Sharks cut down on odd-man rushes in first road win since October

Sharks cut down on odd-man rushes in first road win since October

If one thing has hurt the Sharks in their losses this season, it’s been giving up too many grade-A chances to the opposition.

In their Sunday night win over the Montreal Canadiens, Team Teal put up one of its best efforts of the season in keeping those chances to a minimum.

[RELATED: Sharks snap four-game losing streak]

“The odd-man rushes that have been hurting us,” Sharks goaltender Martin Jones complimented after Sunday’s win. “I thought we did a great job tonight.”

The Sharks' defense -- not just the blue line but from the forward lines as well –-- was an ever-present force against the Habs. It was a vast improvement for a team currently ranked second in the NHL in giving up goals on high-danger chances. On Sunday, they registered 22 blocked shots to accompany the staggering 40 of 41 chances Montreal hurled Jones’ way en route to allowing the Canadiens to score only one goal.

“Guys put their bodies on the line a little bit tonight,” Sharks forward Joe Pavelski said. “There were some big blocks ... and when we did have a breakdown, [Jones] was great. It all added up to a win tonight.”

In a rebound performance all his own, Jones put together a highlight reel of saves in Montreal, and stood particularly tall in the final few minutes when the Habs got a late-game power-play opportunity and threatened to capitalize on it. The victory helped him improve to 7-1-0 in his career against Montreal, with a 1.88 goals-against average and .935 save percentage. 

Even with a high number of shots coming his way, Jones told the media he’ll take getting peppered with shots over having too many odd-man rushes coming at him any day.

“That’s a much more manageable game,” he explained. “I thought we did a great job eliminating those grade-A’s and those odd-man rushes that have been causing us some problems.”

Of course, the Sharks know they still have some things on which they want to improve. After a tough road trip, San Jose has to keep the momentum going past this one game. 

The Sharks will have the opportunity to do that when they return to home ice for a rematch with the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.

NHL draft lottery: How Sharks will be impacted by league's new setup

NHL draft lottery: How Sharks will be impacted by league's new setup

24 NHL teams can now turn their full attention to the restarting of the currently-paused season. The Sharks are not one of them.

Having slipped into last place in the Western Conference just prior to the indefinite pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, San Jose did not qualify for the expanded postseason structure NHL commissioner Gary Bettman described Tuesday. The Sharks' season, as well as those of the Detroit Red Wings, Ottawa Senators, Los Angeles Kings, Anaheim Ducks, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres, are now over.

Which means, it's time to turn their attention to the offseason.

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson has his work cut out for him. The Sharks finished the abbreviated 2019-20 campaign with their worst points percentage in his 16-year tenure at the helm. There are some obvious needs that must be addressed. Of course, they won't be able to utilize their own first-round draft pick -- which they gave up in the trade to acquire Eric Karlsson -- in order to do so.

Bettman announced that the first phase of the 2020 NHL Draft lottery will be held on Friday, June 26, and really, there is no change as far as San Jose is concerned. As the team with the third-worst points percentage, the Sharks' first-round pick (owned by Ottawa) will have the same odds of landing first overall -- 11.5 percent -- as it would have anyway. Obviously, though, no matter where it ends up, the selection will belong to the Senators.

15 teams in total will be included in the lottery, which is the same as prior years. The seven teams that didn't qualify for the expanded playoffs will be joined by the eight teams that lose in the qualifying round. It's fairly complex, but as it relates to the Sharks, their first-round pick automatically will fall within the top six overall selections. Ottawa's own first-round pick is guaranteed to fall within the top five, and combined with San Jose's first-rounder, there is a great chance the Senators will have two picks in the top five, if not the top three.

That's tremendous for Ottawa, and might make things look even bleaker for the Sharks. But, the fact of the matter is, we've known San Jose wouldn't have its own first-rounder for quite some time now, and more importantly, it was the right decision to make. Hindsight is 20/20 and it's easy to question it now, but players like Karlsson are not a dime a dozen. He is on the shortlist of the best defensemen in the NHL, and the package San Jose gave up for him -- even including the 2020 first-rounder -- absolutely was worth it. You make that trade 100 times out of 100, and the same goes for the extension, too.

So, yes, the Sharks likely will miss out on a chance to acquire one of the top overall talents in the upcoming draft, but that can't be viewed in a vacuum. Not to mention, San Jose actually does own a first-round pick in the draft, which they acquired from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Barclay Goodrow at the trade deadline. 

[RELATED: What you need to know as Sharks' long offseason begins]

The Lightning had the second-best points percentage in the Eastern Conference when the season was paused, so it is impossible that their first-round selection will fall within the first 15 overall picks, as they're not subject to the qualifying round. The earlier Tampa Bay gets eliminated, however, the earlier their first-rounder -- owned by the Sharks -- will fall in the first round.

So, Sharks fans, rather than waste energy lamenting the first-rounder San Jose doesn't have, google Karlsson highlights and root against the Lightning. That ought to make you feel a little better.

Vegas Knights troll Sharks, LA Kings after making 2019-20 NHL playoffs

Vegas Knights troll Sharks, LA Kings after making 2019-20 NHL playoffs

You don't kick a team when they are down.

Clearly, the Vegas Golden Knights didn't get that memo.

During the NHL's Return To Play announcement Tuesday, the Golden Knights sent out a tweet directed at the Sharks and Los Angeles Kings, two of its Pacific Division rivals.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said that 24 of the 31 teams will qualify for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs. Seven teams, including the Sharks and Kings, will not resume playing and will prepare for the NHL draft lottery and the 2020-21 season.

When the NHL was paused on March 12 due to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Sharks held the worst record in the Western Conference.

Adding insult to injury, the Sharks won't even get to keep their lottery draft pick as it will go to the Ottawa Senators as part of the Erik Karlsson trade.

[RELATED: What's next for Sharks?]

While the Sharks and Kings sit at home, Vegas will be one of the top four seeds in the Western Conference, and will play in a round robin tournament with the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Dallas Stars to determine seeding.

Sharks fans didn't need another reason to root against the Golden Knights, but Vegas gave it to them.