Sharks lament lack of smarts as win streak ends in loss to Panthers

Sharks lament lack of smarts as win streak ends in loss to Panthers

SAN JOSE – The Sharks have had to rally through a tough schedule all season. On some nights, despite going into a game with the right mindset, fatigue can still creep in. 

Thursday's 4-2 loss to the Florida Panthers was one of those nights. 

“It hit us tonight,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer summarized. “Five games in eight nights and a back-to-back to Minnesota and Winnipeg and back, I think it caught up to us a little bit.”

Mix a busy schedule against tough teams with plenty of penalty trouble Thursday night, and the odds weren't in the Sharks' favor. 

“You have to give them credit too, they played hard.” DeBoer said. “We’ve found a way, a lot of times this year, to win these games when our energy was down. But tonight wasn’t one of those nights.”

Kevin Labanc agreed: “We’ve had plenty of games like that and we found a way to win. We just weren’t really smart, I think.”

The smarts Labanc was referring to were in relation to San Jose’s penalty trouble. The Panthers entered Thursday with the NHL's second-best power play, so staying out of the box was imperative.

While the Sharks did do an excellent job killing off a Logan Couture double minor halfway through the second period playing for a long stretch shorthanded took the wind out of San Jose’s sails. When the team was penalized for having too many men on the ice at the end of that frame, Florida forward Mike Hoffman found the back of the net on the ensuing power play to give the Panthers a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

“They’ve got a good power play, they made us pay,” Couture said. “We were sloppy all night though. Penalties, turnovers, everything.”

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Joe Pavelski mentioned that one area where the Sharks have been successful as of late has been in third periods. Despite being down, San Jose went into the final 20 minutes with the idea they could turn things around. San Jose did put on a bit of pressure in the game's final minutes, but couldn’t cut into that two-goal hole.

“We go out with the mindset ‘if we win the period here, we win the game,’” the captain said. “We didn’t jump on it.”

The Sharks will have to rest up and refill the gas tank. They have tough competition in the Nashville Predators and the Vegas Golden Knights coming into town on the homestand, and they simply need to have more energy than they did against the Panthers.

“I’m sure the energy level looked like it was low,” Couture admitted. “We’ve got to find a way to play better than that.”

NHL rumors: Sharks have made Erik Karlsson massive contract offer


NHL rumors: Sharks have made Erik Karlsson massive contract offer

The Sharks fell short in their Stanley Cup bid this season, and they now have some serious business to take care of this offseason.

It all starts with the team's pursuit in keeping star defenseman Erik Karlsson. 

The Sharks have been working toward a contract extension for Karlsson, and they reportedly now have made an offer. SportsNet's Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday that "it is believed they’ve [the Sharks] made him an offer that will challenge, if not surpass, Drew Doughty’s extension from last summer."

The L.A. Kings made Doughty the NHL's highest-paid defenseman last summer when they signed him to an eight-year, $88 million contract.

Not only did Friedman report the Sharks already have offered Karlsson, but he believes the team has a serious chance at bringing him back to San Jose for the long term.

"Conversations have intensified, and I think they’ve got a shot," Friedman wrote.

Karlsson had dinner with Sharks general manager Doug Wilson on Wednesday night in Santa Clara, The Athletic's Kevin Kurz reported. A Facebook user in a Sharks fan group posted a picture with Karlsson and Wilson from the restaurant, and it later surfaced on the Sharks' fan-run subreddit.

The Sharks acquired Karlsson in a blockbuster trade with the Senators on the eve of training camp. He played 53 games in his first year as a Shark and scored 45 points -- three goals and 42 assists.

Karlsson battled injuries all season long, and he clearly was hobbled in the playoffs before missing the Sharks' season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Western Conference final to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. He aggravated his injured groin in Game 4, and played just 10:32 in Game 5.

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While Karlsson’s first go in San Jose didn't go as planned, the Sharks clearly want him to stay in the Bay.

Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones


Sharks organizational review: Goalie situation depends on Martin Jones

SAN JOSE -- There may not have been a Sharks' player who caught more flak from fans this past season than Martin Jones, as the starting goalie battled with consistency this season. Criticism of San Jose's goaltending continued as Jones' backup, Aaron Dell, didn't fare much better overall throughout the regular season. 

Then came the Sharks' 20-game playoff run, where Jones did a complete 180-degree turn after the Sharks went into a 3-1 hole against the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round. As if a switch had been flipped, Jones went from being a liability to being a key to getting Team Teal to the Western Conference Final. 

The question now is which version of Martin Jones will be in net for the Sharks next season -- or how San Jose's goaltending contingent, in general, is going to look and match up to the competition in the future.

Sure, wins are what counts at the end of the day and Jones was tied for third in the league with 36 regular season victories in this last campaign. But while his record improved to 36-19-5 over the previous season's 30-22-6, his save percentage dipped from .915 to .896. He also developed a habit of giving up the first goal of the game within the first few minutes of the first period, putting the rest of the team on their heels early into games.  

Nevertheless, it's pretty unlikely Jones is going anywhere. He's entering the second season of a six-year contract extension he signed in 2017, and even before his turnaround performance in the playoffs the team around him never stopped sticking up for him. When Jones struggled, his teammates continued to put their unwavering faith in him and insisted their defensive effort in front of him was to blame. For that faith to continue, however, Jones is going to have to bring some of his strong play from the playoffs into next season.

As for Jones' backup, Dell's future seems a bit more open. Even with two shutouts on the season, No. 30's numbers also took a dip during the 2018-19 campaign and he ended the regular season with a 3.17 goals-against average and .886 save percentage. With just one year left on his current contract, San Jose could potentially use Dell as a trade piece.

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Neither of San Jose's Barracuda goalies, Antoine Bibeau and Josef Korenar, saw any NHL time this past season. Although there's a possibility both get a look during camp ahead of next season after both posted better than .900 save percentages. Bibeau also already has two NHL games under his belt from when he was part of the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization, going 1-1-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average. 

The Sharks further added to their goaltending contingent this spring when they signed Zachary Emond to an entry-level contract. Emond, 18, won't be making any appearances at the NHL level this season, although the Sharks have expressed satisfaction with how the sixth-round pick from the 2018 draft is developing. Look for Emond to be a goalie to come up the pipeline for the Sharks, especially if he has another strong season with his junior club.