Sharks

The Rookie and the Wookiee: Ryan bringing out the best defensively in Burns

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USATSI

The Rookie and the Wookiee: Ryan bringing out the best defensively in Burns

Rookie defensemen Joakim Ryan took a page out of defensive partner Brent Burns’ playbook in Saturday night’s 6-4 win over the Edmonton Oilers.

He scored not once, but twice, and became the first Sharks blueliner other than Burns to score two goals in a game since Justin Braun on Mar. 28, 2016. His second goal, the eventual game-winner, was downright Burnsian.

The 24-year-old joined the rush, fired a hard wrist shot at Oilers goaltender Al Montoya, and had the wherewithal to not only follow up his own rebound, but bury it. If he was six inches taller, 50 pounds heavier, right-handed, and (even more) bearded, Ryan would have been a dead ringer for the reigning Norris Trophy winner.

If Burns has rubbed off on Ryan offensively, the rookie’s done the same to his partner defensively. That may sound strange, considering the Sharks have been outscored 53-30 with Burns on the ice in five-on-five situations, but he’s been far better alongside ryan than away from him.

In just over 478 five-on-five minutes without Ryan, Burns has been on the ice for 12 goals-for and 34 goals-against, according to Natural Stat Trick. In about 525-and-a-half minutes together, Ryan and Burns have been outscored by a single goal: 18-19.

When Burns plays with Ryan, the Sharks attempt a greater share of five-on-five shots (54.84 corsi-for percentage), generate more scoring chances (53.50 percent), and more high-danger chances (50.25 percent) than their opponents. While the Wookiee plays without the rookie, San Jose allows two more goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play (4.27) than when they’re together (2.17).

Burns sans Ryan also gives up a higher rate of shot attempts, shots, scoring chances, and high-danger chances. He’s by no means perfect alongside the New Jersey-born Swede, as Burns remains susceptible to the same head-scratching gaffes that have plagued his game all season. But, the chaos is far more controlled with Ryan.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer seemed to realize this coming out of the team’s bye week about a month ago, reuniting the duo in the middle of a Jan. 13 win over the Arizona Coyotes. They were reunited for good in the next game, and Burns has only played 37:10 in five-on-five situations away from Ryan over the last 14 games.

Together, they’ve outscored opponents at five-on-five 12-9 during said stretch. The Sharks will need to continue to utilize their chemistry Sunday evening against the Anaheim Ducks, as well as beyond.

Including Saturday, San Jose in the midst of a four-game stretch against teams on the outside looking in at the playoff picture. The Ducks are the only team over that span within two points of a playoff spot as of this writing.

It’s a real opportunity for the Sharks to establish some solid footing in the race for a postseason spot. Minimizing Burns’ defensive mistakes is necessary for a successful run.

As long as he continues to play with Ryan, though, there’s far less reasons to worry.

Sharks' struggles feel familiar on second rough East Coast road trip

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AP

Sharks' struggles feel familiar on second rough East Coast road trip

At the start of the Sharks' recent road trip earlier this week, the team felt like they were in pretty good shape. Despite losing to the Hurricanes in a shootout Thursday evening, San Jose played so well that they appeared primed to pick up a few wins.

But after being outscored 12-2 in back-to-back games against the Lightning on Saturday (7-1) and then the Panthers on Sunday (5-1), the Sharks aren't looking like the team that went 11-4-0 in the month of November. In fact, they're looking like the team that went 1-3-1 the last time they went on a long roadie out East.

Are the Sharks' struggles on this second long road trip just a coincidence, or is it history repeating itself?

"I think every trip is different, you're at different points," coach Peter DeBoer said to the media after the Sharks' loss to the Panthers. "My disappointment tonight was a little like last night. I think they scored on their first shot or their first couple of shots and then you're chasing the game right off of the bat. It's tough on the road to do that."

San Jose looked for a moment like they could trade in their bad luck during Sunday's game when Kevin Labanc scored a power-play goal in the first period to cut Florida's two-goal lead in half. But thanks to a lopsided special teams battle and Sergei Bobrovsky outplaying Martin Jones, the Sharks were handed yet another loss.

"I thought we hung in there and kept fighting, but it wasn't enough," DeBoer said. "Their goalie was better. Their special teams were better tonight than ours."

It's a disappointing trend to see from a Sharks team that was starting to turn things around after a solid November. Even after a disappointing loss to the Washington Capitals before the road trip, San Jose was able to put on quite the performance in Carolina -- despite only getting one point -- and had momentum in their favor. In both losses that ensued, that fight was hard to come by.

"I think we're a little too relaxed right now," Sharks winger Evander Kane admitted. "A couple of games where we got off to bad starts and weren't able to fight back. We didn't have much fight after we got down. That's probably the most disappointing part."

[RELATED: Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

The Sharks might be leaving the Sunshine State behind, but their road trip isn't over just yet. They have one more stop before they can return home -- a Tuesday night meeting against the Predators in Nashville -- and one more chance to turn their luck on the road around. Even though the Predators haven't been playing well either, their home barn poses challenges for visiting teams. Given how the Sharks have played over the last couple of road games, a win won't be easy.

The Sharks have no choice but to buckle down and grind for a win.

"It sucks, but you just have to keep working to get out of this slump," Kevin Labanc said. "And make sure that we're getting out of this hole for ourselves."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in lackluster 5-1 loss vs. Panthers

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in lackluster 5-1 loss vs. Panthers

BOX SCORE

The Sharks needed a big turnaround on Sunday afternoon after suffering a 7-1 loss at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning the night before, but they didn't come close.

San Jose played better on the back end of a back-to-back, but the Florida Panthers had all the answers. In the end, the Sharks dropped their fourth game in a row, this time by a score of 5-1. 

Here are three takeaways from Sunday's game:

A goalie made the difference -- again

While Martin Jones didn't get pulled from Sunday's game like he was in Team Teal's loss to the Lighting, he still provided a mixed performance. He made a few saves to take some momentum away from the Panthers' offense, but he also gave up an early power-play goal and let two shots from the blue line find the back of the net. While he didn't receive much support from the defense early on, he still needed to buckle down more later in the game when San Jose was battling to put more points on the board.

The Sharks' offense did try to make up for the damage on the scoreboard and got some really good offensive-zone time as the game went on. Unfortunately for San Jose, Sergei Bobrovsky was in fine form and had an answer for most of the best chances.

Can't blame Kane 

The NHL says they're taking hits to the head more seriously. So it's a mystery as to why Mackenzie Weeger's hit on Evander Kane at the start of the second period didn't at least draw a penalty. Although Kane only left the ice for a quick moment and then returned to the bench, you can't blame him for standing up to Weeger on his next shift to defend himself. With Kane leaving the ice afterward with 17 minutes worth of penalties, Florida created momentum from a power-play opportunity, as the Panthers scored their third goal at even strength almost immediately afterward.

Credit should go to the Sharks for not letting the incident ruin their flow. Even though the altercation led to Kane being penalized for the rest of the period, San Jose continued to build momentum in an effort to even up the score. It's just unfortunate the Sharks couldn't get at least one goal to show for that effort.

[RELATED: Sharks' Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

Special teams still struggling 

Yes, San Jose scored a power-play goal in the first period, the team's first in more than 20 attempts on the man advantage over a nine-game span. However, the Sharks were unable to capitalize at the beginning of the third period when they got some extended power-play time and could have trimmed the deficit to one. 

San Jose's No. 1-ranked penalty kill struggled as well, surrendering two goals to the Panthers. Whatever is ailing the Sharks' special teams, they'll have to fix if they want to get back into the win column.