Sharks

Sharks' Boedker leads the way after coming out of the lineup

Sharks' Boedker leads the way after coming out of the lineup

EDMONTON – Mikkel Boedker and Pete DeBoer may never get on the same page regarding the forward’s removal from the lineup two games ago. Boedker didn’t agree that he “took his foot off the gas,” as the coach said, yet DeBoer used the phrase for a second time immediately after Boedker’s starring role in the Sharks’ 5-3 win over Edmonton at Rogers Place on Tuesday night.

That difference of opinion is, essentially, not important. What is, though, is that Boedker starts producing more offensively after signing a four-year, $16 million contract with San Jose in the offseason.

In that regard, he’s showing signs of life. Boedker scored three goals against the Oilers, including the game-winner in the second period, responding from being a healthy scratch against Minnesota last Thursday. He also got a goal on Saturday against Detroit.

Getting another goal so soon, on his first shift of the night in Edmonton, allowed him to skate with less of a weight on his shoulders for the rest of the evening. His next two scores came in the second period, increasing San Jose’s lead to 4-1.

“When you score your first shift, you’re going to feel good the whole game,” Boedker said. “They came my way today, and it was three good goals.”

DeBoer, who was pleased with Boedker’s play just before the Christmas break but not so much in the week after, called the winger’s performance, “Huge. That’s what we need from him.”

Boedker spent most of his first eight seasons in the NHL with Arizona, and was given some rope by the coaching staff early in the season to get used to the Sharks’ systems and style. Despite playing in a top six position for 22 of the first 38 games, he wasn’t doing much of anything. Far too often, he didn’t appear as if was playing all that hard, making soft plays with the puck and getting pushed around on the wall and in the corners.

Still, Pavelski indicated after Tuesday’s game that Boedker has fit in well with the group, and said it was good to see him finally have what they all hope is a breakout performance.

"He's such a good teammate and such a solid person. There were some games where maybe he played harder than others, or not – it doesn't really matter,” Pavelski said. “You understand a guy with that kind of character, he was going to come out and he was going to play.”

“To see him out the last couple games find a little bit of momentum, a little flow to his game, it was good to see the puck go in for him.”

The puck has been going in frequently for the Sharks as a team, with 15 goals in their last three games. Although they still look a bit loose defensively of late, and goalie Martin Jones has surrendered 16 goals over his last five games, the Sharks are showing that they still have what it takes to run up the score. And that’s with no support from the power play, which is 0-for-8 in the last four games.

About time you start getting some consistent offense, Pete?

“I think it is about time,” the coach agreed. “We’ve been generating chances all year, we just haven’t had a lot of luck around the net. Hasn’t been bouncing for us. Hopefully, it’s a sign of good things to come here in the second half.”

Although the offense was lively again, Tuesday’s game wasn’t exactly perfect. Leading 4-1 after two periods, the Oilers came out hard to start the third period and quickly got back into it with a pair of goals. 

DeBoer, though, learned a lesson from last Thursday’s game against the Wild, when Minnesota reeled off four straight scores to win 5-4 in regulation after trailing 4-2 earlier in the final frame. The Sharks’ coach admitted afterward that he should have used his timeout to try and change the momentum in that deflating defeat.

He did this time, and the Sharks went back up by two goals on Logan Couture’s breakaway score just one minute and 21 seconds after DeBoer huddled his team around the bench.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who returned after a four-game absence with a facial injury, said: "They had momentum, they scored two goals, they could have easily had a third one to tie the game. I thought [DeBoer] used [the timeout] really well to let it kind of die down.”

The Sharks will attempt to stay hot offensively against the Flames on Wednesday, as the start of the second half officially begins. Perhaps Boedker can lead the way again.

“He’s in for a big second half,” DeBoer said. “We need him.”

Boedker said: “Just [have to] make sure that I do the things that I’m relied on to do, and relied on from the other guys to do.”

* * *

Defenseman Dylan DeMelo did not play after leaving the game in the second period. It sounds like he’ll miss some time after getting an apparent slash in the wrist area from Zack Kassian.

“It doesn’t look too promising,” DeBoer said. “He won’t play [Wednesday], and we’ll get back and get some pictures of it when we get home.”

“I think it was a fluky kind of play. It wasn’t anything dirty, from what I understand.”

Sharks' Lukas Radil shows he's not typical NHL rookie in win vs. Coyotes

Sharks' Lukas Radil shows he's not typical NHL rookie in win vs. Coyotes

The Sharks' lines changed a lot in the first 30 or so games of the season. The fourth line took plenty of different forms, as various rookies were called up from the AHL's San Jose Barracuda to try out their hand at the top professional level.

Rookie winger Lukas Radil played in a handful of games, and has stood out. 

He made an impression again Saturday night in Arizona, and got to play the hero as he notched his first NHL goal late in the contest to help give the Sharks a much-needed win.

“It’s everybody’s dream to play in the NHL, and for him to get his first goal and the way he got his first goal too,” Sharks winger Evander Kane said of Radil after the game. “Every time he’s in the lineup, he always brings something positive to the group. He’s a big, strong kid. Wins a lot of battles, and has some underrated skill too.”

Indeed, the Czech forward isn’t your run-of-the-mill NHL rookie. For one, he's 28 years old. He also spent the last three seasons with Moscow Spartak in the KHL.

The result is a rookie who brings a different level of physicality to the Sharks' bottom six, as he’s a big skater who knows how to use his size to his advantage.

“He’s not your typical first-year player,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said after a practice on Dec. 5. “He’s got the experience of playing in the KHL. He’s a man. Plays a heavy game, he moves around well for a big guy. He’s smart, he’s conscientious. You can put him on the ice and there’s a comfort level, which isn’t common with first-year players.”

That much was clear Saturday. Even before Radil netted a sweet back-handed goal in the third frame, he was working to get on the scoresheet. He did a great job eluding defenders throughout the contest, and getting in front of the net. It added a different look to the line including Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson.

“He’s great to play with,” Goodrow said after Saturday’s win. “He holds onto pucks. He’s really good down low and fending off their guys once he gets the puck.”

All that work paid off late in the third period when Radil wrapped the puck around Arizona’s net, and then back-handed it top shelf. The cameras caught the rookie’s expression of sheer elation as he gave the Sharks a late-game lead.

“[He’s] worked hard to get here to this level,” DeBoer said after the win. “For that to be your first NHL goal, that’s pretty rewarding.”

Of course, even with that first goal under his belt, Radil isn’t just a player who can score goals. He’s also giving the fourth line a new identity.

“Our identity should be: Getting pucks in deep, getting momentum for our team, chipping in offense here and there,” Goodrow summarized.

Clearly, the atypical rookie is able to do all those things.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in nail-biting 4-3 win over Coyotes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in nail-biting 4-3 win over Coyotes

BOX SCORE

There was no time to worry about the loss to the Dallas Stars the previous night. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer through the lines in the blender, and sent out his back-up goaltender as Sharks visited Arizona for their first meeting of the season with the Coyotes.

After San Jose jumped out to an early lead, the Desert Dogs came roaring back to tie the game up in the third period and make things interesting. In the end, though, it was Sharks rookie winger Lukas Radil who pulled his team out of danger and scored the game-winning goal in San Jose's 5-3 win. 

Here are three takeaways from the Saturday night contest:

The fourth line is starting to click

Something happened to the fourth line after Kevin Labanc was placed there last week against the Carolina Hurricanes. For the better part of the season, the line couldn’t find good chemistry – perhaps, in part, because the lines have been shuffled so much.

But over the last couple of games, the bottom line really started to come alive, with both Barclay Goodrow and Melker Karlsson creating more offense.

Although setup extraordinaire Labanc was moved up to the third line on Joe Thornton’s wing, the line continued to thrive with Lukas Radil back in the lineup. Even before the big Czech forward  the back of the net until the third period of, he made two quality attempts in the first and second periods. Radil’s level of physicality was a perfect addition to the Sharks’ bottom six, who continued to grind and create chances.

Building on that first goal is key

Getting the first goal in a game should be a good sign a team is on the path to a victory. But as the Sharks demonstrated against the Stars on Friday night, getting that first goal isn’t quite enough. Building on that opening tally is what helps push the team the extra mile.

San Jose did just that on Saturday night against Arizona. After Joe Pavelski’s redirect at 14:36 in the first period, the team continued to push. The reunited line of Logan Couture, Timo Meier, and Tomas Hertl converted on their next shift when Couture found a way around six-foot-six netminder Adin Hill to give the Sharks a 2-0 lead. 

That being said ….

Second-period response is still an issue

As everyone knows at this point, the Sharks have a problem with following up a strong first period with an equally strong second. It looked at first as though San Jose would break that pattern when Evander Kane found the back of the net in the second stanza to give the Sharks a three-goal advantage.

Then, Arizona came roaring back to notch two quick goals to cut the deficit down to one.

San Jose got hyped after that second goal though, fueled by a heated exchange between Joe Pavelski and Coyotes winger Richard Panik. They really began to grind and gain momentum as the frame expired.

Unfortunately, Panik was also the player who notched the tying goal in the third period when the Sharks broke down. But, Radil was there to bail them out with his first NHL goal.