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 rumors: Sharks have made Erik Karlsson massive contract offer


NHL rumors: Sharks have made Erik Karlsson massive contract offer

The Sharks fell short in their Stanley Cup bid this season, and they now have some serious business to take care of this offseason.

It all starts with the team's pursuit in keeping star defenseman Erik Karlsson. 

The Sharks have been working toward a contract extension for Karlsson, and they reportedly now have made an offer. SportsNet's Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday that "it is believed they’ve [the Sharks] made him an offer that will challenge, if not surpass, Drew Doughty’s extension from last summer."

The L.A. Kings made Doughty the NHL's highest-paid defenseman last summer when they signed him to an eight-year, $88 million contract.

Not only did Friedman report the Sharks already have offered Karlsson, but he believes the team has a serious chance at bringing him back to San Jose for the long term.

"Conversations have intensified, and I think they’ve got a shot," Friedman wrote.

Karlsson had dinner with Sharks general manager Doug Wilson on Wednesday night in Santa Clara, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz reported. A Facebook user in a Sharks fan group posted a picture with Karlsson and Wilson from the restaurant, and it later surfaced on the Sharks' fan-run subreddit.

The Sharks acquired Karlsson in a blockbuster trade with the Senators on the eve of training camp. He played 53 games in his first year as a Shark and scored 45 points -- three goals and 42 assists.

Karlsson battled injuries all season long, and he clearly was hobbled in the playoffs before missing the Sharks' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. He aggravated his injured groin in Game 4, and played just 10:32 in Game 5.

[RELATED: Inconsistent defense faces uncertain future for Sharks]

While Karlsson’s first go in San Jose didn't go as planned, the Sharks clearly want him to stay in the Bay.

Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones


Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

SAN JOSE -- There may not have been a Sharks' player who caught more flak from fans this past season than Martin Jones, as the starting goalie battled with consistency this season. Criticism of San Jose's goaltending continued as Jones' backup, Aaron Dell, didn't fare much better overall throughout the regular season. 

Then came the Sharks' 20-game playoff run, where Jones did a complete 180-degree turn after the Sharks went into a 3-1 hole against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. As if a switch had been flipped, Jones went from being a liability to being a key to getting Team Teal to the Western Conference Final. 

The question now is which version of Martin Jones will be in net for the Sharks next season -- or how San Jose's goaltending contingent, in general, is going to look and match up to the competition in the future.

Sure, wins are what counts at the end of the day and Jones was tied for third in the league with 36 regular season victories in this last campaign. But while his record improved to 36-19-5 over the previous season's 30-22-6, his save percentage dipped from .915 to .896. He also developed a habit of giving up the first goal of the game within the first few minutes of the first period, putting the rest of the team on their heels early into games.  

Nevertheless, it's pretty unlikely Jones is going anywhere. He's entering the second season of a six-year contract extension he signed in 2017, and even before his turnaround performance in the playoffs the team around him never stopped sticking up for him. When Jones struggled, his teammates continued to put their unwavering faith in him and insisted their defensive effort in front of him was to blame. For that faith to continue, however, Jones is going to have to bring some of his strong play from the playoffs into next season.

As for Jones' backup, Dell's future seems a bit more open. Even with two shutouts on the season, No. 30's numbers also took a dip during the 2018-19 campaign and he ended the regular season with a 3.17 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. With just one year left on his current contract, San Jose could potentially use Dell as a trade piece.

[RELATED: What Sharks can learn from Stanley Cup champs]

Neither of San Jose's Barracuda goalies, Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar, saw any NHL time this past season. Although there's a possibility both get a look during camp ahead of next season after both posted better than .900 save percentages. Bibeau also already has two NHL games under his belt from when he was part of the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization, going 1-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average. 

The Sharks further added to their goaltending contingent this spring when they signed Zachary Emond to an entry-level contract. Emond, 18, won't be making any appearances at the NHL level this season, although the Sharks have expressed satisfaction with how the sixth-round pick from the 2018 draft is developing. Look for Emond to be a goalie to come up the pipeline for the Sharks, especially if he has another strong season with his junior club.