Sharks

Sharks only making resurgence tougher on themselves with penalties

Sharks only making resurgence tougher on themselves with penalties

Being known for having a stellar penalty kill is a very good thing. Being known for taking a lot of penalties? Not so much. But that's the spot the Sharks find themselves in right now. 

San Jose has gone 9-1-0 over its last 10 games after defeating Los Angeles 4-3 in overtime Monday night and has only given up two power-play goals during that time. However, over that span, the Sharks have also made 35 trips to the sin bin. And while their potent PK is ranked first overall in the league, they also lead the NHL with 295 penalty minutes racked up over 25 games.

If the Sharks aren't careful and if they don't stop taking so many penalties, their winning ways could be in jeopardy.

Monday night's game against the Kings was a perfect example. San Jose had the ice tilted in its favor for nearly 40 minutes of play. But going on the penalty kill three times in the first two periods visibly took the wind out of the Sharks' sails, which allowed LA to claw back from a 3-0 hole and tie the game up in the third frame.

"From the bench, we looked tired (in the third period)," Logan Couture told reporters after the game. "I don't know if it's because we had 11 forwards or if it was just the fact that we took so many minors and we had to kill off five or six penalties, but we just looked tired in the third."

The captain brings up a very good point. The Sharks played their third game in a row with eleven forwards and seven defensemen. While that strategy has yielded wins in three straight games, it also runs the risk of tiring the team out faster. Spending too much time on the penalty kill on top of the added burden raises the risk of everyone getting gassed.

[RELATED: Why DeBoer, Sharks are open to using just 11 forwards]

Such was the case in LA on Monday. The penalty kill left the Sharks tired in the third period as the Kings went from trailing 3-1 to knotting up the score 3-3.

"In our heads, we have to come out and have the right attitude to come out in the third period and put that game away," Timo Meier admitted. "We've got to learn from it."

And that's really what it comes down to. San Jose has found different ways of winning over this last 10-game stretch, despite making mistakes along the way. The key, however, is to learn from those mistakes and evolve as a team. So far, the Sharks haven't quite corrected their penalty problem. 

That gives San Jose something to work on as it continues to recover from a tough start to the season.

"It's a learning curve and a learning process," Erik Karlsson summarized. "We went through our hard time in the beginning (of the season) and hopefully now we can just keep pushing forward and learn from the things we need to do better."

Learning to not take so many penalties is a good place to start.

Sharks continue to suffer from lack of scoring, abundance of penalties

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Sharks continue to suffer from lack of scoring, abundance of penalties

Evander Kane called it "interesting." Head coach Peter DeBoer called it "messy." No matter what word you choose, everyone can agree that the Sharks' 3-1 loss to the Predators on Tuesday got downright ugly.

San Jose had what was probably its best defensive game of the month in Nashville, being stingy and not giving the opposing Preds a lot of room to work. But with a scoreless tie after two periods, tempers began to fly, and what followed was a tsunami of penalties that ultimately determined the Sharks' fate.

The Sharks felt like they were in this one. But a plethora of penalties late in the second period and early in the third changed that. A whopping 39 penalty minutes later, San Jose had dropped the fourth and final game of its road trip. 

"We're still taking too many penalties," DeBoer told reporters after the loss. "I thought we pressed really hard in the second, didn't give them anything. I thought we deserved to be up going into the third and we didn't get rewarded for the work in the second. And they're at home, I thought they pushed hard. Pushed us back early in the third, got us on our heels a little bit. Really, when you get into a game like that, whoever scores first is probably going to win."

San Jose actually went on the penalty kill just 47 seconds into the game when Barclay Goodrow went to the box for slashing. But the real wave of penalties came late in the second period after Goodrow and Calle Jarnkrok received matching minors. Tempers were unhinged from that point on -- heck even the officials were fired up, as the microphone caught one using explicit language while reprimanding Nashville's Roman Josi. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

The biggest tussle, however, took place in the final seconds of the second period when Dan Hamhuis cross-checked Kane and then Auston Watson jumped in as the third man in. Though Kane was defending himself, the officials tagged him with 19 penalty minutes, essentially taking him out of the remainder of the contest. 

"I don't understand the 19 minutes and how that was made up," Kane remarked when asked about the scuffle. "There was a lot of that all night going back and forth."

"Tough for him to sit for that long," DeBoer said in Kane's defense. "Hamhuis started the whole thing and then Watson comes in and grabs him and we end up with the short end of it. But it's a messy situation, I'm not going to second guess the call."

Regardless of how many penalties the Sharks racked up, they still needed to find a way to score more goals. They only found the back of the net once Tuesday, and only scored once in each of their previous two games. Despite doing some good work in the offensive zone, San Jose isn't going to reap the rewards without scoring goals to make up for its mistakes.

"You've got to find a way to win and we've got to find a way to score," DeBoer summarized. "I think that's the story of the trip."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in contentious 3-1 loss to Predators

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Sharks takeaways: What we learned in contentious 3-1 loss to Predators

BOX SCORE

It wasn't full of offensive firepower, but what Tuesday's game between the Sharks and Predators lacked in goals, it made up for with flying fists.

Unfortunately, despite the fiery matchup and an entertaining “hot mic” moment, San Jose still couldn’t find a way to turn its fortunes around. The Sharks concluded their battle at Bridgestone Arena with a 3-1 loss, ending their road trip without a single win.

Here are three takeaways from Tuesday's game:

A plethora of penalties

With the game scoreless through the first two periods, the two sides became visibly agitated with one another. But rather than take out their frustrations out on the scoreboard, they took it out on each other. By the end of second stanza, the Sharks led the charge with 31 penalty minutes to Nashville’s 29.

While the Preds were the ones with multiple players simultaneously in the sin bin, it was Sharks winger Evander Kane who racked up a staggering 19 penalty minutes resulting from a tussle with Nashville's Auston Watson. Being without the power forward for almost the entire third period visibly took its toll on San Jose, which continued its dance in and out of the box into the third frame.

The PK was overworked 

San Jose's league-leading penalty kill wasn't its normal self last weekend, but it looked strong and sturdy Tuesday night in Nashville. It was a good thing, too, considering how many times the Sharks found themselves shorthanded, particularly early on.

Unfortunately, the abundance of penalties eventually wore San Jose’s PK down and Nashville was able to find the back of the net on a power play with less than 10 minutes left to play. It's been said before, but clearly it needs to be said again: The Sharks need to clean their game up and give the penalty kill a break so they don’t burn out.

[RELATED: Sharks' Simek to miss two weeks for minor knee procedure]

A better goalie matchup 

One of San Jose's biggest problems over the course of the road trip was that Martin Jones was outplayed by the netminder on the other end of the ice. That was not the case Tuesday night in Nashville, as Jones and Juuse Saros traded off making big saves up until Nick Bonino put the Predators up 1-0 in the third frame.

Jones had a particularly nice sprawling save on a four-minute penalty kill in the first period, which could have put the Sharks in a 1-0 hole pretty quickly. Perhaps the standard is too low for a team of San Jose's talent level, but after the rough weekend the Sharks had, they deserve credit for getting out of the first period with a scoreless tie. Avoiding an early deficit clearly gave San Jose a boost of energy, which persisted throughout the game. Well, at least until all of the fights started.