Sharks give glimpse of playoff intensity in pivotal win over Avalanche

Sharks give glimpse of playoff intensity in pivotal win over Avalanche

SAN JOSE – From the rafters above the ice at SAP Center, Friday’s contest between the Sharks and the Colorado Avalanche had a bit of a playoff feel. Instead of a high-scoring standoff, San Jose’s defense had to be stingy in holding off a fast Colorado offense, and the counter-attack had to be just as confident.

But did it feel like a playoff game down on ice level?

“Yeah, it did,” Kevin Labanc said after Team Teal's 4-3 victory. “They’re fighting for a playoff spot and we’re fighting to win the Western Conference. Every inch of ice is hard to get.”

Indeed, the Avs entered the Sharks’ house right on the outskirts of a wild-card spot. Their top forwards are fast, their netminder is a brick wall, and their power play was clicking. There was no room for San Jose to get back on its heels, even after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the second period.
But even as Colorado cut its deficit to a goal 6:33 into the third period, San Jose buckled down and kept the opposition from knotting up the score. That’s exactly what this team needs as the regular season winds down, and the playoffs come into clearer view.

“I thought our group came together and played a real solid game,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said after the game.. “I thought all four lines were effective. I thought all our defensemen were good.”

Defense played a huge role for San Jose against a high-flying offense boasting top line of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen. San Jose’s defense came up big halting MacKinnon, who was dangerous offensively all night. While all three got on the score sheet in one form or another, the Sharks did a good job overall at stymying Colorado’s forward attack.

“Obviously MacKinnon and Rantanen and Landeskog are a real tough group to handle, and you saw what they’re capable of when you give them a little bit of room,” DeBoer said. “I thought, for most of the night, we did a pretty solid job on them. And Jones made some saves when we needed to.”

There were, of course, a few areas the Sharks bench boss would like to see cleaned up.

“I would have liked for us to turn a couple of the counter-attacks into some more goals,” he said. “I thought we could have extended the lead at a couple different points instead of letting them hang around.”

[RELATED: Sharks happy to have plenty of home games as season draws to close]

Overall, though, being able to contain a fast team like the Sharks did is a positive sign. Plus, it’s a nice statement to make at the start of a four-game homestand that continues Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks.

“We’ve got to keep this thing rolling and get ready for Chicago on Sunday,” Labanc concluded.

Sharks' health to key players major concern after Game 5 loss to Blues


Sharks' health to key players major concern after Game 5 loss to Blues

SAN JOSE – Sure, many players at this point in the Stanley Cup playoffs are playing through their fair share of bumps and bruises. For the Sharks, those ailments appear to be piling up – and it creates some big questions for San Jose ahead of their next game.

The Sharks' bench looked pretty thin midway through the third period of their 5-0 loss to the Blues on Sunday with four injured players – Erik Karlsson, Tomas Hertl, Joe Pavelski, and Joonas Donskoi – absent from game action. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer didn’t have an immediate update on any of the four after the game, but there’s already concern about San Jose’s health as they are now on the brink of elimination.

The Sharks were already short a major weapon at the start of the third period of Game 5 when Karlsson wasn’t on the bench with his teammates, which was concerning since his health was already in question. Then it became apparent center Hertl was missing from the bench as well – a scary sight after he sustained a high hit from Ivan Barbashev halfway through the first frame that went unpenalized.

“I saw the Hertl hit, I just watched the replay,” Logan Couture said. “Yeah, that’s a tough one. But they had one earlier in Game 3, I believe on [Justin] Braun, and nothing happened. So they can do it again, right?”

DeBoer pointed to the hit on Hertl and the lack of call as a momentum-changer for San Jose, who was trailing 1-0 at that point in the first period, but still very much in the game.

“Arguably a five-minute major on Tommy Hertl, if you get that – that’s a momentum-changing play right there,” the coach said.

Whether the hit was the reason Hertl was missing from the Sharks’ bench in the third period is still unknown. Nevertheless, San Jose was down two skaters before both Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi left the ice after absorbing big hits from the rival Blues. 

At that point in the game, the Sharks let their emotions take over and found themselves in a world of penalty trouble.

“When Pav got hit high, we lost our composure there in the third period,” DeBoer said. “Not our finest moment, but I understand where that emotion is coming from.”

Of course, the penalties made the Sharks’ job even harder. Sharks analyst Jamie Baker pointed out that being on extended penalty kills when the bench is already short is extra demanding on a team that’s chasing the game.

“They were short so many players in the third period, that’s taxing the rest of the guys, and then they were taking penalties,” Baker said. “So the fatigue factor almost doubles down.”

Donskoi returned to the bench toward the very end of the game, though the Sharks were already down 5-0 at that point with little chance of bouncing back.

As the focus shifts from one game to the next, the Sharks now have to face some serious questions when it comes to the health of their lineup. 

[RELATED: Pavelski, Karlsson leave Game 5 vs. Blues with injuries]

“For Game 6, the health of the players who didn’t play in the third period is going to be topic No. 1,” Baker said. “And if they can’t play, who’s going to go in there and how are they going to go in and win in St. Louis?”

“We’ve just got to regroup,” DeBoer said. “We’ve got to go on and win a game.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-0 Game 5 home loss to Blues


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-0 Game 5 home loss to Blues


SAN JOSE -- You might’ve had a feeling that Sunday’s game would be a doozy when Evander Kane rang the puck off the goal post just 10 seconds into it. But it’s unlikely anybody was prepared for how badly the Sharks would be outmuscled and out-chanced as they fell 5-0 to the Blues in Game 5 of the Western Conference final.

The Sharks now trail three games to two in the best-of-seven series, with a potentially decisive Game 6 scheduled for Tuesday night in St. Louis.

Here are three takeaways from Game 5 at SAP Center.

Another second period to forget

One of the Sharks' biggest complaints about their own game has been that they don’t play a solid 60 minutes. Even when they won Game 3 in overtime, they criticized themselves for giving up the lead in the second period. But they couldn't have played much worse in the second period of Game 5.

In addition to being outshot 20-6, the Sharks continued to move sloppily through the neutral zone and turn pucks over, making their job even more difficult. They were pushed around by the Blues for the entire 20 minutes.

The Karlsson Effect

Erik Karlsson plays a huge role for the Sharks, both offensively and defensively. The Sharks defenseman's absence definitely was felt when he skated for just 3 minutes and 3 seconds in the second period, then didn’t come out at all for the third.

Simply put, a healthy Karlsson makes San Jose better. And with Karlsson off the ice, the Sharks couldn't stop the push from the Blues' offense.

San Jose has preached a “next man up” message since the start of the regular season, and coach Peter DeBoer has called for more players to step up. That effort wasn’t there Sunday, which is worrisome because …

The injuries are piling up

As if Karlsson not taking the ice in the third period was enough of a concern, the Sharks lost even more bodies. Tomas Hertl didn’t see any playing time in the third period, and Joe Pavelski and Joonas Donskoi both exited the game after sustaining injuries.

Without knowing right away how healthy any of those players are, there’s immediate wonder if the Sharks will be short some key players for Game 6. Will Tim Heed pencil into the lineup for Karlsson? Will Lukas Radil or Dylan Gambrell be part of San Jose’s offense?

The Sharks have played through bumps and bruises for most of their lengthy playoff run. But how many more of those bumps and bruises can they take and still be successful?