Sharks

Sharks see limiting Vegas' dynamic offense as key to winning Game 7

Sharks see limiting Vegas' dynamic offense as key to winning Game 7

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ victory in Game 6 on Sunday fit a winning formula they put into play during the regular season: Allow two goals or fewer, and you’ll win the game. That’s something that has proven to be true through the first-round series in the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Vegas Golden Knights, as San Jose has allowed two or fewer goals in all three of its wins. 

But despite that, the Sharks' last two games have showcased some troubling statistics. Namely, they've allowed a lot of shots to get through to goaltender Martin Jones.

Sure, Jones has been on his A-game the last two contests, and San Jose has done a better job of taking the center of the ice away from Vegas. But the Sharks still have room for improvement with the a decisive Game 7 at SAP Center on Tuesday. One of those things is, without a doubt, limiting the number of opportunities Vegas’ offense gets.

“We have to spend less time in our d-zone,” winger Evander Kane said Monday. “Be a little quicker to close and get out of the zone quicker. I think that will help cut down on some shots, and obviously we want to spend a little more time on the attack as well.”

Vegas has outshot San Jose in consecutive games. The Knights held a 32-29 edge in Game 5, then a massive 59-29 advantage in Game 6. They also created 19 high-danger chances compared to 12 for the Sharks, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

All of this happened even though San Jose’s defense has been pushing Vegas’ forwards out to the edges when they try to generate anything off of a rush. But, there’s no denying San Jose will want to bridge that gap in quality -- whether or not that also happens on the shot clock. 

“I thought there was a lot of perimeter stuff, but we’re still allowing those pucks to get to the net,” coach Peter DeBoer said. “So we’ve got to shut that down.”

Above all, limiting Vegas’ chances gives Jones the support he needs. After being pulled twice in three straight Sharks losses, their beleaguered starter has been absolutely nails, especially in the Game 6 win. San Jose center Logan Couture said Jones “was probably the reason we won that game.” Keeping the Knights – who will extra hungry after dropping two straight games – from getting any kind of a jump on Jones will be huge.

So how do the Sharks make that happen? Spending more time out their own zone, according to DeBoer.

"In order to do that, we have to forecheck better,” he said. “We have to play in the other team’s end more. I thought were a little disjointed offensively and excepted the game a little bit too much last night during some periods.”

That effort, however, doesn't start in the offensive zone. The Sharks, according to Couture, have to be more effective exiting their own zone. 

“I think we can forecheck better. Break out better," he said. "We can’t spend so much time in our own end and give up 59 shots again.”

[RELATED: How Sharks can (and can't) advance past Vegas in Game 7]

San Jose is all too aware of how momentum can shift back and forth in a crucial Game 7 situation. But the Sharks are more than up to facing that challenge.

“Things are going to happen, there are going to be swings throughout the game,” Couture said. “They’re fun games to play in. You relish it and enjoy it. This is what hockey is all about. That’s why it’s a fun sport to play.”

Sharks to host top prospects, four 2019 draft picks at development camp

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USATSI

Sharks to host top prospects, four 2019 draft picks at development camp

Four of the Sharks' picks from the 2019 NHL Draft will attend the team's development camp in San Jose this week. 

Second-round picks Artemi Kniazev and Dillon Hamliuk as well as fourth-round pick Yegor Spiridonov and sixth-rounder Santeri Hatakka will particpate, as will top Sharks prospects including Ryan Merkley (2018 first-round pick), Mario Ferraro (2017 second-round pick) and Sasha Chmelevski (2017 sixth-round pick). In all, 46 players are scheduled to attend when camp gets underway Tuesday, and the prospects will scrimmage twice in camp. 

The first scrimmage takes place Wednesday, and the prospects will scrimmage again Friday night at SAP Center. Tickets cost $10 (or $20 for four), with "net proceeds benefitting the Sharks foundation," the team said in a release. 

[RELATED: How will Sharks' salary-cap crunch affect Meier?]

The full list of players can be found here. 

Sharks free-agency decisions: Will star winger Timo Meier stay or go?

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AP

Sharks free-agency decisions: Will star winger Timo Meier stay or go?

One could argue the 2018-19 season was when Sharks winger Timo Meier "arrived."

The 22-year-old honed his skills as a power forward this past campaign, cementing himself as a staple in the Sharks lineup. His 30-goal regular season was tied with Evander Kane for third-best on the team, and his 15 points in the Stanley Cup playoffs tied for third-best with Tomas Hertl.

Now, Meier is primed to headline a stacked restricted free-agent class generating plenty of buzz this offseason. He also is one of a handful of young Sharks who can become an RFA this summer 

Here's a look at why Meier could stay in San Jose for a long time -- and why he potentially could be on the move.

Why he could stay

There's no secret here. Signing Meier is one of the Sharks' top priorities this offseason. 

Mix Meier's upward in-season progress with the amount of responsibility he has already taken on as a young player, and you have a player any team would want on their roster. The Swiss product has also demonstrated a strong work ethic and drive to continue building his game, as he said on locker-room cleanout day at the end of May that he still has room to improve. 

Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said that same day that he had already had a few discussions with Meier's agent. Although the nature of those talks have remained private, Wilson did reference that many of the team's young stars in the past have been signed to bridge deals, which carry a smaller salary-cap hit over a shorter term as a "bridge" to a bigger contract down the line. Tomas Hertl, for instance signed a two-year, $6 million contract as an RFA in 2016 before signing a five-year, $22.5 million contract last summer. 

With that knowledge in mind, the Sharks likely want to reach a similar deal with Meier before the end of the summer.

Why he could go

Before everyone starts freaking out too much -- yes, it's likely that Meier and the Sharks will reach a deal. But San Jose's lack of cap space makes things a little more complicated, and the possibility of an offer sheet can't be ignored. 

A player of Meier's caliber will demand a healthy payday, and the Sharks have just under $14.5 million in salary-cap space according to CapFriendly. If San Jose can't move more pieces around and get some relief under the cap, signing Meier to a second contract that isn't a bridge deal will be difficult.

The Sharks undoubtedly want to avoid what the Toronto Maple Leafs experienced with William Nylander last season. The young forward didn't re-sign until Dec. 1, and struggled to find his goal-scoring touch in 54 regular-season games. 

With conversations underway, there's hope that nothing close to the Nylander situation will take place. An offer sheet doesn't seem realistic either, considering a player has not signed one since 2013. 

[RELATED: Donskoi reportedly receiving 'strong interest' in free agency]

The verdict

The Sharks are going to get a deal done with Meier. Given San Jose's history of signing young players, there's every reason to believe the two sides will find common ground before training camp begins in September.

That, however, could require the Sharks clearing additional salary-cap space to make an offer Meier will accept. It might take a little time and debate before both sides are happy.

By the end of the offseason, however, conversations surrounding Meier should go back to what he can do for the Sharks in the upcoming season rather than his contract.