Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 overtime loss vs. Senators

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 2-1 overtime loss vs. Senators

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In a game that began with an unusual 4 p.m. puck drop, the Sharks took a while to get going and ultimately lost their second straight game, falling 2-1 in overtime to the Ottawa Senators at SAP Center on Saturday. After both sides scored in the first period, neither found the back of the net again until former Shark Chris Tierney scored the game-winner for Ottawa in the extra period.

Aaron Dell was saddled with the loss in net for San Jose, but the result likely would have been worse without a strong performance from the Sharks' backup goaltender, which included a stop of Tierney on a penalty shot late in the second period. Ultimately, though, Tierney got the last laugh, and San Jose is left to wonder where the momentum that was built up over the first three games of the current homestand has gone.

With the loss, the Sharks (29-24-5) were swept in the season series by the Senators (25-32-12) after losing 5-2 in Ottawa back on Oct. 27.

Here are three takeaways from San Jose's second consecutive one-goal defeat:

Staying hot

Evander Kane kept his recent hot streak going on Saturday, and so did the Sharks' power play.

It all happened simultaneously late in the first period when Kane batted a puck out of the air into Ottawa's net for San Jose's only goal of the contest. It came 19 seconds after Senators forward Bobby Ryan went to the penalty box for goaltender interference and eight seconds before the end of the opening frame.

Assisted by Timo Meier and Brent Burns, Kane's goal marked his fourth in the last four games, and brought his season total to 25. Additionally, it was his 13th power-play goal of the season, pulling him into a tie with Washington's Alex Ovechkin for the fourth-most in the league.

With Kane's first-period tally, the Sharks have now scored a power-play goal in each of their last three games, dating back to Tuesday's win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. In the game before that, Meier found the back of the net seven seconds after a Pittsburgh Penguins' penalty had expired.

After struggling for most of the season, San Jose appears to be finding a groove with the man advantage. Better late than never, right?

Dell's turn

Dell got the start in net against the Senators, his first on the Sharks' current homestand after Martin Jones started the first four games. Having not played since a 4-2 loss in Philadelphia on Feb. 25, it marked Dell's longest stretch between starts since early December.

Even with the relatively long layoff, though, Dell didn't appear to show any rust. He was a steady presence in net throughout Saturday's game, stopping multiple breakaways, including a crucial penalty shot just before the second intermission. In total, he stopped 36 of the 38 shots he faced, and he didn't have much of a chance on the two that got by him.

Jones earned his four consecutive starts through arguably his strongest stretch of play this season. It wasn't necessarily the result of anything Dell did wrong or poorly, and with Saturday's staunch performance, one would imagine he won't have to wait as long between starts next time around.

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Mixing and matching

With rookie standout Mario Ferraro ruled out for both of San Jose's games over the weekend, interim coach Bob Boughner had to get creative with the Sharks' defensive pairs against the Senators. 21-year-old rookie Nikola Knyzhov made his NHL debut in Ferraro's place after being called up from the Barracuda earlier in the day.

Knyzhov was paired with trade deadline acquisition Brandon Davidson on San Jose's third pair, and the rookie definitely had a couple of "Welcome to the NHL" moments. With some new faces on the blue line, interim coach Bob Boughner relied on Brent Burns even more than usual.

It was evident from the start, as Burns played more than half of the first period -- 12:50 to be exact -- which is the most ice time any NHL skater has had in the opening period in the last three seasons, according to Sportradar. Radim Simek was the only other Sharks defenseman to skate even half that long in the first period, and he barely qualified with 6:26 of ice time.

Burns' heavy load eased up as the game went on, but he still finished the contest with a game-high 31:35 of ice time, the most he has played in any game this season. One day before his 35th birthday, Burns showed again that few players in the NHL can measure up to his incredible stamina.

Logan Couture believes Sharks' ambition must be high in long offseason

Logan Couture believes Sharks' ambition must be high in long offseason

The Sharks will miss the NHL playoffs for the first time in five seasons, and just the second time since the 2002-03 campaign.

They struggled so much and things got so bad they didn’t even qualify for a modified 24-team playoff format designed to wrap the season after the coronavirus pandemic forced the NHL to hit pause in mid-March.

Disqualification is an odd feeling for most veteran Sharks, especially after a season that started with promise ended in disaster.

San Jose's path to redemption won’t start for months. It may be well into the winter before next season ramps up, meaning the Sharks have plenty of time on their hands to ponder what went wrong and how to make it right.

They want to find old form at the next available opportunity. Logan Couture believes that should push them through a long and uncertain offseason.

“As a group, we know that every single person needs to be better next year,” the Sharks captain said Thursday on a video conference with Sharks reporters. “I think, with this long break, it adds time for guys to get prepared. Motivation should be at an all-time high for everyone because you want to come back and prove it was just a fluke. We believe that we’re a good team. We have all the pieces in the room to be successful. We just need to go out and do it.”

That’s not outside the realm of possibility, though there are as many -- or more -- question marks surrounding the team than in recent memory.

Those will be answered by management as the Sharks try and build the depth required to weather a long season and, if all goes right, playoff intensity.

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The current issue is to keep players focused and training on their own so they’re ready to return when the time comes.

“Players are creatures of habit,” Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports California’s Brodie Brazil. “The cycles of training and preparing of training and getting ready. This will be the longest time off our team and players have ever had.

"And you’ve got to use that time very well. You don’t want players under-training, or over-training. We’ve talked with our strength and medical people, trying to figure out the best way to get the programs in place so when they come into camp, they’re ready to go.”

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Sharks' Tomas Hertl vows to be 'better than before' after knee injury

Tomas Hertl stood before the media just a few weeks after tearing the ACL and MCL in his right knee and vowed to be ready by Sharks training camp. That seemed like a bold proclamation at the time, a promise his rehab should let him live up to.

The All-Star center provided a progress report on his physical condition during a Thursday video conference with the media, saying he’ll be ready for the 2020-21 campaign even if it starts as scheduled in October.

Dropping the puck on time seems highly unlikely after the NHL hit pause on the 2019-20 season due to the coronavirus pandemic and announced plans to pick it back up with a modified, 24-team playoff format. That could push next season further into the winter, allowing Hertl to downshift his rehab some and focus on getting strong over getting back on the ice.

“I can do almost anything,” Hertl said. “I am able to run, not full speed, but I can do almost everything I was doing before. I was actually surprised about that after not even four months. If we knew the season was starting in October, I would probably start skating in a few weeks. If there’s extra time it might help me, but I think I would be ready for the season even if it starts when it always does. I should be 100 percent ready for next season whenever it happens.”

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Well in line to keep his initial promise, Hertl went a step further Thursday by saying he’s not just looking to regain previous form. He wants to improve upon it.

That would be good news for the Sharks and would continue the 26-year old’s steady ascent as a top-shelf player. He has improved considerably in recent seasons while beginning to maximize great talent, becoming a vital component of the Sharks attack.

Hertl considers this latest knee injury as a speedbump, not a permanent roadblock. He has dealt with knee issues before and always comes back strong. This experience, he says, should be no different.

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“I feel like I have proved the past couple years that I can be one of the top players, one of the top centers on the team,” Hertl said. “I want to keep working on that. I have had some setbacks, but I’m not scared about it. I always come back. The experience has made me stronger. I am taking [this rehab] like another challenge.

“I was named an All-Star and it was a great experience for me, and it makes me want to go back. I want to be there for my team, and that’s why I have been working every day for four months even with the season so far away. My next goal is getting back and being better than before. I know I can do it. I have to give it everything I can to get back.”