Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 overtime win over Coyotes

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 3-2 overtime win over Coyotes

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SAN JOSE -- At times, it wasn’t the prettiest game. At times, it wasn’t even the most entertaining game. But after a slow start, the Sharks and the Arizona Coyotes took it all the way down to the wire in their season-series finale at SAP Center.

In the end, it was Brent Burns with a wicked back-hand shot that gave the Sharks a 3-2 victory in overtime.

Here are three takeaways from the first game after the All-Star break:

The response after falling behind

Giving up the first goal woke up the Sharks in the second period. Neither team was giving each other a lot of room to play, and the Coyotes’ defense was especially savvy at tying the Sharks' sticks up so they couldn’t capitalize on any rebounds. You also really have to give Arizona netminder Darcy Kuemper some credit for denying a couple of good San Jose looks.

But after Connor Garland put the Coyotes up 1-0 in the second, the Sharks appeared to get an extra spark. They scored the next two goals, both on rebound opportunities, less than a minute apart.

[RELATED: Rusanowsky picks 10 favorite Sharks regular-season wins]

It wasn’t the cleanest game ever played

With both teams coming off otheir bye weeks, it was kind of expected that Saturday’s contest wasn’t going to be the cleanest game ever played. Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said as much at practice earlier that day.

“Less is more in these types of games,” he summarized. “You want to keep it simple, you want to keep it direct.”

Doing so helped the Sharks keep the Coyotes off the board for a little over half the game. But a misstep by Tim Heed in the second stanza led to a turnover and Arizona’s first goal on the evening. Plus, San Jose made a few extra trips to the penalty box, which gave the Desert Dogs a couple of extra chances to find the back of the net.

Vlasic looked strong in his return

Don’t let the minus-1 on the scoresheet fool you. For a player who missed almost a month of play, Marc-Edouard Vlasic looked like he was the “excited” and “refreshed” skater DeBoer said the defenseman was earlier in the day. 

Vlasic's performance certainly was a positive sign that he can build off down the stretch. The depth of San Jose’s blue line continues to be tested with Erik Karlsson still sidelined and Brent Burns eating up the bulk of the minutes on the ice. Having Vlasic back healthy and on an upward trend could benefit the Sharks in the long run.

Firing Peter DeBoer was difficult decision for Sharks' Doug Wilson

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AP

Firing Peter DeBoer was difficult decision for Sharks' Doug Wilson

SAN JOSE - Suffice it to say, it's typical for a manager to pick up the phone and call an employee the company is about to let go. It's rare to hear of a manager going to an employee's house to deliver the news.

But that's exactly what Sharks general manager Doug Wilson did when he delivered the news to Peter DeBoer and his coaching staff Wednesday.

"Heading over to his house yesterday was probably one of the toughest things I've done in this business," Wilson told reporters at SAP Center on Thursday, revealing that DeBoer's coaching staff was present for the meeting as well.

In a press conference that formally introduced Bob Boughner as the Sharks interim head coach, Wilson took the time to explain the arduousness of the choice to relieve DeBoer of his head coaching duties.

"This has been a very difficult decision and it's not a decision we made lightly," Wilson said at the start of the press conference. "I can't thank Pete DeBoer enough for what he's done for this organization. Not only in the coaching job but as a man and as a person."

DeBoer's dismissal comes in the wake of a winless road trip for the Sharks and a losing streak that has extended the entire month of December thus far. It isn't this one winless stretch that drove Wilson to make a coaching change, however. San Jose got off to a rough first month of the season but turned things around and had one of the best months of November the Sharks have ever had. 

When their fortunes changed for the worse this time around, however, Wilson knew that something needed to change and tough decisions had to be made.

"It's not about the blame game, it's about finding solutions," Wilson said. "You look back at the success and the journey that we've had. But then, honestly, you take a look at the results that have been unacceptable this year."

Wilson revealed to a smaller group of reporters after the press conference that the decision to make a coaching change occurred on the flight home from the road trip following a 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators and a four-game trip where the Sharks were outscored 22-7.

"I was sitting there and you could feel it," Wilson said of the flight. "We were feeling pretty good about ourselves prior to that trip. Even in the Carolina game, I thought we battled back and got going. But something was lingering, there was something that just wasn't quite right. And my job is to find solutions and say, 'How can we get back? How can we get that energy and joy?' When you get that feeling, it's contagious and you can put games together. But when you're scratching and clawing to stay in the game, that sometimes means something is missing."

Even with that tough decision made and finalized, Wilson reiterated that he wished DeBoer and his coaching staff all the best -- which had a lot to do with his decision to go over to DeBoer's house.

"To me, it's respect," Wilson said. "I have such great respect for him, both him and his wife, and that's how you do business. He was so first class."

[RELATED: Sharks players shocked at decision to fire DeBoer]

Wilson added that DeBoer "respected" the decision of the organization to hand the reigns over the Boughner, who was in his second tour on DeBoer's coaching staff following a brief head coaching stint with the Florida Panthers. In Wilson's eyes, bringing in a new voice -- even one as familiar as Boughner's -- can help turn things around.

"Sometimes, bringing coaches in does that," Wilson said. "With other teams, we've seen that. It doesn't make me happy that that might be what was needed. But it's not that Pete did anything wrong. It's just that, sometimes, maybe (you need) that little jolt and we all should look in the mirror and take responsibility."

Sharks players express how coach Peter DeBoer's firing shocked them

Sharks players express how coach Peter DeBoer's firing shocked them

SAN JOSE -- It might have looked like business as usual on the surface when the Sharks took the ice for their morning skate Thursday to prepare for a bout against the New York Rangers.

But with a new coaching staff on the ice, things were definitely not the same.

"It's a little weird," Patrick Marleau admitted. "Obviously when there are changes, they seem different."

It had been less than 24 hours since Peter DeBoer and his coaching staff were relieved of their duties. Sharks players expressed feelings of shock and sadness -- and acknowledged the change sends them a message they need to be better.

"You're shocked and stunned and you feel for those guys," Logan Couture said. "You put hockey aside. As a human being, you're upset that you're not going to get to work with that group anymore and see them every day. I've talked to most of them and I told them how I had so much fun coming to the rink every day and playing for you guys. 

"It's unfortunate that we weren't able to win as a group."

For most of the players in the room, especially for the younger set, this kind of mid-season change is a new experience. Tomas Hertl particularly was stunned, given that DeBoer gave him the opportunity last season to take over at center and take on a leadership role.

"It's never happened to me in my life, during the season," Hertl said. "It's for sure hard because we've played under Pete for four years and did a lot of really good things. We went to the Stanley Cup Final. Last year, we almost got to the Final again. Under Pete, I grew up.

"Last season I had one of my best seasons and he gave me the opportunity to play big minutes and be a top-six forward and I really appreciate it."

San Jose is getting a slightly new voice with Bob Boughner taking over as head coach. The team is familiar with Boughner, being that he has been on DeBoer's coaching staff twice since the 2015-16 season. That being said, practice looked a little different with Boughner and his new coaching staff -- which includes Roy Sommer, Mike Ricci, and Evgeni Nabokov -- shuffling up the lines and running things.

"We're going to shake some things up system-wise," Couture said. "Boughie talked to us this morning as a group, as a leadership group. He's a guy you want to play for and a guy you want to do well for."

[RELATED: What comes next for Sharks after decision to fire DeBoer?]

But the changes don't stop with Boughner and his staff coming in. As Couture previously mentioned, it's on the players now in the post-DeBoer era to right the ship. San Jose still hasn't won a game in December and the Sharks currently sit five points out of a playoff spot.

Whether there has been a coaching change or not, it's up to the players on the ice to take responsibility.

"It's on all of us in this room when something like that happens," Couture said. "Pro sports is such a 'what have you done for me lately' business. As a player, when a member of the coaching staff loses their job, you feel like you're part of the reason why."