Sharks' first win was encouraging, but still plenty of work left to do

Sharks' first win was encouraging, but still plenty of work left to do

Well, there it is. After four arduous games, the Sharks finally got their first win of the 2019-20 campaign.

San Jose got better and better as Thursday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks went on, with the Sharks' third period perhaps being the most dominant 20 minutes of hockey they've played in the early part of the season. 

But Team Teal knows there is still work to be done if the Sharks are going to rebound from that dismal four-loss start. There are mistakes the team still has to eradicate and adjustments that still need to be made. At least after getting a much-needed victory, the Sharks have something positive to build off of.

"I still think there's a lot to fix," Brent Burns admitted to the media after San Jose's exciting 5-4 win in the Windy City. "But (we've) definitely come a long way and we're playing much better."

Head coach Peter DeBoer summarized the game by saying it "still wasn't the 60 minutes" the team is looking for. However, the tail end encouraged him. 

"The best part of it was that the last 20 minutes, we played really well," DeBoer said. "So that was a really good sign. The third period was maybe the best period we've played all year."

Defense remains an issue for the Sharks, who didn't give Aaron Dell the help he needed through the first 40 minutes of the game. 

On the flip side, Dell made a few huge saves that kept Chicago's potent offense from running up the score -- especially in the final minute of play when the Blackhawks tried to tie things up and he sprawled out in every direction to keep the puck out of the crease.

"That's what we need out of him," DeBoer said. "He made some key saves at key times. I think both teams were a bit loose and he made one more save than the other guy. And sometimes that's all you need."

It didn't hurt that San Jose's offense finally got going to even things out. Fueled by a two-goal return from Patrick Marleau, the Sharks' offense did a better job keeping the puck in the offensive zone and keeping the pressure on Chicago netminder Corey Crawford. As the game went on, the egregious turnovers began to diminish. 

[RELATED: Watch Marleau score twice in first game back with Sharks]

Heck, the Sharks scored just as many goals in Thursday's game as they did in the previous four games combined. That's a big step in the right direction.

"A little more traffic in front of the net, and just finishing our chances," Joe Thornton explained. "That's the bottom line. We haven't been finishing out chances. I think we finished a little bit better tonight."

With the first win of the season finally under their belts, have the Sharks done a 180-degree turn that will propel them in the right direction going forward?

"I hope so, it looked good tonight," Thornton said.

NHL rumors: Ex-Sharks coach Peter DeBoer 'willing to listen' to offers


NHL rumors: Ex-Sharks coach Peter DeBoer 'willing to listen' to offers

Former Sharks coach Peter DeBoer has not been out of a job long, and he reportedly might not wait longer. 

DeBoer is open to coaching elsewhere this season, Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday night during "Hockey Night In Canada."

"Sometimes coaches wanna take time, maybe the rest of the season before they come back," Friedman said. "The word is ... that, depending on the situation, Peter DeBoer is willing to listen and will consider coaching this year. But again, it depends on the situation."

The Sharks fired DeBoer, assistant coaches Steve Spott and Dave Barr and goaltending coach Johan Hedberg on Wednesday. Bob Boughner was the only coach retained and he now is the Sharks' interim coach, with longtime minor league coach Roy Sommer and former Sharks Mike Ricci and Evgeni Nabokov filling out the rest of the staff. 

DeBoer's tenure in San Jose lasted parts of five seasons, which was his longest stint as an NHL coach. He led the Sharks to a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2015-16 and another appearance in the Western Conference final last season. 

The Sharks started slowly this season, winning just four of their first 15 games. San Jose later rattled off a six-game winning streak, but DeBoer's time behind the Sharks bench ended with another five-game losing streak. 

[RELATED: Dell earns another start by lifting Sharks past Canucks]

Goaltenders Martin Jones and Aaron Dell did not bounce back as expected this season, and the two combined for the NHL's fourth-worst save percentage (.887) at the time of DeBoer's firing. Those struggles coincided with others in the Sharks' defensive zone, as San Jose allowed the fifth-highest rate of expected goals (2.41 per 60 minutes) and rate of high-danger chances (11.73 per 60 minutes) in the league this season under DeBoer, according to Natural Stat Trick. A rash of offseason departures, including the loss of captain Joe Pavelski, didn't help the Sharks, nor did the slow acclimation of the team's prospects trying to take their place. 

The Sharks opted to change the coaching staff in order to correct for those circumstances. They won't be the last team to do the same this season, and DeBoer -- whose .548 winning percentage is better than all but five active coaches -- reportedly will listen when another comes calling.

Aaron Dell lifts Sharks to big win vs. Canucks, earns another start


Aaron Dell lifts Sharks to big win vs. Canucks, earns another start

SAN JOSE - The Sharks named Aaron Dell the first star on the evening after they defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 at SAP Center on Saturday. Really, it would have been silly to give that first star to anyone else.

But in San Jose's first win with Bob Boughner behind the bench, the 30-year-old backup netminder didn't just keep the team in front of him in the game. He also earned himself his first back-to-back opportunity of his 2019-20 campaign, with Boughner all but confirming after the win that Dell would get the start over Martin Jones when the Sharks host the Coyotes on Tuesday.

Earlier in the season, Jones might have gotten the nod to start Tuesday's game regardless of how Dell played on Saturday. But this is Boughner's team now. And the interim head coach is going to play whoever the hot hand is.

"This is a competition," Boughner told reporters after San Jose's victory over Vancouver. "Both guys are good goalies."

Despite an up-and-down first few months of the season, Dell came up big in his first start of Boughner's tenure. He had a shutout bid going against the Canucks up until 7:57 in the third period. Sure, he let two goals in late, but he also strung together some highlight reel-worthy stops to stymie Vancouver's mounting offensive push. Dell stopped 33 of 35 shots, improving to 18-6-3 in his career when recording 30 or more saves in a contest. Needless to say, the performance added to Dell's glowing resume against the Canucks, who he holds a 6-1-0 all-time record against.

"He was our best player," Boughner said of Dell. "He made some key saves at key times and kept us in it when we were starting to take on water. That's what a goalie does in a win like that" 

Teammate Timo Meier agreed with his new coach

"Definitely wouldn't have been able to win without him," Meier said. "He was really solid in net. He played great for us. He's definitely a huge part of this win. He kept us in the game."

Although Dell will start San Jose's next game, Jones won't be sitting around waiting around for his next start. No. 31 is expected to get some extra practice time in with newly-appointed goalie coach Evgeni Nabokov, which Boughner sees as a big positive for San Jose's goaltending tandem.

"Jones is going to get a chance to work with Nabby for a few days, which is an advantage for us," Boughner said.

As for Dell's next outing, it's anyone's guess how he will play in a second straight start. He's 2-2-0 lifetime in back-to-back starts and, again, hasn't played consecutive games yet this season. If his next start is anything like his start on Saturday night, however, the Sharks should be in a good position to get another win.

Of course, San Jose's success won't start and end with how Dell plays on Tuesday against Arizona. The Sharks might have gotten into the win column on Saturday, but they still have work to do to improve the game -- mainly when it comes to playing tight defense for a full 60 minutes.

[RELATED: How Thornton, Marleay feel about ex-teammates as coaches]

"It's just one game so we've got to string some (wins) together," Marc-Edouard Vlasic said after Saturday's win. "We played better. We stuck more to our system. Turned (the puck) over too many times, but other than that, we played the way we wanted to."

"It's a start," Meier said. "We know there are still a lot of things we need to clean up, but it's a step in the right direction."