Sharks

Sharks' Brent Burns has played much more than anyone this NHL playoffs

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AP

Sharks' Brent Burns has played much more than anyone this NHL playoffs

Brent Burns has played a lot in this Stanley Cup playoffs, and a lot more than anyone else. 

The Sharks defenseman leads all skaters in total ice time (408:59) and ice time per game (29:13). The latter mark is 41 seconds clear of the next closest skater (Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones), and 2:46 ahead of any player whose team hasn't been eliminated (Carolina Hurricanes blueliner Jacob Slavin). The former total, however, is in a league of its own.

Burns played more in the first round (213:18) and the second (195:41) than anyone else has in a single round this postseason. His total in the first round was the seventh most in a single series in NHL playoff history, and the former was 55th most.

Both of the Sharks' series going seven games is a driving force behind those gaudy totals, but Burns still averaged more ice time than anyone else in the first round (30:28 per game) and more in the second round (27:57) than all but two players: Jones (30:56) and Dallas Stars defenseman Esa Lindell (27:57).

Plus, the defenseman also has been relied upon to shut down opposing top lines in the playoffs. In the first round, Vegas Golden Knights forwards Max Pacioretty, Paul Stastny and Mark Stone each spent almost half of their 5-on-5 ice time matched up with Burns, according to Natural Stat Trick. Colorado Avalanche All-Stars Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen skated against Burns during 5-on-5 play about two-thirds of the time. 

Burns unsurprisingly is averaging plenty of time on the power play (3:08 per game), but he also leads the Sharks in total short-handed ice time (42:00), and average time on the penalty kill (3:00). Despite Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty's end-of-season insistence that Burns is not a top-unit penalty killer, Sharks coach Peter DeBoer is using him like one this postseason.

[RELATED: Sharks preparing to play more physical series vs. Blues]

The veteran defenseman is known for taking care of his body, and that work is paying off as he continues to shoulder a heavy load. He is tied for the team lead with 14 playoff points, and the Sharks sit four wins away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2016.

If they're going to eliminate the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference final, you're going to see Burns on the ice more often than not. 

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.