Sharks

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

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AP

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

SAN JOSE – Goaltending has been a hot topic all season for the Sharks. Even when they’ve been winning games, the performance between the pipes has been under scrutiny.

Now, with the playoffs just a couple weeks away and San Jose tryng to snap a season-long five-game winning streak, the performance of Sharks goaltenders Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is yet again being scrutinized.

There’s no mistaking it – they need to be better.

Even Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who isn’t one to call out players after a loss, seemed particularly perturbed with the Sharks' play in net. He said just as much after San Jose's fifth straight defeat, a 4-3 loss to the lowly Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat it, but I think we had them for six chances, and they scored four goals,” he said at the time. “You can’t lay it at one guy's feet, but you can’t win in this league with [an.800 to .900] save percentage. We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal.”

DeBoer isn’t wrong. Jones might be tied for third place among all NHL goalies with 34 wins under his belt, but his .898 save percentage is 58th out of 69 goalies who have played at least 10 games. Dell's .887 save percentage is 67th. Combined, the Sharks' .891 save percentage is last in the league.

In March, a month in which the Sharks have gone 6-4-1, San Jose has scored 37 goals and allowed 36. Those aren’t stats you want to see heading into the postseason.

To be fair, all the blame can’t be laid at the feet of the netminders, much like DeBoer said. Defensive breakdowns in front of the net don’t do Jones and Dell any favors – and with a banged-up blue line that’s missing Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek, those mistakes become more apparent.

It also doesn’t help the Sharks' offense has dried up, scoring no more than three goals in each of the last five losses. Leading goal-scorer Joe Pavelski has missed the last three, making matters worse.

But San Jose still, as DeBoer mentioned, needs to get more key saves from its goaltenders. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks believe five-game skid will strengthen them]

Now, with the Sharks having secured a playoff spot over the past week, the last few games of the season are going to be focused on being ready for the first round. In addition to getting the lineup healthier, the Sharks also have to focus on allowing fewer goals. A better defensive effort will go a long way, but Jones and Dell also have to buckle down and stop the puck more if San Jose is to hang on to home-ice advantage in the first round.

Don’t expect the goaltending conversation to cool off during these last weeks of the regular season. Goaltending is going to be a major focus as the playoffs get closer. If the Sharks want to still be playing hockey in May and June, it simply has to be better than it is right now.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in disappointing 6-3 loss to Rangers

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in disappointing 6-3 loss to Rangers

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- Considering all of the chaos surrounding the Sharks over the last 24 hours, you might have forgotten that they still had a game to play Thursday night.

It wasn’t the tightest game San Jose has played this season, nor was it the most dominant. And while the Sharks were able to take a late lead thanks to Brenden Dillon’s first goal of the season, the visiting New York Rangers buried a few late-game goals to hand San Jose a 6-3 loss and extend the losing streak to six games.

Here are three takeaways from Bob Boughner's debut behind the bench:

Defense still needs work 

Clearly, the Sharks are still a work in progress. A coaching change isn't going to make them a different team overnight. So while aspects of their game looked better on Thursday, there are still areas they need to tighten up, with defense being the area that stuck out the most against New York.

San Jose did a good job early on of being stingy in its own zone and leading the charge with eight blocked shots to the Rangers' two. But in the second period, the Sharks began giving the visitors more room to move the puck up the middle of the ice which, in turn, made Martin Jones' job harder. It's no wonder the Rangers were able to score two goals less than three minutes apart in that frame.

Goaltending remains a question mark 

During Thursday afternoon’s press conference, Sharks general manager Doug Wilson was adamant that the defense in front of San Jose’s net needs to be better, but so do the goaltenders. Jones made some nice saves against an opportunistic Rangers team that never slowed down throughout the game, but he wasn't at his best on San Jose’s third-period penalty kill when he gave up multiple goals that he should have had.

If the Sharks are going to rebound from the current losing streak, Jones must regain the confidence he played with at the end of November. There’s no way around it.

[RELATED: Boughner confident in staff, wants Sharks to play inspired]

Hertl is on the mend 

If there was one Sharks player who noticeably was better against the Rangers, it was Tomas Hertl. The Czech forward slowly has been recovering from an ankle injury that has encumbered his playing abilities. Against the Rangers, however, he looked like he's regaining some of his swagger.

Hertl's strength and patience paid off on the penalty kill when he beat netminder Alexandar Georgiev for a short-handed goal to open up scoring. But he also had a couple of chances later in the game that, despite not finding the back of the net, challenged Georgiev and New York's defense. Hertl might not be operating at 100 percent just yet, but at least he's showing flashes of the power forward he can be.

Bob Boughner intends to return Sharks to their expected level of play

Bob Boughner intends to return Sharks to their expected level of play

It's been a wild 24 hours for Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner.

There was no time to waste, though, as one day after Peter DeBoer was fired, he had to ready San Jose to play the visiting New York Rangers at SAP Center.

"It's been a roller-coaster, obviously," Boughner told NBC Sports California's Jamie Baker before taking the ice Thursday night. "Mixed emotions.

"Everybody know how close our staff was and what Pete meant to me, not only as someone with a great working relationship but also as a good friend and a mentor. So, that wasn't an easy day. The flip side of that is an opportunity here -- a unique opportunity to sort of get these guys and steer this ship back in the right direction, and try and get this team playing to the level I think it's capable of."

The Sharks entered the game having lost five in a row, and were coming off a road trip in which they earned just one out of a possible eight points. That ultimately spelled doom for DeBoer and resulted in Boughner being elevated to head coach -- at least for the time being -- the same position he held with the Florida Panthers for each of the last two seasons.

So, yes, Boughner does have previous NHL coaching experience, not to mention eight seasons as head coach of the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL. Still, just like any head coach, he'll rely heavily on his assistants.

Speaking of the assistant coaches, there were changes there, too. Out are Dave Barr, Steve Spott and Johan Hedberg. In are associate coach Roy Sommer, assistant coach Mike Ricci and goaltending coach Evgeni Nabokov.

Boughner admitted that the newly formed staff still is figuring out its respective duties and responsibilities, but because of their collective experience within the organization -- Sommer most recently was head coach of the San Jose Barracuda, while Ricci and Nabokov had been in developmental roles -- Boughner is confident he has put the right group together.

"They're guys that really are relationship guys," Boughner said of his staff. "They're good with people and good with establishing that relationship with the player, so I feel comfortable in that regard."

[RELATED: Sharks players share how DeBoer's firing shocked them]

So, what changes should we expect to see in the Sharks post-coaching change? In general, Boughner wants his team to become harder to play against on a nightly basis.

"I think it's just a general mindset that we have to be a more aggressive team, not so passive, and we want to hunt pucks," he said, "but at the end of the day, it's just playing inspired."

Nothing about the Sharks' play as of late has been inspiring. Surely they're hoping the coaching change will fix that.