Sharks still seeking ‘smart' game amid season-opening losing streak

Sharks still seeking ‘smart' game amid season-opening losing streak

After the Sharks' second loss of the season last Friday, defenseman Erik Karlsson said his team needed to play smarter.

"I think that we work hard, we just don't work smart," he summarized after a 5-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. "The guys that we have in here, we know that we have to be better. Play better hockey, that's what it's all about."

Two games later, San Jose still has the same problem.

The Sharks showed signs of life in Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators, their fourth straight to start 2019-20, but undisciplined play still is a problem. Four games in, San Jose still figuring out how to play smart for a full 60 minutes.

Turnovers continue to be an issue for the Sharks, who have had major trouble holding onto the puck all season. This was at the forefront Tuesday -- despite the strong second period -- as the Predators registered 13 takeaways on the evening and the Sharks gave the puck away an additional nine times. Even after San Jose had some extended shifts in the offensive zone and put pressure on Preds netminder Pekka Rinne, small mistakes ended up in the back of Martin Jones' net. 

It isn't just miscues with the puck that are hurting the Sharks, either. The Sharks haven't quite tapped into their physicality this season, and they are instead taking avoidable penalties.

The Sharks went to the sin bin six times Tuesday, and Brenden Dillon's slash on Filip Forsberg was one example of a preventable call. Making matters worse, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic gave the puck away on the ensuing power play, and Roman Josi gave the PRedators a 2-0 lead. Long story short: Trips to the penalty box aren't helping San Jose's case for playing a smarter game.

These mistakes can't all be put on the new players the Sharks have added to their lineup. Many of the mistakes on the ice are being made by the veteran players, and those have set the tone in every game this season.

[RELATED: Bringing back Marleau won't fix all of Sharks' problems]

At this point, you have to figure that some changes are on the horizon for the Sharks. San Jose already announced that Patrick Marleau will rejoin the team, but that move could just be the start.. While some movement could help the Sharks gain some offensive firepower, the collective group still has to start playing more disciplined. 

The season might only be four games old, but the winless Sharks need to quickly find a remedy for their mistakes before it's too late. 

Sharks' Aaron Dell likely to start at least once on current road trip

Sharks' Aaron Dell likely to start at least once on current road trip

Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer said earlier this month that he'd like to play backup goalie Aaron Dell more this season.

And while Martin Jones will get the call Tuesday night in Buffalo against the Sabres, DeBoer told the media after morning skate he wants to give Dell more starts this season. San Jose's current five-game road trip through the Eastern Conference -- which includes a back-to-back later this week -- is the perfect opportunity for him to show he can take on a bigger role.

"We're going to split them in back-to-backs this year," said DeBoer, whose team plays the first of six regular-season back-to-backs later this week against the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs. "We'll lock that in -- unless there are extenuating circumstances."

Sure, wanting to split up goaltending duties in a back-to-back situation is nothing new. And with two such cases popping up on San Jose's calendar over the next two weeks -- the Sharks play a back-to-back when they return from their current road trip -- it's the best option for the team as a whole. Plus, it keeps Jones fresh not having him start in net on zero day's rest, while also giving Dell a better idea of when he'll get to play.

But how Dell performs in these situations likely will also have a huge impact on how often DeBoer taps him to start over the course of the season. Granted, he has played the best hockey over his professional career when he's had fewer days of rest between starts, going 4-0-1 with a .938 save percentage on two days rest as opposed to 30-17-3 when he has rested for three or more days.

DeBoer told the media on Tuesday that a lot goes into deciding which goaltender starts a back-to-back. Jones' performance in Tuesday's game in Buffalo could be a factor. Dell's lone start in Montreal, in which he stopped 30 of 31 shots-on-goal and logged a .968 save percentage, could also play a role in the coach's decision. Whatever influences the situation, fans can be sure they'll see Dell start at least one game over the next week.

While Dell's record on the season doesn't indicate a stellar start, DeBoer has expressed that he likes what he's seen from his back-up's game so far. Having the option to play Dell more is exactly what San Jose's bench boss wants. 

[RELATED: Simek still a ways off, but Prout close to Sharks return]

"I wanted to play him more last year, but he didn't allow me that opportunity to," DeBoer admitted back on October 12. "So I told him over the summer that, 'I want to get you in more games than I did last year. I'm going to give you the opportunity early to play some more, but you have to help me and play well when you get in there.' And I think he did that."

The up-coming back-to-back will be yet another chance for Dell to show what he can do. 

Erik Karlsson, wife Melinda bring home daughter after two-week hospital stay


Erik Karlsson, wife Melinda bring home daughter after two-week hospital stay

Last Thursday was a day Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda never will forget.

After a two-week stay in the hospital, Erik and Melinda finally got to bring their daughter, Harlow Rain, home. It's been a big help to the Sharks defenseman, especially his sleep schedule.

"My wife's good with that. She's doing the heavy lifting," Karlsson said about his wife getting up to be with the Harlow, via Curtis Pashelka of The Mercury News. "I can get my sleep and be able to do what I need to do for my profession. It's nice to have the family home."

Harlow was born a five weeks earlier than expected, with Karlsson having to fly home before the Sharks' season-opener against the Vegas Golden Knights to be with Melinda as she prepared to give birth to their daughter at the 35-week mark of the pregnancy. 

Harlow spent two weeks in the hospital, so doctors could monitor her, but she finally got to come home Thursday. Bringing their little girl home without complications was a weight off both Erik and Melinda's shoulders. The Karlssons suffered a horrible tragedy in 2018, when Erik revealed the couple had lost their son, Axel, a month before he was supposed to be born.

Thankfully, all is well with the newest member of the Karlsson family.

“When something good happens, you want to be able to bring her home right away,” Karlsson said, via The Mercury News. “We wanted to make sure she was OK. We were fine with that. It’s not the most fun to be at the hospital all day long, but when I was home, I was there.

“But my wife was there way more than I was, obviously. It just takes a toll. Just nice that we can be at home now and we can figure our own stuff out.”

[RELATED: Simek improving but still a ways off]

Karlsson and the Sharks haven't gotten off to the best start on the ice, amassing a 3-5-0 record through the first eight games.

They'll look to right the ship starting Tuesday when they open a five-game East Coast road trip against the Buffalo Sabres. 

With Harlow and Melinda back at home, Karlsson feels better about focusing on the ice and is excited about the prospect of parenthood.

“It’s great, Anybody with kids knows it’s a lot of work, a lot of it obviously falls on my wife and she’s doing a great job with it,” Karlsson said. “We’re new parents, so we’re going to have to figure things out.

“We’ve getting lots of help from people around here that have that experience, people at home. But at the end of the day, we’re going to figure out our own things and what works for us. We’re excited about that.”