Sharks must challenge Avalanche's Philipp Grubauer more in Game 5


Sharks must challenge Avalanche's Philipp Grubauer more in Game 5

The Stanley Cup playoffs spotlight has shone on Sharks starting goaltender Martin Jones, following him into San Jose's second-round series with the Colorado Avalanche. 

Not quite as much focus – at least, up until Game 4 – centered on his opponent in the opposite crease. But after goaltender Philipp Grubauer blanked the Sharks in the Avalanche's 3-0 win in Game 4 on Thursday night at Pepsi Center, the attention has shifted in his direction.

As has the Sharks’ focus on figuring out the best way to beat him as the best-of-seven series moves back to San Jose for Game 5.

“I feel like we made it pretty easy for him,” Tomas Hertl told reporters in Denver after Game 4. “We had a couple good chances. But we have to be in front of him.”

Hertl was very candid in the first round about San Jose’s ability to frustrate Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. If the Sharks obscured Fleury's vision when creating chances, they were able to bury the puck much more readily. Hertl referenced that same strategy after being Grubauer shut out the Sharks. 

“Like when we played against Vegas, there was always one guy in front of him and Fleury got frustrated because he wasn’t seeing the puck,” Hertl explained. “We have to be a little bit better and make it tougher for (Grubauer).”

The Sharks knew the challenge Grubauer presented heading into the series. Colorado won eight of its final 11 regular-season games, and the 27-year-old goalie picked up seven of them. He also played a critical role in the Avalanche's five-game, first-round upset of the top-seeded Calgary Flames, posting a .939 save percentage and 1.90 goals against average. 

Whether Grubauer has a chip on his shoulder after ceding his crease to Braden Holtby during the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup run or has simply gotten hot at the right time is anyone’s guess. No matter the reason, the Sharks will have to do a better job of testing him if they're going to take a 3-2 series lead in Saturday's Game 5. 

“I think we had some good looks, I thought he made some saves,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters in Denver after Game 4. “I thought we could have made it tougher on him, sure.”

[RELATED: Brodie's five observations after Game 4 loss to Avs]

Creating those chances against Grubauer in Games 5, 6 and potentially 7 will also depend on how well the Sharks can keep the puck out of their own end. Despite outshooting the Avalanche, the Sharks ran into trouble holding onto the puck in Game 4. When the Sharks did get out of their end, they weren’t finishing their chances. Colorado, on the other hand, was able to find room and challenge  Jones on the other end of the ice. 

“It’s been the story of the series,” Sharks forward Logan Couture said Thursday, “where we’ve had some good looks, we don’t score and it costs us. The amount of times that we’ve had breakaways or good looks in the slot and we don’t score, and they come back and they score soon after.”

How NHL's potential new labor deal could affect Sharks’ offseason plan

How NHL's potential new labor deal could affect Sharks’ offseason plan

The Sharks could be operating under a new NHL collective bargaining agreement soon, and it might have quite an impact on the franchise's future.

The NHL and the NHL Players Association are nearing an agreement on a Memorandum of Understanding for a new six-year labor deal that includes guidelines for the return of the 2019-20 season, TSN's Frank Seravalli reported Saturday.

The MOU must be ratified by both sides before it becomes official, but the potential deal includes some notes that surely will affect the Sharks this offseason.

For starters, it appears the league's salary cap will be frozen at $81.5 million, and remain there until the NHL's hockey-related revenue gets back to $4.8 billion, which was the initial projection for this season before the coronavirus pandemic forced a suspension of operations on March 12.

[RELATED: NHL expansion draft: Who Sharks might be forced to leave unprotected]

San Jose ended the season with around $648,000 (per in available space, and with contracts expiring for players such as Joe Thornton, Melker Karlsson and Aaron Dell, a frozen salary cap could make re-signing those the team wants to bring back difficult.

Seravalli also noted that minimum contracts will rise $50,000 for next season, increasing to $750,000. It will stay there for four years, before rising to $775,000 in 2024-25, and $800,000 in 2025-26. So, young Sharks players such as Dylan Gambrell and Stefan Noesen, who played on minimum contracts, now are in line for raises of at least $50,000 going into next season.

The Sharks will look to turn things around entering the first full season of this potential new CBA, as they just finished last in the Pacific Division with just 63 points. But it appears the new labor deal might complicate San Jose's plan in some aspects.

Sharks' Tomas Hertl, wife Aneta expecting first child due in November

Sharks' Tomas Hertl, wife Aneta expecting first child due in November

I think we’re all due for some good news. So is Sharks’ All-Star center Tomas Hertl and his wife Aneta.

Aneta announced on her Instagram account the two are expecting a baby in November.

The first photo is the two of them posing together with the sonogram picture. The second is of a baby onesie with “Born in 2020” embroidered on it.

This is fresh off the couple's one-year wedding anniversary which, rumor has it, the big day was quite a fun time.

Back in May, Hertl spoke to the media about his rehab after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee where he vowed he would be better than he was before. But he’ll have to wait.

[RELATED: Ranking Sharks top playoff moments in overtime]

The Sharks will not be participating in the NHL’s a modified 24-team return-to-play format.

That’s OK though, he has something even better to look forward to … a baby Shark.