Sharks need everyone to step up in crucial Game 4 against Golden Knights


Sharks need everyone to step up in crucial Game 4 against Golden Knights

Perhaps the biggest criticism head coach Peter DeBoer made after the Sharks were stunned 6-3 by the Golden Knights on Sunday in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs was that not enough players stepped up.

“We didn’t have enough participants playing at a high enough level,” he told the media after the loss. “We weren't good enough across the board to win tonight."

Now, with even more players missing from the Sharks' lineup for Game 4, the stage is set for everyone to step up their game – and not, as Sharks’ radio announcer Dan Rusanowsky said on NBC Sports California’s live Facebook Q&A, “hand the game to another team on a silver platter.”

San Jose is getting a new look for Tuesday evening with Joe Thornton, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Micheal Haley all being out of the lineup. While the shuffle is partially to adjust to Joonas Donskoi and Lukas Radil being added to the forward attack, it also serves as a test for the Sharks to get a jump on Vegas’ offense.

The Sharks haven't been able to counter the attack of the Knights’ forward assault in the last two games, particularly the combination of Mark Stone, Paul Stastny, and Max Pacioretty. As Sharks broadcaster Bret Hedican summarized during NBC’s Facebook Q&A that a line needs to make the decision to step up and commit to shutting the Stone line down – or better yet, the whole team needs to rise to meet that test.

Game 4 will also be a big test for Donskoi and Radil, who have been healthy scratches through the first three games of these playoffs. Donskoi told the media after practice on Tuesday that he had been feeling “kind of helpless” watching the team struggle the last two games and not being able to do anything to help.

Tuesday’s game would be a great time for Donskoi, as well as Radil, to really show how they can fill in and make a difference.

Overall, the Sharks as a whole need to step up on the defensive side of the puck. While Martin Jones no doubt has to have a much stronger performance than he did in Game 3, the blame for letting in three goals less than a minute into every period doesn’t rest solely on him.

After doing a great job taking the center of the ice away from Vegas in Game 1, San Jose has let the opposition travel quickly into their zone and make big plays. If the Sharks are going to have any chance of building momentum and not letting the Knights take over the pace of play yet again, they’ll need to get back to having that “defense-first” mentality.

[RELATED: How Thornton suspension affects Sharks' lineup]

While big performances from any of these parties could help the Sharks win Game 4 and tie the series up 2-2, it will really take all members of the team stepping up and banding together.

The Golden Knights enter Tuesday’s contest with a leg up in the series, plus the support of their home crowd to push them along. It’ll take the collective San Jose squad to shut them down.

Sharks' Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau committed to keeping things fun

Sharks' Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau committed to keeping things fun

Reunited, and it feels so good.

The fact that Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are teammates on the Sharks -- for the second time -- is, frankly, just absurd. It's entirely awesome, but yes, absurd.

Thornton and Marleau were the No. 1 and 2 picks in the 1997 NHL Draft, respectively, and they're the last two players standing from that draft class. They're both 40 years old. One of them has torn both ACLs. The other wasn't signed until four games into the current season.

The odds were most definitely against the two future Hall of Famers being reunited in San Jose, but they beat them anyway. And now, they're having a blast together again.

That much was readily apparent through a recent Q&A Thornton and Marleau did with The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

"Never," Thornton said of if he thought they would ever be teammates in the first place. "We played together for Canada on under-18 so we knew each other before the draft. But going 1-2, I thought he was in the West and I was in the East permanently. Yeah. We’d play together internationally and stuff like that but never on the same NHL team. No."

As for being reunited, Thornton was as pleasantly surprised as the rest of us. "Isn’t it great? Who would have seen that!"

"Couldn’t stay away from the big guy here," Marleau quipped.

Thornton and Marleau had been teammates for the better part of 12 seasons prior to the current one. That's a lot of time together in close quarters, but the two longtime friends have always seemed to enjoy each other's company -- even when they didn't have to.

When the NHL returned from the 2012-13 lockout, a rule in the CBA was changed that required all players past their entry-level contracts to get their own hotel room on the road. Thornton and Marleau were both 33 years old at the time.

They kept rooming together anyway.

"It might have been more than a year," Marleau recalled.

"Yeah it might have been like two years," Thornton corrected.

Apparently, the choice to remain roommates on the road was a logical one.

"Yeah, we always woke up at the same time," Thornton said. "It was just, why change it? It was working out. We were playing good ...

"Yeah but it was 9:30 p.m. and shut out the lights (laughs)."

Now teammates -- again -- in their 40s, their friendship can be traced back multiple decades.

"We’ve had our fun," Thornton said. "But I just think the fact that we’ve had quality time together. We’ve got to know each other’s families. I’ve got to know the Marleau family, which is important. We have a lot of good memories, played on a lot of good teams."

"Right from when we were 17 years old," Marleau interjected. "We got in trouble that year (starts laughing)."

Oh? (eyes emoji)

Do tell.

Marleau then proceeded to remind Thornton about some good old-fashioned boyhood fun that went a little overboard -- literally -- back while they were playing on Canada's under-18 national team.

"We wrecked a couple of kayaks," Marleau recalled. "We had rented a couple of kayaks one day and somehow ran into each other.

"A couple of us jumped off and went swimming a little bit."

"So we had to pay for the damages," Thornton remembered. "They said, ‘You owe us money!’"

[RELATED: Exclusive: Marleau reflects on Sharks return in ride to SAP]

While Thornton and Marleau attempt to steer the Sharks better than they did those kayaks, they now have more time to build more memories together.

"The fun isn’t ending," Thornton said, "that’s for sure."

Well, as long as it doesn't keep the old-timers up past their bedtime.

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Sharks 'not satisfied' after earning point in overtime loss to Sabres

Sharks 'not satisfied' after earning point in overtime loss to Sabres

The Sharks put up a good fight in a 4-3 overtime loss to the NHL-leading Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. But even after picking up a point, San Jose isn't happy with where its game is at right now.

"We got a point, but by no means should we be satisfied with tonight's game," defenseman Erik Karlsson told reporters at KeyBank Arena. "We need to find ways to win games and right now we're not doing that. We've got to figure that out."

The Sharks are still trying to find consistency. Whether it's getting more out of all four forward lines or cleaning up costly mistakes, San Jose is trying to put all the pieces together nine games into the season. 

"We're getting a little bit better, [but] we're still not where we want to be," coach Peter DeBoer said. "But at least we're showing some signs of competing against really good teams here."

The Sharks were better Tuesday after losing to the Sabres at home on Saturday, rebounding from a dicey first minute of play on the road by going up 2-0 before the first period expired. However, Buffalo was able to rally back thanks to a couple of power-play opportunities and an offensive jolt from captain Jack Eichel, who ended the night with two goals and two assists.

While the Sharks' penalty kill usually is sturdy, mistakes cost San Jose on Tuesday.

"When you go on the road, you can't beat yourself," DeBoer said. "And you beat yourself with penalties, turnovers, specialties... We've got to be better in all of those areas."

The coach did, however, compliment his team's resiliency late in Tuesday's loss.

After Jeff Skinner gave the Sabres their first lead just 45 seconds into the third period, the Sharks got a visible jolt and took over the rest of regulation. Buffalo gained momentum in the second period, but San Jose took it back and outshot the Sabres 13-4 as Karlsson forced overtime with his game-tying goal. 

"I liked our response," DeBoer said. "I think it would have been easy at that point, early in the third when they scored again, to pack it in. And we didn't. I thought we pressed hard and had some chances to win it late."

Those chances to win Tuesday didn't come to fruition, however, and the Sharks will continue on their five-game roadie Thursday in Montreal with just one point in the bank.

[RELATED: Dell likely to earn start in goal on Sharks' road trip]

Whether the Sharks need to take fewer penalties or simply do a better job of not beating themselves, they have areas to work on if they're going to turn their season around. Until that happens, they probably aren't going to be happy with their full 60-minute effort.

"It's small things out there that win you games," Karlsson said. "We're on the wrong side of most of them, and that's something that we have to figure out. That's a learning curve that as individual players and as a team we've got to figure out this year."