Sharks

Sharks' penalty kill, power play come up short in loss vs. Devils

Sharks' penalty kill, power play come up short in loss vs. Devils

In the final two games of their five-game road trip, the Sharks were dominant through two periods of play before losing the lead and losing by one goal. While Thursday's loss to the New York Rangers came in overtime and Sunday's 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils in regulation, Joe Pavelski said those two games had a lot in common.

In fact, all of their losses thus far have had similarities.

“This game felt exactly like a couple other ones we’ve lost so far,” the Sharks’ captain told the media on Sunday. “They’re right there for us. A few chances, power play opportunities, all those certain situations.”

It’s not like those chances aren’t coming in bulk for San Jose. The Sharks created plenty scoring chances over the course of their five-game roadie, notching 40-plus shots in back-to-back tilts on Tuesday and Thursday, and getting their chances on special teams.

But through six games so far this season, San Jose isn't cashing in on those opportunities enough.

“We expect to win these,” Pavelski said of the road trip. “That’s why they’re frustrating.”

Special teams have been the topic du jour since the very start of the season. While the lack of production on the power play continues to grab headlines, the Sharks’ penalty kill got more attention after the team racked up eight penalties on Sunday. They were rung up twice on delay-of-game calls, and three times for high-sticking – including a double-minor on Erik Karlsson late in the third period.

While New Jersey only scored one goal on the man advantage, spending so much time on the kill clearly took some of the wind out of San Jose’s sails. 

“You’re not going to win on the road, or at home, taking eight minutes in high-sticking and four for shooting pucks over the glass,” coach Peter DeBoer commented after the game. “That’s twelve minutes in penalties that we’re playing short, at the end of a road trip, taxing our guys.

“We beat ourselves with the penalties. Just can’t do that.”

When the Sharks aren’t skating in and out of the penalty box, they still aren’t finding the back of the net on the man advantage either.

“We’re not scoring enough, that’s the bottom line,” DeBoer continued. “And we’re not getting enough saves too. It’s a bad combination.”

San Jose has a couple of days to turn that combination around before they face their next opponent. With the early road trip in the rearview mirror, the Sharks return home to work out the kinks and remedy their early season woes before they host the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday evening.

“Thankfully it’s only six games [into the season] where this is happening,” Logan Couture said. “We have a couple days here to regroup and get ready for Thursday.”

Logan Couture believes Sharks' ambition must be high in long offseason

Logan Couture believes Sharks' ambition must be high in long offseason

The Sharks will miss the NHL playoffs for the first time in five seasons, and just the second time since the 2002-03 campaign.

They struggled so much and things got so bad they didn’t even qualify for a modified 24-team playoff format designed to wrap the season after the coronavirus pandemic forced the NHL to hit pause in mid-March.

Disqualification is an odd feeling for most veteran Sharks, especially after a season that started with promise ended in disaster.

San Jose's path to redemption won’t start for months. It may be well into the winter before next season ramps up, meaning the Sharks have plenty of time on their hands to ponder what went wrong and how to make it right.

They want to find old form at the next available opportunity. Logan Couture believes that should push them through a long and uncertain offseason.

“As a group, we know that every single person needs to be better next year,” the Sharks captain said Thursday on a video conference with Sharks reporters. “I think, with this long break, it adds time for guys to get prepared. Motivation should be at an all-time high for everyone because you want to come back and prove it was just a fluke. We believe that we’re a good team. We have all the pieces in the room to be successful. We just need to go out and do it.”

That’s not outside the realm of possibility, though there are as many -- or more -- question marks surrounding the team than in recent memory.

Those will be answered by management as the Sharks try and build the depth required to weather a long season and, if all goes right, playoff intensity.

[RELATED: Sharks' Hertl promises to be better than before injury]

The current issue is to keep players focused and training on their own so they’re ready to return when the time comes.

“Players are creatures of habit,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “The cycles of training and preparing of training and getting ready. This will be the longest time off our team and players have ever had.

"And you’ve got to use that time very well. You don’t want players under-training, or over-training. We’ve talked with our strength and medical people, trying to figure out the best way to get the programs in place so when they come into camp, they’re ready to go.”

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Tomas Hertl stood before the media just a few weeks after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee and vowed to be ready by Sharks training camp. That seemed like a bold proclamation at the time, a promise his rehab should let him live up to.

The All-Star center provided a progress report on his physical condition during a Thursday video conference with the media, saying he’ll be ready for the 2020-21 campaign even if it starts as scheduled in October.

Dropping the puck on time seems highly unlikely after the NHL hit pause on the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and announced plans to pick it back up with a modified, 24-team playoff format. That could push next season further into the winter, allowing Hertl to downshift his rehab some and focus on getting strong over getting back on the ice.

“I can do almost anything,” Hertl said. “I am able to run, not full speed, but I can do almost everything I was doing before. I was actually surprised about that after not even four months. If we knew the season was starting in October, I would probably start skating in a few weeks. If there’s extra time it might help me, but I think I would be ready for the season even if it starts when it always does. I should be 100 percent ready for next season whenever it happens.”

[RELATED: Sharks' path back to Stanley Cup contention filled with major hurdles]

Well in line to keep his initial promise, Hertl went a step further Thursday by saying he’s not just looking to regain previous form. He wants to improve upon it.

That would be good news for the Sharks and would continue the 26-year old’s steady ascent as a top-shelf player. He has improved considerably in recent seasons while beginning to maximize great talent, becoming a vital component of the Sharks attack.

Hertl considers this latest knee injury as a speedbump, not a permanent roadblock. He has dealt with knee issues before and always comes back strong. This experience, he says, should be no different.

[RELATED: What you need to know as Sharks long season ends]

“I feel like I have proved the past couple years that I can be one of the top players, one of the top centers on the team,” Hertl said. “I want to keep working on that. I have had some setbacks, but I’m not scared about it. I always come back. The experience has made me stronger. I am taking [this rehab] like another challenge.

“I was named an All-Star and it was a great experience for me, and it makes me want to go back. I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away. My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”