Sharks' power play 'problem' bites them again in 3-2 loss to Coyotes


Sharks' power play 'problem' bites them again in 3-2 loss to Coyotes

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks' power play is a big topic of discussion right now, and not for the reasons the team wants.

San Jose is 1-for-36 on the man advantage in their last 15 games. Through the first 36 games of the 2019-20 season, the Sharks have gone 16-for-108 -- a lousy 14.8-percent success rating, good for 27th overall in the NHL. 

And in Tuesday night's contest against the division-leading Arizona Coyotes at SAP Center, they were down 3-2 with less than a minute left to play and were gifted with a 6-on-3 opportunity that they could have used to force overtime. 

They did not. To put it simply, that effort on the rare three-man advantage summed up how much the Sharks' power play needs to improve.

"It's been a problem and we've got to fix it," interim head coach Bob Boughner said after the 3-2 loss, pinpointing the power play as the main factor in Tuesday's game. "We're at home. We've got to get some momentum off of our power play and we're not getting that right now. It's something we've got to look at."

In all fairness, the Sharks played pretty well for the majority of the third period, shutting down the Coyotes' power play with less than five minutes to go in a 2-2 game. Even after Oliver Ekman-Larsson put the Desert Dogs on top 3-2 with less than three minutes to go in regulation, the Sharks caught a break when Ilya Lyubushkin got penalized for playing without a helmet and Brad Richardson got dinged for cross-checking -- all within the last minute of the third frame. San Jose then pulled netminder Aaron Dell for the extra skater.

But even with a three-skater advantage, the Sharks didn't generate any decent chances. The puck was bobbled and the Coyotes had no trouble getting in shooting lanes and blocking shots.

"Wasn't good enough, obviously," Logan Couture said of the six-on-three in the last seconds of the game. "We've got to do a better job of at least getting a shot on net there.

"That's been the case for the majority of the year. There are plays to be made and we didn't make them. We had our shots blocked too many times. I had a few blocked. We've got to find a way to get it through and get an ugly one right now."

The captain is right. Even an ugly power play goal could make a positive impact. As Tomas Hertl aptly pointed out, that power play was easily the difference in Tuesday's loss.

"If we score on the power play, maybe we win the game," Hertl said. "I think we need to start to play more simple. Get a shot through, crash the net, get some rebounds."

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The Sharks don't play again until Saturday night, which means they have a couple of extra days of practice. There's no doubt the power play is going to be a focal point, especially after it couldn't break through at an important point in Tuesday's game.

"It's something that, hopefully, we can learn from and get better at moving forward," Erik Karlsson said. "Being the players that we are we have to, in moments like that, make some reads and make decisions out there to create something for each other. We failed to do that in a critical moment of the game."

Brenden Dillon breaks down when asked about potential Sharks trade

Brenden Dillon breaks down when asked about potential Sharks trade

Brenden Dillon might have played last home game with the Sharks on Monday, and that clearly was weighing on him afterward.

Dillon can become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, and the defenseman has been linked with playoff contenders ahead of the NHL trade deadline. The Sharks, barring a near-miraculous push, almost certainly will miss the Stanley Cup playoffs, leading to speculation that they'll trade Dillon before the Feb. 24 deadline. 

The possibility becomes more real as the deadline nears, but that doesn't mean Dillon is having an easier time processing it. 

"I don't know. Kind of [have to] see what happens. ... I like being here," Dillon said, his voice cracking as he teared up. "I try to play hard every night. It's out of my control."

The Sharks acquired Dillon in a November 2014 trade, and he has called San Jose home ever since. Dillon emerged as a fixture on the Sharks' blue line, playing in at least 76 regular-season games -- and all 60 of their playoff games -- from 2015 through 2019. The 29-year-old has played in all 59 games for the Sharks this season, too, and San Jose has become his home.

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Trading pending unrestricted free agents is par for the course for teams on the outside looking in at the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but Dillon's emotions Monday starkly highlighted the very real costs of making trades. Players are asked to uproot their lives at the drop of a hat, leaving behind friends, colleagues and often family. 

Yes, trades are a part of the business. The real and raw reactions are, too. 

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 matinee loss to Panthers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 matinee loss to Panthers

The Sharks couldn't bring their winning ways back from the road to San Jose, losing 5-3 to the Florida Panthers in a Presidents' Day matinee. 

Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was on the case, stopping 29 of 32 Sharks shots. San Jose cut Florida's lead to a goal two different times in the third period, but the Ice Cats pulled away and doubled their lead in both instances. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' loss in their final home game before the trade deadline. 

Too little, too late

The Sharks entered the third period trailing by a goal. They allowed a Panthers goal before getting a single shot on net in the final frame, and Bobrovsky didn't have to make his first save until there was 6:37 remaining in regulation and Florida had a two-goal lead. 

Kevin Labanc -- on the power play -- and Timo Meier -- with goaltender Aaron Dell pulled -- got the Sharks within one, but San Jose never generated much of a third-period push at full strength. Florida ultimately held a 10-5 advantage in 5-on-5 shots and a 6-4 edge in 5-on-5 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

The Sharks applied pressure after Meier's goal, but the push needed to come much sooner. The Panthers instead set the tone from the start of the third period onward, and Florida took two points as a result. 

True chemistry

Dylan Gambrell and Alexander True appear to be developing some solid chemistry. The pair were on the ice for a 5-on-5 Sharks goal for the third straight game, when True's forechecking allowed linemate Antti Suomela to set up Gambrell's second goal in as many games. 

Suomela left in the second period with an injury and didn't return, but Gambrell and True were strong together. The duo posted a 60 percent corsi-for percentage in 5:34 of 5-on-5 time, according to Natural Stat Trick, out-chancing the Panthers 4-2 during that time. 

True has played in just six NHL games, but he and Gambrell have brought the best out of one another in their short time together. It's worth keeping the pair together in the bottom-six once Evander Kane returns from his suspension. 

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End of an era? 

Monday was the Sharks' last home game before the trade deadline, and they could look much different when they next play in San Jose on Feb. 27. Pending free agents Brenden Dillon and Melker Karlsson could get shipped to Stanley Cup contenders in need of depth, but the real question is whether or not the Sharks will trade franchise legends Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. 

Both are 40 and nearing the end of their careers. Could the Sharks give them the Ray Bourque treatment, and trade them to a team with Cup aspirations? The Sharks want to be back in the mix in 2021, but this spring might represent the last real chance for the No. 1 and No. 2 selections in the 1997 NHL Draft to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in their careers. 

Thornton, for his part, told reporters Sunday that he didn't think Monday would be his last game as a Shark at SAP Center. The call should be Thornton and Marleau's alone, given all they've done for the franchise, and we'll know a week from Monday if they'll finish out the season -- and potentially their careers -- in San Jose.