Sharks

Sharks' refusal to engage with Blues, take penalties fuels Game 1 win

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AP

Sharks' refusal to engage with Blues, take penalties fuels Game 1 win

SAN JOSE -- Kevin Labanc said the day before the Western Conference final opener that he and his Sharks teammates expected a physical series from the opposing Blues.

And after being outhit by St. Louis 41-35 on Saturday night on SAP Center, the San Jose winger doubled down on that statement.

"We were ready for that," Labanc said after the Sharks' 6-3 win to start the best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series. "They came out hard, and they were heavy -- and we know that's not the end."

St. Louis' physicality only increased as the game went on and San Jose took a more commanding lead, and it dissolved into all-out fighting toward the end. The Sharks know the big hits only will continue as the series progresses, with Game 2 scheduled for Monday night at SAP.

The best thing San Jose can do is not let its response to St. Louis' hits turn into trips to the penalty box.

"We just have to really stay composed and not take stupid penalties after the whistle," Labanc said. "It's a good start to the new series for us."

He isn't wrong. Despite being knocked around quite a bit by the Blues, the Sharks only had one penalty -- a second-period delay-of-game call on Melker Karlsson -- until the final few minutes of the game. St. Louis tried engaging San Jose several times but didn't get much of a reaction until Brenden Dillon and Barclay Goodrow hopped into a scuffle with Oskar Sundqvist and Robert Bortuzzo with 2:05 left to play.

The choice to not engage is wise, given that the Sharks averaged 11:31 penalty minutes per game in 15 playoff contests and only got their penalty kill squared away part way through their second-round series against the Colorado Avalanche.

[RELATED: Meier's emergence on full display in Sharks' Game 1 win]

Sharks coach Peter DeBoer told reporters after the game that his team isn't looking to engage in any type of extracurriculars that could give momentum back to the Blues.

"We're going to play whistle to whistle the whole series," DeBoer said. "If they want to take penalties like that, or penalties like at the end of the game, we'll let the refs take care of that. They told us they will, and we expect that they will."

PWHPA stars not just playing for bragging rights vs. Sharks alumni

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USATSI

PWHPA stars not just playing for bragging rights vs. Sharks alumni

When Kendall Coyne Schofield and 15 members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) play against a team of Sharks alumni Sunday at the team’s Fan Fest, they’ll have another purpose beyond the day’s exhibition.

Sunday’s “Legends Game” at SAP Center is one of three events in North America the PWHPA is participating in this weekend. A squad of New England-based PWHPA players scrimmaged Boston College’s women’s team Saturday, while four PWHPA teams are playing at a weekend showcase in Toronto.

The latter event is the first leg of the group’s “Dream Gap Tour,” a multi-city barnstorming tour that the organization hopes is the first step towards creating a “realistic equivalent” to the NHL for women’s hockey players. Sunday’s game carries a similar purpose, Coyne Schofield said.

“[Right] now, in the current state of the professional game for women, it's not good enough,” the Olympic gold medalist and Sharks broadcaster said in an interview with NBC Sports California this month. “We don't want to put these girls in our skates one day, and have them get treated like we get treated. That's our ultimate goal and that's what we're fighting for, and we're working towards it every single day."

Up until March, there were two professional hockey leagues in North America. That was when Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), a six-team league that had just completed its 12th season, folded. The National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), a five-team league based in the United States, remained. 

Coyne Schofield played there last season, but she and around 200 other players joined the PWHPA in May. They announced in a press release their intention to not play professionally during the 2019-20 season “in order to build a sustainable league … that will provide financial and infrastructure resources to players; protect and support their rights and talents; provide health insurance; and work with companies … who already have voiced support for women’s hockey.”

 

The CWHL began paying players a maximum stipend of $10,000 per season in its second-to-last campaign in 2017-18. The NWHL increased its salary cap to $150,000 this season, and players now receive a 50 percent share of revenue from the league’s media and sponsorship deals. 

As a result, many women’s players need to work additional jobs in order to support playing professional hockey. American players on the national team earn around $70,000 before performance bonuses after the women renegotiated their contract with USA Hockey, but just 23 players suited up for the United States at the IIHF World Championships in April. 

“For us, if you're not one of 23 players to play in the Olympic games, (it’s like,) ‘Well, sorry,’” Coyne Schofield said. “You're probably gonna have to a job after you play college hockey because there's no option for you to play this game, make a living playing it and call yourself a professional.”

ESPNW reported in July that the PWHPA has 173 dues-paying members, each of which is a member in one of eight regions in North America. The players will train with one another in each region, scrimmaging against local teams and other PWHPA regions as well. 

Fifteen of the 16 players who are expected to take the ice at SAP Center are American, including Coyne Schofield, 2018 Olympic gold medal shootout-winning goal-scorer Jocelyne Lameoreux-Davidson and seven others from the gold medal team. But a significant chunk of the PWHPA’s members are Canadian, as they comprised the bulk of the rosters of the defunct league’s Canadian franchises. 

The United States and Canada have faced off in the gold medal game in all but one of the six Olympics in which women’s hockey was played, and 18 of the 19 IIHF world championships. Their rivalry is as fierce as any in sports, yet Coyne Schofield said it was easy to put that aside. 

“I think that speaks volumes to the current landscape of the game,” Coyne Schofield said. “That all of us, regardless of countries, medals, achievements, personal agendas -- all of that's been put aside because we're able to look at each other, (all of us) in the players association, and say, 'What we have right now in the professional setting of women's hockey is not good enough.' 

“We cannot just keep accepting the breadcrumbs of women's hockey and look at the future and say (to young women), 'We hope you're here one day.'”

[RELATED: How Sharks can fill void on defense until Simek returns]

The NWHL season -- sans Coyne Schofield and other stars -- is set to begin on Oct. 5. Meanwhile, the PWHPA will host another showcase in New Hampshire that weekend, and then a third in Chicago from Oct. 18-20. The organization just announced a partnership with the NHL Players Association, and Coyne Schofield said earlier this month she was hopeful that they’re just getting started. 

“Once we start seeing players on the ice with those PWHPA jerseys,” she said, “it's gonna show where we've come in these long and hard-fought months to get players on the ice in these events.”

Martin Jones 'really solid' in preseason debut despite Sharks' loss

Martin Jones 'really solid' in preseason debut despite Sharks' loss

SAN JOSE — Martin Jones didn't give up a goal in the first few minutes of Saturday night’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights. That was not the case In many of his starts last season.

And even though this was a preseason tune-up at SAP Center, it was a good sign for the Sharks goalie.

Jones is entering this season under a bit more scrutiny than in some previous campaigns. His save percentage dipped from .915 to .896, and his habit of giving up the first goal early in games had the team in front of him playing from behind on one too many occasions.

Despite Jones ending the season tied for the third-most regular-season wins among goalies across the NHL last season, there's no denying he needs to be better in 2019-20.

Although the Sharks fell to the Pacific Division rival Golden Knights 3-1, coach Peter DeBoer was happy with Jones' first preseason outing.

"I thought he was really solid," DeBoer said afterward. "I thought he played a really good game."

Jones appeared to see the game pretty well for most of the evening, flashing the leather a few times when the Vegas offense began to pick up steam.

Even though Vegas' next two goals -- scored by familiar foes Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch -- were a bit reminiscent of goals scored against Jones last season, the goalie was able to rebound and shake off a little more of that preseason rust. 

Score aside, Jones' first preseason contest gives more hope that San Jose's goaltending arsenal can bounce back this season. Jones' backup, Aaron Dell, impressed in his first preseason showing earlier in the week against the Anaheim Ducks.

This has created some suspicion that one of San Jose's young netminders has a window to fight for the backup job. With just two preseason games left until the Sharks' 2019-20 campaign opens on the road in Las Vegas, both goalies are bound to get more work in as they gear up for the regular season.

On that same note, San Jose still has roles to fill on its roster, and just about a week to make some decisions as to who will skate with the big club on opening night. 

In Saturday's game, forward Lean Bergmann and defenseman Mario Ferraro were the big standouts. But as DeBoer told the press after the game, this audition period now is drawing to a close and his roster needs to be put together.

[RELATED: How Sharks can fill void on defense until Radim Simek re-joins team]

"You start running out of evaluation nights," the coach said. "We're getting close. We have to start getting our group together and start to get ready. That's what this is about. So, the guys, I think, between the training camp scrimmages and the exhibition games, have had more than enough opportunity to show us what they can do."

The Sharks’ final three preseason games will be against the Ducks, Flames and Golden Knights before the Oct. 2 season opener.