and Sidney Crosby scored late in the first period and again early in the second. 

San Jose essentially packed it in after that, looking decidedly sloppy and uninspired for the duration of the second, while the Penguins tacked on two more scores to make it 5-0. A meaningless third period followed.

“We came out of the first, I thought the play was even, or in our favor. The third goal was deflating, for sure,” Pete DeBoer said. “But, in this league you’ve got to find a way, and our response to that wasn’t what any of us wanted. That was probably the troubling part tonight.”

In a 3-0 hole after Crosby’s two scores, DeBoer was forced to pull Martin Jones. The Pittsburgh captain managed to bank it in off of Jones’ skate from behind the goal line for his first of the night, while the second was aided by a misplay by Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who flubbed an attempted clear right to Crosby’s stick blade.

The switch to Aaron Dell was partly to try and jolt the team to life, but it was also because Jones wasn’t at his best, DeBoer explained after the game.

But Jones, who now has just a .900 save percentage, is hardly the only Sharks player struggling. The list is long, and distinguished.

Logan Couture has just one assist in his last seven games, no even strength goals, and can’t win faceoffs. Shutdown defender Vlasic is a minus-3, while his partner, Justin Braun, is a team-worst minus-8. Joel Ward (1 goal) and Paul Martin (2 assists, minus-4) look like they're slowing down. Mikkel Boedker (2 goals) has had little effect since joining in the offseason. Chris Tierney (2 assists) was supposed to take the next step in his development this year, but hasn’t.

On Saturday, Couture let the Sharks off the hook for just one of their five goals against. To him, they were mostly preventable.

“They played well, but you look at the goals. A misplay on the first one, turnover. Sid was behind me on the second one. Third one was an unlucky bounce. We gave up a shorty; guy (Bonino) beats one of our guys (Patrick Marleau) to the net.

“That's not speed, or talent. That's wanting to compete, battle and be in the right spots. Play the game smart. That's what that is. We're way better than that.”

There’s time for them to get it together, but it had better be sooner than later, as the Sharks now embark on a difficult six-game road trip beginning on Tuesday in Washington.

“We’ve got some guys that are not at the levels they need to be at yet,” DeBoer said. “It’s early, but it’s time. The season starts to really pick up speed here. We’re obviously going on the road for some critical games. We all have to be better.”

Couture said: “To a man, everyone on this team knows they have another level to give right now.”

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

San Jose Sharks

Erik Karlsson unveils Sharks' black third jersey with an on-ice skate

Erik Karlsson did not play for the Sharks in Saturday's preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights, but he still managed to suit up. 

Karlsson took the ice in front of the fans at SAP Center as a Shark for the first time, all while wearing San Jose's newest uniform. He officially unveiled a black alternate jersey that the Sharks will wear in 13 home games this season. 

Teal is the only prominent accent color aside from some orange in the shark's eye. It looks like Martin Jones' new mask design offered a bit of a thematic preview of the Sharks' new look.  

The "Stealth" jersey also features a black-and-teal version of San Jose's original secondary logo, a cool nod to the franchise's history. Sharks co-president John Tortora told NBC Sports California's Brodie Brazil in February that the logo would "start showing back up again."

In all, it's the third black jersey in the club's history, and the team's first alternate uniform since Adidas took over as the NHL's jersey manufacturer last season. 

The Sharks will wear the jersey in every Thursday night and Friday night home game -- as well as one Saturday. The full schedule for the uniform is as follows:

  • Thursday, Oct. 18 vs. Buffalo
  • Thursday, Nov. 1 vs. Columbus
  • Saturday, Nov. 3 vs. Philadelphia
  • Thursday, Nov. 15 vs. Toronto
  • Friday, Nov. 23 vs. Vancouver
  • Thursday, Dec. 13 vs. Dallas
  • Thursday, Dec. 20 vs. Winnipeg
  • Thursday, Dec. 27 vs. Anaheim
  • Thursday, Feb. 14 vs. Washington
  • Friday, March 1 vs. Colorado
  • Thursday, March 7 vs. Montreal
  • Thursday, March 14 vs. Florida
  • Thursday, March 28 vs. Chicago

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

After Erik Karlsson trade, Sharks in line for new defenseman pairings

SAN JOSE -- Since Peter DeBoer took over as Sharks coach ahead of the 2015-16 season, defenseman Brenden Dillon has played with plenty of partners. Seven defensive pairings have played 500 minutes of five-on-five hockey together in the regular season and playoffs during that stretch, according to Corsica Hockey, and Dillon has played for four. 

He’ll likely join a fifth this season. Dillon’s most regular partner over the last three seasons, Dylan DeMelo, now is in Ottawa after being traded to the Senators in the massive deal that brought two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson to San Jose last week. 

Dillon, like the rest of the Sharks' defensive corps, doesn’t know who he’ll skate with to start the season. But, he said, his experience regularly playing alongside many different players will prove beneficial when he does.

“I think it’ll be to my advantage for sure,” Dillon said Friday at the Sharks' practice facility. “I’m definitely excited. We don’t really know what the lineups are going to kind of shake out as exactly. I think even during the regular season in past years, too, you might start out with a certain guy and finish the game having played with all five guys. … There’s so many different variables.”

Dillon skated with defensive prospect Jeremy Roy on Friday. Marc-Edouard Vlasic paired with Karlsson for the third consecutive practice. Justin Braun, Vlasic’s regular partner to the tune of nearly 3800 regular-season and playoff minutes over the last three years, skated with Burns. 

At least in the Braun and Burns’ case, that was due to availability. Burns’ most common defensive partner last season, Joakim Ryan, played in Thursday night’s preseason game against the Anaheim Ducks, and thus skated in the second session. 

Still, it’s possible Braun will regularly play with someone other than Vlasic for the first time in years. The eight-year veteran last played with someone else for more than 500 five-on-five minutes during the 2013-14 season, when he logged just under 505 such minutes with now-retired defenseman Brad Stuart. 

Braun said there won’t be a big learning curve if he plays with someone other than Vlasic, since he’s played spot minutes with just about everyone else (other than Karlsson). Braun said he’d hope to play a couple preseason games with a new partner, but that practice might be an ideal time to learn their tendencies and develop chemistry. 

“You can learn anywhere,” Braun said. “There’s drills set up where there’s a lot of forechecking. You might chip [the puck], and he’s not there, and you kind of talk about it after. That might be the best place since they’re not scoring goals on you where it counts.”

It might be awhile before DeBoer provides a glimpse into his potential pairings. Karlsson will not play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Vegas Golden Knights at SAP Center, and the Sharks will not cut camp down to one group of up to 26 players (five forward lines, four defensive pairs, and three goaltenders) until Tuesday or Wednesday. 

After Saturday, San Jose will play three more preseason games before hosting Anaheim in the regular-season opener Oct. 3. Who Karlsson, and the rest of the defense, play with then is still to be determined, according to DeBoer. 

“We’ll see,” DeBoer said when asked if he envisioned Karlsson and Vlasic as a long-term possibility. “We’ve had a couple practices, but honestly I’ve got a bunch of different things rolling around in my head. The nice thing about getting [Karlsson] now is that it’s not a trade deadline where you’ve basically got six weeks to figure it out.”

DeBoer added that he hopes his pairings that open the season will stick together stick throughout the season, but he knows the nature of a long schedule will require changes. As Braun and Dillon both noted, that can happen during the ebb and flow of an individual game, too.

No matter who plays with whom, Dillon said he’s confident any new-look pairings will be able to become comfortable. 

“I think that’s just going to come with time,” Dillon said. “But, for us as a group, I think we can all cover for each other if we’re struggling a bit. At the same time, I think when we’re all going well, it’s going to be a tough group to beat.”