Sharks

Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season

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Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks went 39-1 last season when allowing two goals or fewer. Scoring rarely was an issue for them, which meant many games were decided on their play without the puck.
 
“We scored a lot of goals, but unlike other years, where we relied on being tight defensively, those goals came at the expense of being a little looser defensively,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer recently said at training camp. “And they were getting different looks.”
 
Criticism of goals allowed thickened during the final stretch of the regular season, and fingers were pointed in two distinct places: Team defense and goaltending.
 
“I’m sure [Martin] Jones is the first guy to say he wishes he played better at times," Sharks captain Logan Couture said of his goalie. "But there were a lot of times we didn’t help him out. We gave up too much."
 
The plot thickened in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, when Vegas took Games 2, 3 and 4 by scoring goals early and often. The Golden Knights looked unstoppable on the scoreboard.

In retrospect, Jones believes he tried to do too much.
 
“You want to go out and make a difference," he said. "But as a goalie, you need to have more patience and let the game come to you. You can’t race out and make 30 saves in the first period. You have to take what comes to you.“ 
 
Facing elimination in Game 5, the Sharks turned their Achilles heel into a strong point.
 
“Breakaways, odd-man rushes, tap-in goals -- he didn’t have a chance,” Couture said. "I don’t know how we did it, but we flipped a switch, and buckled down after that."
 
Added DeBoer: “I know the group around him takes some responsibility for the ups and downs of last year. To his credit, he found a way. He dug himself out of that place where he wasn’t feeling great about his game.”   

[RELATED: Four players Sharks are counting on to take step forward]
 
The final 16 playoff games should clearly indicate what Jones -- who posted a career-worst .896 save percentage and 2.94 goals-against average in the regular season -- can do, especially in the most critical junctures. That must breed confidence in what the Sharks can accomplish this season, if they can support their goalie.
 
“I can tell you this,” DeBoer said confidently, “the group never wavered once, even at the lowest moments, about whether he could get the job done.”

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers

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Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-ending 5-2 loss vs. Oilers

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- All good things must come to an end, as the Sharks learned firsthand when their six-game winning streak ended Tuesday night.

San Jose bested the Edmonton Oilers a week ago, but the Sharks were clearly outmatched in the second meeting between the two teams. Connor McDavid and the Oilers took an early lead and never looked back, winning 5-2 and ending Team Teal's streak.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's game.

Struggling to play from behind

To be honest, the Sharks have done a better job lately playing without the lead. They rallied from two deficits in a 5-3 win over the Anaheim Ducks last week, and it looked as though they might do something similar Tuesday when Kevin Labanc's first-period goal cut the Oilers' lead to 2-1.

But after that, the Sharks had trouble adding to their tally.

Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen deserves some credit here. The Sharks continued to dominate the shot clock and keep him working, but the Edmonton netminder was in fine form as he froze 33 San Jose shots.

Where did the special teams go?

The Sharks' special-teams play was one of the few things they had going for them through the first month of the season. Heck, even when the power play went a little cold, the Sharks' penalty kill never stopped dominating.

Tuesday was a different story, though, as the Sharks failed to convert on the man-advantage and then gave up a power-play goal to the Oilers in the second stanza.

While the kill undoubtedly will recover after only giving up its second power-play goal on home ice this season, the Sharks' power play needs to get its mojo back. Some power-play success could have even helped the Sharks come back Tuesday night.

[RELATED: Sharks winger Kane pushes hockey at Oakland middle school]

Fourth line's inconsistency

The Sharks have had a problem finding good chemistry on their fourth line for a while now. There was a period where it looked like Dylan Gambrell had settled into his role at center and that maybe they could start generating some offense as a line, but they have yet to make anything happen lately. In fact, the shuffle of skaters has only continued continues.

Although coach Peter DeBoer said a few weeks back that he would like to not have to rotate players in and out of the lineup constantly, his fourth line still hasn't truly established itself or had any big impact on a game. The Sharks can’t expect to make any significant climb up the Pacific Division standings with a fourth line that can’t produce.

Sharks' Evander Kane pushes growth of hockey at Oakland middle school

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Sharks' Evander Kane pushes growth of hockey at Oakland middle school

OAKLAND -- In a place like the greater Bay Area where so many sports reign supreme and twigs and pucks aren't easy to come by, hockey isn't usually the first sport a middle schooler will gravitate toward.

When Evander Kane asked a room full of students at Westlake Middle School in Oakland how many of them had ever played ice hockey, not too many hands were raised. 

But Kim Davis, NHL Executive VP of Social Impact, Growth Initiatives, and Legislative Affairs, believes that can change. And after an afternoon when students played a little pick-up hockey on the school blacktop with Kane himself, she told NBC Sports California that she sees potential to grow the game.

"Just listening to the kids inside being asked 'Who's your favorite player? Who's your favorite team?' Tomorrow, they'll have answers to that because of what happened here today," Davis said Monday afternoon as a gaggle of middle-schoolers on the inflatable-barricaded rink in front of her cheered as one scored a goal. 

That's a positive outcome in Davis' line of work, as the "Hockey Is For Everyone" initiative works to make the sport accessible to kids no matter their race, religion or socioeconomic background. Since being placed in her current role with the league, Davis has been tasked with answering critics when it comes to making hockey more welcoming to all players and their fans. 

So even at a school where picking up a basketball is more feasible, Davis wants pick-up hockey to be an option. That starts with equipping students with a couple of hockey sticks and some goal nets -- no expensive equipment required.

"At the league, we're constantly thinking of ways in which we can innovate around ball and street," she said when talking about the access schools have to hockey equipment, even if it's just a couple of sticks. "I often talk about exposure in urban centers, particularly within two dynamics -- one is exposure, and the other is access."

That exposure comes from having a player to look up to, and it doesn't hurt that the San Jose Sharks' "Hockey Is For Everyone" ambassador is Kane. The students who participated in Monday's pick-up game didn't just gain a better understanding of hockey over the afternoon, but also clearly enjoyed interacting with Kane.

"I met Evander at an ESPN event this summer, and we had a natural connection," Davis said. "I really think he's coming into his own in terms of him being able to come into communities and be a relatable figure. And I really think that representation counts."

Bringing hockey to the rest of the Bay Area doesn't stop with this one venture to Westlake Middle School, either. Davis' goal is to make hockey accessible all year long in all corners of the country.

[RELATED: Thornton discusses importance of fitness in HEADSTRONG]

"We're testing in Boston, this new innovation around 'hoop net' where we take a basketball court and we're able to put a hockey net between two basketball courts and kids can have pickup games on their own," Davis said. "It's year-round. Just having kids know that there's another sport available to them.

"I really think that's the bottom line."