Sharks

Sharks, Evander Kane reminding NHL who they are during winning streak

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AP

Sharks, Evander Kane reminding NHL who they are during winning streak

The Sharks are riding their first three-game winning streak since before Thanksgiving, and Evander Kane is a major reason why.

In Thursday's 3-2 overtime win over the New Jersey Devils, he had the primary assist on Logan Couture's game-winning goal.

In Saturday's 5-0 blowout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kane got the scoring barrage started with the game's opening goal.

Then, in Tuesday's impressive 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, he opened the scoring once again, and added an insurance marker in the third period for good measure.

The standings might not reflect it, but as Kane and San Jose have proven over the first three games of its current undefeated homestand, it would be unwise to overlook the Sharks on the schedule.

"We obviously haven't had the type of success we wanted this year for whatever reason, but you look at us on paper, even with some of the guys we have out of our lineup, we're a pretty darn good team," Kane said after the win over Toronto. "On paper. We've just got to put it together. We've had a lot of success over the years here, and we just want to finish the year off on a strong note and put a little reminder out that we're still the San Jose Sharks and we're going to be tough to beat every night."

Outside of an awful first period against the Devils, the Sharks have lived up to Kane's words. They've outscored their opponents 13-4 over the last three games, and scored nine unanswered goals stretching from the second period of the win over New Jersey through the first period of Tuesday's victory.

While the lowly Devils aren't a playoff team, both the Penguins and Maple Leafs are very likely to qualify for the postseason and would have to be considered two of the more talented teams in the league. Despite missing several key players, San Jose has taken each of their best punches, and then delivered significant blows to both.

"I think we've kind of made up our minds as a group, as players, that we want to -- I said it the other game -- ruin some seasons for some teams and be as destructive as we possibly can down the stretch," Kane explained.

The Sharks don't have a playoff berth to realistically fight for, but they don't lack for motivation. From a team perspective, in addition to playing the role of spoiler, San Jose has 16 more regular-season games with which to generate momentum for next season. And there are individual motivations, too. Some players are trying to prove they belong at the NHL level, while others, like goaltender Martin Jones, are hoping to more permanently establish themselves in the lineup.

Jones, who has started all three wins on the homestand, appears to be finding a groove and is currently playing as well as he has all season.

[RELATED: Jones seizing control of Sharks' ongoing goalie competition]

"When he's on the top of his game like he has been these last three, we're a real hard team to beat," Kane said of Jones. "We're going to make mistakes, and when he can bail us out, and when we can give him some run support, too -- which we haven't done a good job of this year -- we're a top team in the league. We just haven't shown it this year consistently enough."

Indeed, it's quite likely too little, too late for San Jose. The combination of injuries to key players and sheer bad luck created a hole that the team doesn't appear to have enough remaining time to dig out of. Too often this season did San Jose not look anything like the Sharks we're used to.

Lately, though, they're remembering who they are.

Evander Kane says white athletes must speak against police brutality

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USATSI

Evander Kane says white athletes must speak against police brutality

Sharks winger Evander Kane called on prominent white professional athletes to speak out against police brutality against African Americans.

Kane, who is black, joined ESPN's "First Take" on Friday morning to discuss George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis earlier this week. The 28-year-old Kane said it can't just fall on black athletes to lend their voices to causes of racial justice, and white players joining their black peers is "the only way" for professional athletes to truly affect change.

"We've been outraged for hundreds of years and nothing has changed," Kane said of black people speaking out against racism (H/T Fear the Fin's Sheng Peng). "It's time for guys like (Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback) Tom Brady and (Pittsburgh Penguins center) Sidney Crosby and those types of figures to speak up about what is right, and clearly in this case, what is unbelievably wrong. Because that's the only way we're gonna actually create that unified anger to create that necessary change, especially when you talk about systematic racism."

Bystanders in Minneapolis recorded video Monday of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, having a white police officer's knee pressed into his neck for nearly eight minutes as three other officers looked on. Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe, but state charging documents alleged that the officer, Derek Chauvin, continued to have his knee on Floyd's neck for almost three minutes after he became non-responsive. Chauvin and the three other officers were fired Tuesday, and he was arrested on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter Friday.

Kane tweeted Tuesday night that the video of Floyd's death made his "[f--king] blood boil." He shared a petition Wednesday night calling for the four former officers to face charges.

The forward has been increasingly outspoken against racism in the last year, particularly in hockey. Kane is one of just 43 NHL players of color, according to WDET, and they account for fewer than 5 percent of the league. He said he hasn't seen "too many" hockey players discuss Floyd's death, but Kane feels supported by his teammates in speaking out.

"In terms of my teammates, they're incredibly supportive of me and what I stand for," Kane said. "I think hockey, unfortunately, has a different culture than some of the other sports in terms of speaking out and using your voice and speaking your mind. I think for me, I'm one of the anomalies when it comes to NHL players doing that. That's another part of the problem, guys being scared to really speak their mind and stand up for what is right."

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, who doesn't often address the media, shared his support of Kane in a rare statement Friday hours after Kane's appearance on "First Take."

"There is no room for racism in society," the statement read. "We applaud Evander for his thoughtful and rational response to the recent terrible tragedy. Events like this occur way too often. We all must find a way to do better."

Kane tweeted he was "proud to be part of" the Sharks in response.

[RELATED: Kap starts fund to pay lawyers for Minneapolis protesters]

Kane said sports have the inclusive potential to bring people together from a variety of backgrounds. In order to live up to it, Kane thinks athletes -- white and black -- need to pull in the same direction off the rink, field and court.

"[When] we talk about our own personal battles outside of sports, there's a lot of people that are silent on issues," he said. "They're important issues. They're issues that have been going on for hundreds of years, and we need that same type of team mentality to be brought to issues outside of our sport."

Sharks players laud Bob Boughner's performance as interim head coach

Sharks players laud Bob Boughner's performance as interim head coach

Being an interim head coach is never easy. The title itself implies something previously went wrong with someone at the top during the flow of a season, and that was certainly the case when Bob Boughner took over the Sharks on Dec. 11, 2019 after Pete DeBoer got sacked.

The once-mighty Sharks were floundering, in desperate need of an about-face the front office hoped radical change could provide. San Jose improved but not enough to make a real playoff push. The Sharks even failed to qualify for an expanded, 24-team playoff format designed to restart the NHL season after pausing it due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a long offseason ahead to sort out their issues.

Finding a head coach definitely is one, though after doing due diligence, it’s possible the Sharks simply lift the interim tag off Boughner’s title.

“We have time to build the staff that’s best going forward for this team,” San Jose general manager Doug Wilson told NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “Bob has certainly got the inside track. … We’re still in the middle of that process. We’ll be very thorough.”

Players don’t have the ultimate say in that decision, but they were impressed by what Boughner was able to do after taking DeBoer’s place.

“I don’t think he entered a very easy situation,” defenseman Erik Karlsson said Thursday in a video conference with local reporters. “He did the best he could with what he had. He clearly thought about what he needed to fix immediately, and also had a long-term plan even though his future was uncertain.

“I think he did the right thing for the team and the organization moving forward. I think he did everything he could to be the best coach he could be. I think we got a boost from [him], but I think we were a little bit too far gone to really be saved.”

The Sharks were 15-16-2 under DeBoer and 14-20-3 under Boughner, though the latter dealt with season-ending injuries to Karlsson and Tomas Hertl and played several weeks without captain Logan Couture.

Boughner helped improve a porous defense and held players accountable for poor play and missteps. Long-tenured defenseman Brent Burns was impressed by Boughner’s effort, seeing a change in his style after returning to the team following two seasons as head coach of the Florida Panthers.

“You could see there was a difference in him from being a head coach during the time he was in Florida, but he was still ‘Bougy,’” Burns said. “He has all those positive things that made him great as an assistant. He learned to be a head coach, so he evolved and became a bit more authoritative. He has the ability to interact with guys like he’s still a player. He’s a great communicator. He gets what’s going on and sees it, but at the end of the day, he has a little bit of that "fear of god" in him.

“I think he learned a lot from Pete, learning from a great coach. He was great before, but you could see he evolved and was better. The atmosphere he creates is good. That’s tough to say with how sh--ty everything was going, but he did a great job with where he was at and where we were at.”

[RELATED: Couture says Sharks have ambition to sustain long offseason]

Boughner already knew most of the longer-tenured Sharks, but also found a way to connect with younger players.

“I learned a lot from him,” defenseman Mario Ferraro said. “He held me accountable out there and gave me a lot of advice as a young player in the league. I like the way he coaches and, if I were to make a mistake, he’s going to be hard on me but show me a way I can improve with video and stuff in practice. The season was pretty hilly for me, and when I was on the downhill, he would try to pick me back up. It’s a privilege to play for him.”