Sharks set up to make move in standings after strong play in November


Sharks set up to make move in standings after strong play in November

After holding on to beat the Coyotes 4-2 on Saturday, Sharks center Dylan Gambrell told NBC Sports California play-by-play broadcaster Randy Hahn that he "really thinks our game has turned around." 

Gambrell wasn't just talking about the impressive come-from-behind victory he and his teammates staged in Arizona on Saturday. He was talking about the month of November as a whole, in which the Sharks have rebounded from being one of the worst teams in the Western Conference to being a force to be reckoned with. 

Now, it's a matter of keeping that positive progression going.

Think about it. San Jose finished out the month of October with a 4-8-1 record -- which included a four-game losing streak to start the season -- and then promptly lost a home back-to-back against the Jets and the Canucks. At that point, there were so many questions as to what was ailing the Sharks, and whether they would be able to get things turned around in time be competitive in their division, let alone fight for a playoff spot.

But after those back-to-back losses at the start of November, San Jose seemed to find their groove both up front as well as on the back end. They went 11-2-0 after that, tying the franchise record for the most wins in the month of November.

To top it all off, Saturday's win over the Coyotes marked the first time all season that the Sharks, who skated into the first intermission down 2-1, won a game when trailing after the first 20 minutes.

It's safe to say that, last Wednesday's loss to the Jets notwithstanding, the Sharks look like a completely rejuvenated team. Now, it's a matter of keeping that forward motion going. 

San Jose still has some work to do in regards to their depth scoring, although that could be coming around if the last few games of November are any indication. The Sharks got scoring contributions from bottom-six staple Melker Karlsson on Wednesday against Winnipeg and from fourth-liners Noah Gregor and Dylan Gambrell over the holiday weekend.

Whether the current bottom six stays intact as is remains to be seen, especially with regards to call-ups from the AHL and the trades still being on the table. At least, at the moment, the Sharks are trending in the right direction.

The other big factor if San Jose is going to continue the success they started in November is going to be how well they keep the puck out of the back of their net. As we've seen, the Sharks are their most successful when keeping goals-against to a minimum, as opposed to trying to outscore their problems.

Their success in this department will require their blue line to keep backing up their goaltender, as we saw in one fell swoop on Saturday in Arizona. When San Jose's defense came out loose and had trouble managing the puck in their own end, the opposition put them in an early 2-0 hole. When they tightened up on the back end and let their strong defensive play feed into their offense, they were able to rally from behind and overcome that deficit.

Now, the schedule doesn't get any easier for the Sharks. While they have climbed into third place in the Pacific division standings, their rivals are right on their heels. Plus, San Jose has a road trip at the start of December where they visit the Florida teams and the Sharks don't always fare so well through that swing. 

They can, however, be happy with how they have turned things around in the month of November. And with the win over the Coyotes to close out the month, they have a foundation to build more success.

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


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


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


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.