Sharks could be headed for another Game 7 after Game 4 loss vs. Blues


Sharks could be headed for another Game 7 after Game 4 loss vs. Blues

If the narrative after Game 3 was that San Jose got all the bounces and all the officiating breaks, then the hockey gods did a fast 180 during Game 4 in St. Louis.

The Blues beat the Sharks 2-1, while never putting a single puck past Martin Jones themselves.

Here are some observations with the Western Conference final heading back to San Jose tied at two.

Close but not that close

The breakdown of San Jose’s shots was telling on Friday night: 30 pucks on goal, 21 attempts blocked, and 22 which missed the net. That’s a high volume of opportunities that never even put Blues goalie Jordan Binnington to work. Brent Burns also hit two posts. That’s how close this outcome was to the Sharks holding a 3-1 series lead.

Not a perfect theory

The legend of “undefeated when allowing two or fewer” comes to an end for San Jose.

In a streak dating back to March 2018, the Sharks were unblemished when holding their opponent to two goals or fewer. This season, their record in that circumstance is 39-1.

We never promised it was a guarantee, only a great recipe for success — which should still be counted upon.

Don't blame the refs

The officiating was questionable at best Friday night.

I have reservations about Brendan Dillon’s holding the stick penalty in the first, Timo Meier’s hooking in the first, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s corresponding slash in the second.

In the same breath, I also want to disconnect these calls from potential referee retribution against the Sharks, and I want to dispel the notion that officiating alone cost them the game.

What's up with EK65?

A big question mark moving forward will be the health of Erik Karlsson. He has found ways to either skate smarter, or recover faster from injury during these playoffs - but he was also noticeably absent for about six important minutes of the final period. The defenseman did return to the game once Martin Jones was pulled in favor of the extra attacker. If there is a silver lining to our concerns — it wasn’t seen as a risk to Karlsson or the game for him to participate at that critical juncture. But until answers arrive in Game 5, questions will persist.

[RELATED: DeBoer disagrees that Sharks have been 'lucky' in playoffs]

Are we going seven?

Even if our series goes a full seven games, it’s worth this observation since we’ve already passed the halfway point: The Sharks have every opportunity to advance. This is not a guarantee they will or a suggestion that the Blues are not up to the task of knocking them off. It’s just that we’ve seen matchups over the years where the result seemed destined to go against San Jose by this point. They’ve been outmatched and overpowered before, but you’d be hard pressed to say that’s the case here. The Sharks and Blues have alternated wins, and it might take a third consecutive Game 7 for San Jose to advance. But wouldn’t you accept that path if it meant playing for the Stanley Cup again?

Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff


Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau react to ex-teammates on Sharks' staff

SAN JOSE -- No, the days of the player-coach hybrid aren't making a comeback. Although, if you're Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau, it might feel that way.

With the introduction of Bob Boughner as San Jose's interim head coach, the organization brought in staff that includes former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov -- two players who were on the roster back when the now 40-year-olds hadn't reached their veteran status yet.

"It will be interesting to see them on the bench," Marleau said. "But they're very professional and they'll do a great job."

Marleau played with both Ricci and Nabokov in the early 2000s, while Thornton only logged time with Nabokov after coming to San Jose from the Boston Bruins in 2005. While it has been some time since either newly-appointed assistant coach has rocked a teal sweater, Ricci and Nabokov have stayed with the organization in different capacities over the last few years. Having that closeness and a high level of familiarity is something that can benefit the team as they go through a midseason coaching change.

"I know what they've been through and I know a lot about them, so it's easy to communicate with them," Marleau said.

Thornton agreed with his teammate's assessment.

"They've been here for a long time now," Thornton said. "To have them on the bench now is going to be fun."

Both Ricci and Nabokov have spent the last several seasons working on the development side of the Sharks' organization and have worked closely with players on the AHL Barracuda -- a team that has been coached by Roy Sommer up until he, too, was recently named assistant coach under Boughner. In his introductory press conference on Thursday, Boughner outlined how he believes his new coaching staff might function.

"We met last night as a staff and this morning and we still need to work through some things," Boughner admitted. "But Mike Ricci and Roy are going to be on the bench with me. Roy's going to move to the defensive side and run some power play. Ricci was a great penalty killer his whole career and I think we're going to be able to enjoy some of his expertise. I'll be running the forwards and obviously Nabby will (oversee) the goalies. There are still some job responsibilities we'll have to sort out in the next few days. But for now, I think those guys are excited. It was a big day for them as well."

[RELATED: How DeBoer's firing shocked Sharks players]

As far as reuniting Ricci and Nabokov with their former teammates, Boughner thinks working closely with Thornton and Marleau will benefit the entire roster as the Sharks try to, yet again, turn their season around after a tough stretch of losses.

"I think you can see, even in the morning, there's that report there," Boughner said of watching the reunion during morning skate. "There's deep respect. There's a lot of familiarity with those guys and I think that's going to help. Ricci and Roy have seen these young guys all the way up. I think there's great chemistry that we're going to have there."

Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change


Sharks fail to correct bad habits in first game after coaching change

SAN JOSE -- Thursday could have been a fresh start for the Sharks. As shocking and emotional as it was to go through a midseason coaching change, they were presented with the opportunity to turn things around.

Unfortunately, Thursday's game against the Rangers featured a lot of the same problems. Missed opportunities, loose late-game play and yet another notch in the loss column.

Sure, getting accustomed to a new coach's ways can take some time. But that doesn't give the Sharks a pass when it comes to playing a full 60-minute hockey game.

"It's tough, it's difficult, but there's no excuse," captain Logan Couture said after the 6-3 loss. "Lots of teams have [gone through a coaching change]. A lot of teams in this league have done it and they've gone on winning streaks. The team that did it last year won the Cup. So, we've got to find a way. Tonight wasn't good enough once again."

San Jose did, in fact, have a great chance to get back into the win column in Bob Boughner's first game behind the bench. Even with New York continuing to grind away, the Sharks were able to take a 3-2 lead at the 4:12 mark of the third period thanks to a big goal from Brenden Dillon.

But then the defense took its foot off of the gas and Martin Jones couldn't stop Mike Zibanejad or Artemi Panarin from pushing the Rangers over the hump. In a matter of minutes, the Sharks went from defending a lead to being in a hole they didn't have time to dig out of.

"When you have a lead in the third with 15 minutes left, you have to defend a little bit harder and not turn the puck over like we did," Couture continued. "Play harder in our own end, which we did not. Defend our slot harder tonight, and I don't think we did."

Dillon agreed. "Frustrating when you have a lead like that. Especially at home, we have to be able to close it out. If we give up the tying goal, and then a couple more, it's just frustrating."

Letting up late isn't the only thing that is plaguing the Sharks right now. San Jose has struggled to play a full 60-minute game for the bulk of the season thus far. Thursday's loss showed yet again that San Jose isn't playing full games on a nightly basis -- regardless of who is behind the bench.

"I think we did some good things tonight, but obviously it still wasn't a full 60," interim head coach Bob Boughner observed. "I think in the third period we ran out of gas there a little bit."

[RELATED: Boughner confident in staff, wants Sharks to play inspired]

Martin Jones, who surrendered three goals in the third period, agreed. "Have to play a full 60 minutes, you have to," he said, acknowledging that having an adjustment period with a new coaching staff isn't an excuse. "They had more jump in the third period than us. We've got to find a way in a tied hockey game to come out with a little bit more energy. I don't know how many shots or scoring chances we had in the third, but we need to apply more pressure in a close hockey game like that."

Whether it's applying more pressure or tightening up, the Sharks clearly still have a laundry list of things they need to clean up. Now with the dust settling in regards to the coaching change, San Jose has no other option but to dig deep and keep working.

"There's a lot of work to be done," Boughner reminded everyone. "We'll have a good practice day tomorrow. Sort some things out."