Sharks dig deep, cap eventful week with season-high sixth straight win

Sharks dig deep, cap eventful week with season-high sixth straight win

SAN JOSE – If you were to simply check the score of Saturday’s game between the Sharks and the Ottawa Senators, you might have thought San Jose had completely outplayed the visiting team en route to notching a 4-1 victory, the team's sixth win in a row.

If you watched the actual game, however, you knew the Sharks dug down deep to make that win happen.

Saturday’s game came at the end of a long week, jam-packed with visiting family members, monumental ceremonies, and emotional contests. After playing five games in eight days, San Jose was understandably a bit gassed.

“It was a tough scheduled game for us,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer admitted on Saturday. “[Ottawa] played hard. They played with a lot of structure. They make it hard to get through the neutral zone. So this was a game where we really had to gut it out a little bit.”

San Jose kicked off the week with back-to-back contests against division foes in the Los Angeles Kings and the Edmonton Oilers, before traveling to Las Vegas to try to beat the Golden Knights on the road for the first time during the regular season.

On top of that, the players’ dads were in town this week. Plus, the Sharks tallied the franchise’s 1,000th win on Thursday, which also happened to be on Martin Jones’ birthday. Then came the return of former Sharks Chris Tierney, Dylan DeMelo, Mikkel Boedker, and Rudolfs Balcers with the Senators – a.k.a Erik Karlsson’s former team.

Top it all off with a big pregame ceremony to commemorate Brent Burns’ 1,000 career NHL game, and everything caught up to the Sharks by puck drop on Saturday. It took a little time for them to get their game established.

“That first period was pretty tough,” Burns acknowledged, before adding: “I think everybody came together and we got better as the game went on.”

He was right. After a six-shot first period, San Jose was able to pick up a little momentum. Once captain Joe Pavelski opened up scoring towards the end of the second stanza, the Sharks had a foundation they could build off of.

“Definitely took us a little bit to get going and sometimes that’s the case,” Pavelski said. “We’ve had five games in eight days here against some good teams and had some emotional wins and everything that goes along with it. It’s good to get the lead and be able to play with that.”

Keeping that lead meant keeping Ottawa off the scoreboard. That’s where Jones came in, carrying over momentum from his win in Vegas and only surrendering one goal to the Senators.

“I think he was dialed in and he made a bunch of saves to make sure we got to play out in front, which was critical tonight,” DeBoer said. “That was a game where the first goal was going to be really important for whoever got it.”

Now with the long week over, the Sharks will get a much-deserved day off. Then they’ll get right back at it and prepare to preserve their current winning streak against the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday. That’s a team the Sharks will certainly want to be rested and ready for.

Why polled NHL players want to drink beers with Sharks' Joe Thornton


Why polled NHL players want to drink beers with Sharks' Joe Thornton

If you ever wanted to buy Joe Thornton or Brent Burns a beer, you'd better hope none of their NHL colleagues are around. 

In The Athletic's annual player poll, 12 percent of 392 NHL players who participated said Joe Thornton is the player they'd most want to drink a beer with, just behind Alex Ovechkin (14 percent) and Sidney Crosby (12 percent). Defenseman Brent Burns, with 5 percent of the vote, finished fifth, while fellow Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson also received votes. 

Why Thornton? 

"He's a legend," a Pacific Division player told The Athletic.

Only Sharks teammate Patrick Marleau has played more NHL games (1,703) than Thornton (1,616), and Thornton, Marleau and Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara are the only remaining NHLers who debuted in the 20th century. The Athletic found that the average NHL player entering this season was around 27 years old, meaning the average player was about five years old when Thornton debuted in 1997. 

In this case, a good chunk of the league does want to meet one of their heroes, but Thornton's personality can't hurt, either. After all, he once signed a contract extension on a lawnmower, plays Risk in his downtime and famously posed in the buff alongside Burns for ESPN The Magazine's "Body Issue" in 2017.  

“He’d have good stories and he seems like a fun guy," an Atlantic Division player told The Athletic. 

[RELATED: Is Wilson's GM job in serious jeopardy? Brodie answers in latest Sharks mailbag]

Thornton, 40, has 19 points (two goals, 17 assists) in 60 games during his 22nd NHL season. 

If he returns for a 23rd, it's easy to imagine him and Burns on this list again next year.

Sharks mailbag: Is GM Doug Wilson's job in jeopardy due to poor play?

Sharks mailbag: Is GM Doug Wilson's job in jeopardy due to poor play?

The Sharks are in a precarious position.

San Jose has played 50 games and needs about 50 points in their final 32 tilts to have any chance at the playoffs. It’s becoming a difficult scenario to envision.

You gave me some pointed questions via Twitter & Instagram, and here are the best responses:

Instagram @hockeysteez: Is Doug Wilson’s job in jeopardy?

I guess we’re jumping right into the deep end of the pool? I don’t think many feel terrific right now as it relates to job security. Wilson included. At the same time, I’m a huge proponent of giving him the absolute opportunity to re-orchestrate the franchise.

From about 2015 to 2019, he was on a roll of surprise acquisitions and team-friendly extensions. He wheeled some big pieces into place, and if there is more heavy lifting required during the next 6-8 months before next season begins: I’d like to see Wilson’s experience at the helm to make it happen. I have zero reservations about that as a first option.

Twitter @tk408: Who are they considering for permanent coach?

Placing the interim tag on Bob Boughner was certainly strategic, but I also believe he’ll definitely be at least considered for a long-term solution after this season concludes. The cards were stacked against anyone taking over under the circumstances Boughner did on Dec. 11. At the same time, no “honeymoon period” occurred, and the team has just six wins in five weeks since the coaching change.

The next three months are a showcase for Boughner, just as it is for so many players. Some big name bench-bosses will likely be available this summer, including Mike Babcock and Peter Laviolette. They would come with a stiff price, and likely a significantly different edge than Boughner, Pete DeBoer, or even Todd McLellan did.

Instagram @ace_portraits: Would trying to find a new goalie or starting Aaron dell at the beginning of the year have made a difference in our season?

In short: no. Team defense has been an Achilles heel to a varying degree in San Jose all season. Complicating the matter: Martin Jones and Aaron Dell did not have great starts to the campaign, either. We’ve clearly seen Dell emerge to prominence and Jones decline in the last six weeks, but to say either one (or neither) could have drastically impacted the journey is a stretch.  

Twitter @apadilla24: Even though there’s been rumors saying that “core” players will not be traded do you see a big shake up like trade happening?

Only because the Sharks face tight spots in their struggles, and the salary cap, logistics alone would suggest there has to be at least one “wow-factor” maneuver to create more personnel options. “Shake-ups” can occur at different magnitudes, and while it’s probably accurate that small-level changes probably won’t manifest the desired effect, wholesale changes probably aren’t the wisest right now either.

Twitter @talking7: Does there seem to be a lack of team chemistry with the Sharks?

The inconsistency of results this season probably confirms that. It’s an interesting dynamic where, on paper the roster is littered with proven talent, and experience, and productivity. Nobody expected this kind of storyline back in September, and rightfully so. I’m not suggesting there are personal issues here, only the ability to thrive together on the ice. San Jose appears to have all the ingredients to cook, but sometimes the main courses just haven’t come out right.

Twitter @srosenthal13: Is it time to start cycling up the guys from the Barracuda to see who looks good?

Unfortunately the Barracuda are uncharacteristically struggling this season too. And one the worst things that can happen for an emerging hockey player is premature exposure to the NHL. So long as San Jose doesn’t face too many injuries, the only “right time” to bring up AHL players is when they are truly ready … not just for experimentation or evaluation purposes.

[RELATED: How faceoffs plagued Sharks on road trip]

Twitter @WaffleHater22: Do we trade Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton so they can have a chance to hold the Cup?

This is a doozy. We were enthralled by the storybook return of Patrick Marleau. And inspired by the resilience of Joe Thornton, after overcoming two knee injuries that easily could have ended his career. Saying goodbye under present terms would be difficult, but maybe keeping them would be selfish. If Marleau or Thornton were desired by a Stanley Cup contender and were agreeable to the transaction … then I’d only see it as a proper professional courtesy by San Jose.