Sharks center Logan Couture finishes as NHL playoffs' top goal-scorer


Sharks center Logan Couture finishes as NHL playoffs' top goal-scorer

While the Stanley Cup Final between the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins ended with St. Louis' Game 7 win on Wednesday, the San Jose Sharks haven't played a game in over three weeks.

Yet, after the conclusion of the postseason, Sharks center Logan Couture still led all players with 14 Stanley Cup playoff goals.

No one on St. Louis or Boston caught up to Couture over the first six games of the series, and nobody came close in Game 7.

The Blues had two players close to Couture. Jaden Schwartz had 12 goals in St. Louis' Cup-winning run, and Vladimir Tarasenko had 11. Neither needed to score for the Blues to raise Lord Stanley's Cup for the first time in franchise history.

Boston's top two goal-scorers this postseason were Patrice Bergeron, Charlie Coyle, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak who had nine goals apiece. Each played three more playoff games than Couture, but still finished behind him.  

Couture's teammate, Tomas Hertl, wasn't too far behind him and finished fourth in the Stanley Cup playoffs with 10 goals. 

[RELATED: Sharks can improve on already impressive depth chart of wingers]

It's still kind of remarkable that the Sharks aren't alive based on how well they played on offense. As expected, the Bruins and Blues have scored the most goals this postseason, with 73 and 70, respectively. But the Sharks lit the lamp 58 times in 20 games. The next closest after that? The Carolina Hurricanes, who scored 39 times in 15 games. The problem for the Sharks? They allowed an NHL playoff-high 66 goals.

For the second time in the last four years, San Jose was eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup champion. That won't offer much solace headed into a pivotal offseason.

Mike Ricci opens up about his first month as Sharks assistant coach

Mike Ricci opens up about his first month as Sharks assistant coach

It’s not just a safe assumption. It’s entirely accurate that Mike Ricci, as a hockey player, never thought he’d become a coach.

“Not back then for sure,” Ricci said recently. “Not even maybe two and a half weeks ago.”

The former Sharks forward was caught off guard by being named as an assistant on interim head coach Bob Boughner’s staff in mid-December.

“It was like boom, told to come to a meeting,” Ricci recalled.  

But there was no reservation in accepting the position.

“When a friend asks, and a boss asks, you’ve got to do it,” said Ricci. “Just going in and trying to do whatever I can to help this team win.”

All of this is a total change of scenery for Ricci – who after 1,099 NHL games as a player -- still hasn’t acclimated to his brand new perch behind the bench.

“If I’m going to be honest, I really haven’t had time to think about it,” Ricci admitted.  

The move was so fresh, and came with so much transition, Sharks equipment manager Mike Aldrich even had to double check that regular game duties would include a presence behind the players.  To which Ricci responded: “I think so…?”

As if the Sharks' need to turn things around wasn’t pressing enough, there’s also the challenge of Ricci learning the ropes of being an assistant coach for the very first time.

“You’ve got to find what makes everybody click,” Ricci said after less than a month of experiences. “Some guys like to see it. Some guys like to hear it. Some guys like it drawn on a board.”

One thing benefitting Ricci, goaltending coach Evgeni Nabokov, and associate coach Roy Sommer is their familiarity and unquestioned dedication to the franchise. Each have been sporting teal for more than a decade, in one capacity or another.

[RELATED: Boughner urges Sharks to 'man up']

Ricci said there’s already a built-in level of trust when the coaching staff has to be critical of players, in trying to reverse the team’s struggles.

“I try to be myself, more than anything. It doesn’t matter how much I know, it matters how much I can get to a player.”

Bob Boughner urges Sharks to 'man up' after shutout loss to Avalanche


Bob Boughner urges Sharks to 'man up' after shutout loss to Avalanche

Just when you think the Sharks have figured things out, they drop a couple of games in a row and look really bad in the process.

After beating the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars at home last week, San Jose headed to Arizona and lost to the Coyotes 6-3. Two days later, it got even worse for Bob Boughner's club as the Colorado Avalanche shut out the Sharks 4-0 on Thursday night.

San Jose heads to Vancouver to face the Canucks on Saturday before getting eight days off due to the NHL All-Star break.

For Boughner, it's time for his club to put up or shut up.

"I think it's crucial for us," Boughner told reporters in Colorado. "I think Vancouver, a team that's in the division and ahead of us, before we get into this break and end it off on the right note, we felt really good about ourselves and the way we were playing before this trip and things haven't gone our way for the first two games.

"I think it's time to man up. We've got too many guys that are not on the same page right now in the last two games and we're not a good enough team to do that. We proved that we can play with the best teams if we play the right way and we've got all 20 guys going and stick to the plan. But when we don't, we're average at best."

The Sharks are in danger of missing the playoffs for just the second time since the 2003-04 season, and Brenden Dillon understands every game the rest of the way is vitally important.

"Yeah, it's a division game, it's a team we're chasing and I think all these games we've got to have that playoff mindset of do-or-die mentality going in and show some desperation," Dillon told reporters. "A lot of these teams are battling, whether that's for playoff spots or home-ice or whatever it is in the division. But especially against Vancouver, a good team that's going well, so we've got to finish on a high."

[RELATED: Boughner reacts to Vegas hiring DeBoer]

After the loss to the Avs, the Sharks sit at 21-24-4 with 33 games remaining. They are nine points out of a wild-card spot, but every loss chips away at their margin for error.

If they don't turn things around in a hurry, it will be a long summer in San Jose.