Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 loss to league-best Lightning

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 loss to league-best Lightning

It was another fast-paced game between the Sharks and the Lightning on Saturday night in Tampa Bay. But despite Evander Kane scoring two goals, this game didn’t go San Jose's way.

The Sharks put up a strong effort for the bulk of the contest but were defeated by Steven Stamkos and the NHL-leading Bolts 6-3.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

You shouldn’t point the finger at Martin Jones

Jones gave the Sharks another effort worthy of a win, picking up right where he left off Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was particularly impressive when he froze both Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat on one shift in the first frame, then halted Nikita Kucherov during a second-period penalty kill.

Had Jones not been on his A-game right from the start of the contest, Tampa Bay might have tallied more than two goals in the first period before San Jose found the back of the net. Unfortunately for Jones, he didn’t have quite enough help in front of him to hold off the Bolts as they capitalized on some of the Sharks’ mistakes in the second and third periods. 

Special teams ended up having a big impact

You could tell early in the game that special teams would end up playing a big role.

Even though Tampa Bay scored two quick goals, San Jose had the edge in shots, and began getting more offensive zone time as the game progressed. If anything was going to give either team an extra boost, it was the special teams.

The Sharks' power play helped get them on the board before the first frame expired -- a beautiful sequence between Joe Thornton and Timo Meier to set up Kane. But the Bolts also benefited from the power play, scoring their fourth and sixth goals of the evening on the man advantage as San Jose started getting into penalty trouble. 

Impact of Karlsson’s absence

You have to hand it to San Jose for pushing the tempo despite Erik Karlsson’s sudden absence. They continued to get good offensive zone time and put pucks on net despite Andrei Vasilevkiy standing tall between the pipes for Tampa Bay.

As of game time, there was no news on what exactly Karlsson’s ailment is. While San Jose of course wants its star defenseman back in the lineup to help the team win games, it also isn’t going to want to push Karlsson and injure him even further.

With the All-Star break and bye week coming up, giving Karlsson enough time to heal could benefit the Sharks in the long run.

Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season

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USATSI

Sharks goalie Martin Jones aims to prove himself yet again this season

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks went 39-1 last season when allowing two goals or fewer. Scoring rarely was an issue for them, which meant many games were decided on their play without the puck.
 
“We scored a lot of goals, but unlike other years, where we relied on being tight defensively, those goals came at the expense of being a little looser defensively,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer recently said at training camp. “And they were getting different looks.”
 
Criticism of goals allowed thickened during the final stretch of the regular season, and fingers were pointed in two distinct places: Team defense and goaltending.
 
“I’m sure [Martin] Jones is the first guy to say he wishes he played better at times," Sharks captain Logan Couture said of his goalie. "But there were a lot of times we didn’t help him out. We gave up too much."
 
The plot thickened in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, when Vegas took Games 2, 3 and 4 by scoring goals early and often. The Golden Knights looked unstoppable on the scoreboard.

In retrospect, Jones believes he tried to do too much.
 
“You want to go out and make a difference," he said. "But as a goalie, you need to have more patience and let the game come to you. You can’t race out and make 30 saves in the first period. You have to take what comes to you.“ 
 
Facing elimination in Game 5, the Sharks turned their Achilles heel into a strong point.
 
“Breakaways, odd-man rushes, tap-in goals -- he didn’t have a chance,” Couture said. "I don’t know how we did it, but we flipped a switch, and buckled down after that."
 
Added DeBoer: “I know the group around him takes some responsibility for the ups and downs of last year. To his credit, he found a way. He dug himself out of that place where he wasn’t feeling great about his game.”   

[RELATED: Four players Sharks are counting on to take step forward]
 
The final 16 playoff games should clearly indicate what Jones -- who posted a career-worst .896 save percentage and 2.94 goals-against average in the regular season -- can do, especially in the most critical junctures. That must breed confidence in what the Sharks can accomplish this season, if they can support their goalie.
 
“I can tell you this,” DeBoer said confidently, “the group never wavered once, even at the lowest moments, about whether he could get the job done.”

Jonny Brodzinski's audition for Sharks roster spot off to good start

Jonny Brodzinski's audition for Sharks roster spot off to good start

SAN JOSE - When Jonny Brodzinski played on the Ontario Reign during the 2016-17 season, he regularly faced a San Jose Barracuda roster consisting of Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc, and Marcus Sorensen -- among other names familiar to Sharks fans.

Now, the 26-year-old out of Minnesota is sporting the same teal sweater as the aforementioned players while the Sharks preseason gets underway. 

Heck, he and Sorensen are even playing on a line together to kick off training camp.

"I played against a lot of these guys, yeah," Brodzinski reflected after Tuesday evening's preseason game. "Played against a lot of them and now we're teammates. It's exciting."

The Sharks have roster spots to fill on offense and having a player with Brozinski's skillset could help fill out their forward attack. While Sharks' bench boss Peter DeBoer insisted he isn't penciling in his final roster just yet, he's impressed with what he sees from Brodzinski so far.

"He's got a great shot, he's got good speed, he works hard," DeBoer observed. "He's auditioning for some pretty big roles we have open here. He's one of a handful of guys here where tonight was the start of that audition."

The coach was right. Although Tuesday's contest against the Anaheim Ducks ended in a 4-3 loss, it did help kickstart observing the talents of San Jose's roster hopefuls. And Brodzinski's resume was on display. 

Following an NCAA career at St. Cloud State where he posted 112 points (64 goals, 48 assists) and a plus-42 -- and helped lead the Huskies to their first Frozen Four appearance in 2013-- Brodzinski spent four seasons with the Reign and occasionally got recalled to play for the Kings. The 6-foot-1 winger spent a lot of time traveling back and forth between the AHL and NHL as he developed his game, building himself up to be a regular goal-scorer.

That scoring consistency, mixed with the element of speed Brodzinksi demonstrated in Tuesday evening's game, could be one piece of the puzzle pieces the Sharks are looking for to bolster their bottom six.

Brodzinski may still be in the audition phase of his tenure in teal, but he's also getting some veteran guidance along the way. Playing wing opposite Sorensen also means he's spent the start of the preseason on a line with Joe Thornton. Sharks' general manager Doug Wilson said ahead of training camp how excited the organization was that No. 19 would be around for another season to help usher in the next wave of new players -- much like Thornton did with Sorensen last season. So far, Brodzinski is getting that exact opportunity.

"All of those guys, especially Joe, are pretty easy to play with," Brodzinski complimented. "He sees the ice really, really well."

This isn't to say the line combinations won't get mixed up at some point before the regular season starts. DeBoer isn't one to get too attached to combos and pairs, no matter what time of year it is. For the time being, though, Brozinski is trying to figure out how he can best contribute to that line.

[RELATED: Martin Jones aims to prove himself again]

"Those guys have a lot of chemistry already," he said of Thornton and Sorensen. "So, I'm just trying to mesh. Find the way that they play and try to acclimate my game as much as I can to the way they play.

"Now I just have to take this opportunity and run with it."