Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-0 loss to Blues to end road trip


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 4-0 loss to Blues to end road trip


For the second night in a row, the Sharks found themselves trailing their opponent in the second period. This time around, however, there was no come-from-behind push to tie the game and keep San Jose’s hopes alive.

The Sharks couldn’t find their footing against the St. Louis Blues Friday evening, and dropped the second game of their road back-to-back, 4-0. Aaron Dell put up a fight making some big saves for San Jose right down until the final buzzer, but the defensive effort in-front of him sealed the Sharks’ fate while Blues netminder Chad Johnson pitched the shutout.

Here are three takeaways from Friday’s game:

Communication breakdown on defense

Outside of Tim Heed looking confident in his first NHL game of the season, San Jose’s defense had a very rough outing on Friday evening. It wasn’t just the defensemen themselves – the whole lineup was on their heels and was regularly hemmed in their own zone. The Sharks looked as though they weren’t communicating effectively on the ice, and the puck often ended up in the back of their net, particularly against that red-hot combo of Jaden Schwartz, Ryan O'Reilly, and Vladimir Tarasenko. 

When O’Reilly scored his goal in the second period, the Sharks' dominant Logan Couture-led line looked like it was trying to get organized on one side of San Jose’s net while the Blues’ forward put himself in position to score away from them.

The special teams were lopsided

If there was one thing the Sharks got right, it was their penalty kill, which held the Blues scoreless on the man advantage. Their power play wasn’t on the same level, though, and they were unable to capitalize on the three opportunities they had on the evening, almost giving up a short-handed opportunity to Tyler Bozak halfway through the third period.

We’ve talked before about the Sharks giving up too many big chances. One way to do that is, of course, to capitalize on their own. Even when the Sharks tried to make more of a push in the final stanza, they weren’t able to take advantage.

On that note …

That third-period magic wasn’t there tonight

The Sharks have shown this season they can make a push and get back into a game when they’re trailing on the scoreboard. While they liked that push, a few players mentioned previously they didn’t want to let the other team get into a game or put them in a hole to begin with. 

San Jose went out into the third period Friday night grinding, with a line consisting of Evander Kane, Antti Suomela, and Joonas Donskoi gaining more momentum and challenging Blues netminder Chad Johnson.  But that push wasn’t enough to mount a comeback. It’s clear the Sharks can’t keep waiting for something bad to happen before they make a big push, especially when it comes down to the wire in the third period.

Martin Jones 'really solid' in preseason debut despite Sharks' loss

Martin Jones 'really solid' in preseason debut despite Sharks' loss

SAN JOSE - Martin Jones didn't give up a goal in the first few minutes of Saturday's game against the Vegas Golden Knights. In many of his starts last season, that was not the case.

And even though Saturday's game was a preseason tuneup, it was a good sign.

Jones is entering the upcoming season under a bit more scrutiny than some of his previous campaigns. His save percentage dipped in 2019 from .915 to .896, and his habit of giving up the first goal early in games had the team in front of him playing from behind on one too many occasions.

Despite ending the season tied for the third-most regular-season wins among goalies across the league last year, there's no denying he needs to be better in his 2019-20 campaign.

Although the Sharks fell to the rival Golden Knights 3-1 on Saturday evening, Sharks' head coach Peter DeBoer was happy with Jones' first preseason outing.

"I thought he was really solid," DeBoer said afterward. "I thought he played a really good game."

Jones appeared to see the game pretty well for most of the evening, flashing the leather a few times when the Vegas offense began to pick up steam.

Even though Vegas' next two goals -- scored by familiar foes Max Pacioretty and Alex Tuch -- were a bit reminiscent of goals scored against Jones last year, the goalie was able to rebound and shake off a little more of that preseason rust. 

Score aside, Jones' first preseason contest gives more hope that San Jose's goaltending arsenal can bounce back this season. Jones' backup, Aaron Dell, impressed in his first preseason showing last week against the Anaheim Ducks.

This has created some suspicion that one of San Jose's young netminders have a window to fight for the backup job. With just two preseason games left until the Sharks' 2019-20 campaign opens up on the road in Las Vegas, both goalies are bound to get more work in as they gear up for the regular season.

On that same note, San Jose still has roles to fill on their roster, and just about a week to make some decisions as to who will skate with the big club on opening night. 

In Saturday's game against the Golden Knights, forward Lean Bergmann and defenseman Mario Ferraro were the big standouts. But as DeBoer told the press after the game, this audition period is now drawing to a close and his roster needs to be put together.

[RELATED: How Sharks can fill void on defense until Radim Simek re-joins team]

"You start running out of evaluation nights," the head coach said. "We're getting close. We have to start getting our group together and start to get ready. That's what this is about. So the guys, I think, between the training camp scrimmages and the exhibition games, have had more than enough opportunity to show us what they can do."

San Jose's final three preseason games will be against the Ducks, Flames, and Golden Knights. 

How Sharks can fill void on defense until Radim Simek re-joins team


How Sharks can fill void on defense until Radim Simek re-joins team

It's a darn good thing the Sharks have a bevy of talent coming up the pipeline -- especially on defense.

With news coming out of training camp Friday that Radim Simek is questionable to be ready for game-action when the season opens on Oct. 2, the focus shifts not just to when he might finally rejoin the team, but to who will most likely fill in that void on San Jose's blue line.

With four preseason games remaining, San Jose has a couple of options when it comes to filling in that roster spot.

Being that Simek is a left-handed shooter, the best bets to pencil into the roster from San Jose's group of young talent are Jacob Middleton and Mario Ferraro. Middleton has a strong chance of being the go-to guy, having been recalled from the Barracuda on a few occasions last season to fill in when the injury bug bit the Sharks' blue line especially hard.

Fans might remember Middleton's surprise NHL debut back in January when he went from prepping for a road trip with the Barracuda one night to practicing alongside Brent Burns the following morning. At that time, left-handed defensemen Simek and Marc-Edouard Vlasic were both out of the lineup.

Even with Middleton's prior experience at the NHL level, Ferraro will likely still be a consideration to make the opening night roster. The 21-year-old has been impressing the organization since he participated in rookie development camp back in July and has continued that trend through training camp. Ferraro also has recently been paired up in camp with Dalton Prout -- who the Sharks will likely keep in mind to fill in should one of their right-handed defensemen be sidelined.

Having a few different players who can file into the lineup also gives DeBoer more options as far as mixing and matching his d-pairs. Middleton filled right into Simek's spot alongside Burns last year, and should the pairing of Brenden Dillon and Erik Karlsson stay intact, the Middleton-Burns pairing could be reunited with Vlasic being paired up with Tim Heed. If both Ferraro and Prout demonstrate they're a reliable pair to start, the duo might get the nod which would keep Vlasic and Burns skating together as they have been through the start of the preseason.

Of course, those are just guesses as to how DeBoer's lineup will shake up until Simek comes back healthy.

Naturally, the best-case scenario is that Simek gets into the lineup sooner rather than later. San Jose did go 29-9-3 with a healthy Simek in the lineup last season, after all. Plus, Simek's ticket into a regular roster spot was his uncanny chemistry with Burns.

[RELATED: Why Sharks expect Meier to take step forward]

That being said, the Sharks don't want to rush the Czech defenseman back into the lineup too quickly. Sure, Simek has been training for some time now, following surgery to repair the ACL and MCL in his right knee. Teammate Tomas Hertl told the press on the first day of camp that he talked to Simek over the summer and that the blueliner has been "working his ass off" to get back into playing shape. Nevertheless, the Sharks don't want to bring Simek back to quickly and risk him re-injuring himself.

At least the Sharks have good options for filling out their blue line until he returns.