Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 5-3 loss to Maple Leafs

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 5-3 loss to Maple Leafs

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SAN JOSE – You knew when Barclay Goodrow went for Nazem Kadri right off the opening faceoff that Thursday’s game between the Sharks and the Maple Leafs was going to be a doozy.

Team Teal came out buzzing against the visiting Toronto squad, but allowed the Leafs to move in and take the lead in the second frame. Although San Jose tried to roar back in the third period like they have so many times before, it was the Leafs who emerged victorious 5-3.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s game:

Odd-man rushes were an issue

This was something the Sharks had a problem with in their Tuesday night contest with the Nashville Predators as well. It’s especially been an issue in the middle of games when multiple opponents have crept up on them on the scoreboard. 

Such was the case again in the second period of Thursday’s game, most notably when Kasperi Kapanen had a short-handed breakaway and found the back of the net to give Toronto a 4-3 lead.

On that note …

San Jose needs to put up a strong defensive front for the whole game

In the first period of Thursday’s game, the Sharks displayed that full-team defensive effort they’ve been talking about this entire homestand. All forwards and defensemen were moving quickly, creating chances and helping goalie Martin Jones out.

The second period though, much like San Jose’s second frame against Nashville, told a different story. The Sharks started turning the puck over more against the skilled Toronto team and weren’t giving Jones the support he needs. (Not to say that Jones was perfect. But the team in-front of him wasn’t helping him out.)  By the time the Sharks began getting back to playing a stronger defensive game, they were down two goals late in the third frame.

Nobody on the Sharks seems particularly fond of Nazem Kadri

You may recall Kadri and Joe Thornton duked it out at the beginning of one of last season’s Leafs-Sharks meet-ups, and Kadri yanked a piece of Thornton’s Zeus-like beard right off his face. Despite the fact that Jumbo Joe shaved the signature facial hair at the start of the season, his teammates weren’t going to let the act go unavenged. Goodrow went right for him, Timo Meier got up in his grill – heck even Thornton himself exchanged a few words at the start of the second stanza.

While standing up for your teammates is great, letting a player like Kadri get under the team’s skin can also be costly. Like in the first frame when Meier went to the box after being poked by Kadri and Toronto ended up scoring during four-on-four play. Things got exceptionally heated after the Leafs scored their fifth goal on the evening and Kadri cross-checked Melker Karlsson and both player started to duke it out.

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

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AP

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

The Sharks' game on Thursday was, without a doubt, the Tomas Hertl show.

Hertl has been playing at a high level throughout San Jose's current winning streak and added to that successful stretch Thursday by leading San Jose's offense with two goals against the Ducks. But then Hertl left the game in the third period after colliding with Anaheim forward Sam Steel and appearing to injure his leg. Hertl never returned to the game and was not available for comment following the Sharks' 5-3 victory.

Even after the postgame media scrum, there was no update on Hertl's status. But it's no secret that the Sharks, who are finally digging themselves out of their early-season hole, can't afford to lose him from their forward attack.

"He's playing tremendous," Logan Couture told reporters at Honda Center after the game. "You hate to say you get used to it because he's playing at such an elite level. But the way he's been playing over the last two years, he's been at that level. And he's getting better."

The captain isn't mistaken. Hertl really came into his own last season after head coach Peter DeBoer moved him to the center position, taking on more responsibility and becoming an irreplaceable force in San Jose's offensive arsenal. Now, after a slow start to the season, the Czech forward has come alive once again with goals in five straight games and is currently leading his team with 21 points. His performance through the first two periods of Thursday's game perfectly showcased the mix of physicality, goal-scoring prowess and relentless drive that makes him a power forward to be reckoned with. Not to mention, he plays well with a number of players on his wing, and the current combination with Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow has been one of the best lines -- if not the best -- the Sharks have put out on the ice since the start of November.

That's precisely why San Jose can't afford to lose him as the team climbs its way out of the Pacific Division basement.

An injured Hertl wouldn't just force DeBoer to shuffle up his lines, as he also plays an important role on San Jose's special teams, which have been one of the team's saving graces since the start of the season. There's no doubt that the Sharks would be missing a major puzzle piece if Hertl has to miss any games.

The Sharks have a packed schedule through the end of November with a mix of competition to face, from hosting the lowly Detroit Red Wings this upcoming Saturday to visiting the rival Vegas Golden Knights next Thursday. Given how San Jose's season began, there is no opponent on the horizon that the Sharks can look past.

[RELATED: Three questions from fans after Sharks' six-game homestand]

If the injury Hertl sustained Thursday causes him to miss time, San Jose's job becomes that much more difficult.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

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Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

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It wasn't the prettiest or most dominant game the Sharks have played this season. But heck, a win is a win.

San Jose spent a good chunk of Thursday's game trailing the Ducks on the scoreboard. But thanks to some late-game magic from the special teams, Team Teal was able to extend its winning streak to five games with a 5-3 victory over the SoCal rival.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday's game in Anaheim.

Stay strong, special teams

In all honesty, the Sharks didn't look like they had the upper hand for the majority of the game. But during a short span in the third period, San Jose completely took over the game thanks to a power-play goal from Brent Burns and a short-handed goal from Evander Kane within less than three minutes of each other.

San Jose's special teams have been one of the few bright spots through the slow start to the season. When facing an opposing goaltender that is on top of his game -- like John Gibson was for Anaheim on Thursday -- being able to score on both the man advantage and the penalty kill is huge.

Hertl power 

While three of the Sharks' four forward lines generated very little offense against the Ducks, Tomas Hertl and his linemates, Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow, were on fire. Hertl had quite a night with two goals in the first 40 minutes, extending his goal-scoring streak to a career-best five games.

Hertl, Meier and Goodrow also accounted for the majority of San Jose's shots on goal within the first two periods. Although the rest of the offense began to come alive in the third, the Sharks still need to get to a point where all four lines play up to the level that the Hertl's played at against the Ducks.

Not-so-strong second 

Too often this season, the Sharks have followed up a strong first period with a sluggish second. Such was the case on Tuesday night, as San Jose grinded in the first period but came out in the second stanza flat-footed.

To make matters worse, the Sharks couldn't stay out of the penalty box in that period, which allowed Anaheim's dismal power play to find the back of the net. While the Sharks were able to tie the game back up before the period expired, they can't keep undoing all their hard work.