Sharks

Sharks feel fortunate with timing of bye week

Sharks feel fortunate with timing of bye week

VANCOUVER – The condensed Sharks schedule has resumed, with a vengeance.

Saturday’s game in Vancouver started a stretch of 22 games over the final 43 days of the regular season for San Jose. The remaining slate features 16 games in the month of March alone, and five back-to-back sets. A game against Calgary at home on April 8 is the finale.

It’s going to be a brutal grind.

Fortunately, the Sharks feel that their bye week came at the right time, as they had five days off with no practice from Monday through Friday, when they boarded an afternoon charter for British Columbia. They had dropped six of eight headed into it, and fatigue was undoubtedly a factor.

Prior to the break, the general feeling was that the Sharks felt privileged with the timing of the bye week. Joe Pavelski was even more emphatic about that notion on Saturday morning, when the complete team reconvened for the first time at Rogers Arena.

“It came at a great time. Everyone’s excited for a break when we get it,” Pavelski said. “Obviously it’s a long season, and you get to go do something you want for a few days, it makes it pretty nice.”
 
Joe Thornton said: “It was just nice to relax and enjoy ourselves.”

The Sharks have essentially had a break in each of the last three months, as the league shut down for Christmas for three days in late December, and the All-Star break came at the end of January. Some teams had their bye weeks as early as the beginning of January, which doesn’t make much sense.

“I thought our breaks were pretty well scheduled – Christmas, All-Star, and then this,” Chris Tierney said. “It was all about a month apart. Hopefully, that pays off.”

It’s been well documented that a number of the Sharks’ veteran players have seen a drop in production, after the club played all the way until June last season in getting to its first-ever Stanley Cup Final. Thornton, Pavelski, Logan Couture, Joel Ward, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Paul Martin all had some ups-and-downs throughout the first 60 games.

Although the Sharks have maintained first place in the Pacific Division, a commendable achievement to be sure, some guys just looked like they needed some time off.

They got it, and now they can turn their attention as a group to finishing the regular season strong and going into the postseason in prime playing shape. 

Really, that’s all that matters.

“We’ve got a big home stretch coming down the end here, [22] games to finish off strong to put ourselves in a good position going into the postseason,” Ward said. “We’re excited about the capabilities of what we have going.”

Thornton said: “We’ve got a lot of games here in a short period of time, so hopefully we all got our rest and get ready for the stretch run.”

Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

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USATSI

Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

For the fourth consecutive season, Peter DeBoer has guided the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Thanks to the Colorado Avalanche's 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, the Sharks became the second team in the Western Conference to secure a playoff spot. The Calgary Flames (45-21-7), whom the Sharks (43-22-8) trail by three points for first place in the Pacific Division, were the first. 

The Sharks lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round last year. If the playoffs started today, second-seeded San Jose would match up with third-seeded Vegas in the first round.

[RELATED: 'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far in future after loss to Vegas]

DeBoer took over as Sharks coach in 2015 after the franchise ended a 10-year run of making the playoffs. The Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season, but they haven't advanced past the second round since.

The franchise also seeks its first Pacific Division crown since the 2010-11 season. A division banner would be the first of DeBoer's career as an NHL head coach.

'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far into future after loss to Vegas

'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far into future after loss to Vegas

SAN JOSE – Monday night’s contest between the Sharks and Golden Knights was billed as a potential playoff preview. So naturally, when San Jose lost 7-3, there were questions as to how concerned the team was about possibly having to play Vegas in the first round.

But the team was adamant they shouldn’t be looking too far into the future. They believe they need to stay focused on the games at hand, and fix the things that led them to drop three contests in a row – not on who they may play in the postseason.

“You can’t think about that,” Justin Braun said. “You can’t be worried about what you’re doing three weeks from now. You need to get points now.”

Bench boss Peter DeBoer agreed, telling the media afterward that no matchup is necessarily more ideal than another. 

“I don’t think there’s going to be an easy match,” DeBoer admitted. “I don’t think anyone wants to play (Arizona) the way they’re playing now or Dallas or whoever ends up in there. It doesn’t matter once you get in. Everybody you play is going to be a very good and a very good test. So we’re just going to try and win as many games as we can and whoever we get we’ll show up and be ready to play.”

Winning games now means cleaning a few things up on San Jose’s end. They haven’t been happy with how they’ve played in their last three contests, from not having enough energy on one night to making too many mistakes the next.

“I’m concerned, we haven’t played well,” Logan Couture said. “We’re giving up too many chances, too many goals. We’re giving up odd-man rushes. Every time we give them an opportunity like that they’re going to put it in the back of our net.”

Which was primarily the story of Monday’s game against the Golden Knights. The Sharks made too many small mistakes, from turning pucks over in the neutral zone to making too many trips to the penalty box. Couture went so far as to say the Sharks “handed them goals tonight.”

“Some lessons learned tonight that you can’t chase the game, or if you do get behind in a game against that team you’ve got to handle it with a little more composure," DeBoer said. "We knew that, but we shot ourselves in the foot.”

The only thing left to do now is take what went wrong against Vegas and turn it around – particularly on San Jose’s upcoming two-game road trip against the Kings and Ducks down in Southern California.

“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, you’ve got to keep rolling forward,” Braun said.