Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 7-1 blowout loss to Lightning

lightningcelebrateusatsi.jpg
USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 7-1 blowout loss to Lightning

BOX SCORE

The Sharks' Saturday night faceoff against the Lightning wasn't nearly as fast-paced as their previous game against the Hurricanes. And, unfortunately for the Sharks, it wasn't as good of a performance.

While the Tampa Bay squad has struggled this season, they overpowered San Jose thanks to a strong performance from their netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy, handing the Sharks a 7-1 loss.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game.

The other guy was better

It wasn't as if Martin Jones didn't make a couple of big saves early in the game. (At least, up until he was pulled from the game.) However, Vasilevskiy was superior on the other end of the ice.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner was a brick wall against San Jose, coming within minutes of handing the Sharks their first shutout loss of their season.

It wasn't as if the Sharks weren't trying. They got good o-zone time and outshot the Lightning through the first 40 minutes of play. But even with a ton of pressure from San Jose's third line in the second period, Vasilevskiy remained un-phased. By the third period, the wind had been taken out of the sails of the Sharks' offense.

Doomed by special teams

This isn't the first time this season that the power play has come under scrutiny. Far from it, actually -- San Jose entered Saturday's game on a 0-for-19 stretch. But things got worse against the Bolts, as the Sharks got three opportunities in the first frame -- one minor penalty 15 seconds into the game and double minor later in the period -- and couldn't capitalize on any of them. Being on the man advantage almost looked to zap San Jose's energy.

When the Bolts got their own chance on the four-minute power play in the second stanza, they didn't have the same problem that the Sharks did. San Jose's league-leading penalty kill was almost all of the way through a Kevin Labanc high-sticking double minor when Steven Stamkos's shot picked the corner and beat Jones for Tampa's third goal on the evening.

Back on the hunt for a four-line effort

This one might seem obvious since the Sharks almost got shutout, but the effort put out by all lines needs to be noted. For a second straight game, the Joe Thornton-led third line was the strongest in San Jose's forward attack. But unlike in the Sharks' previous game, the other lines didn't generate too many good looks.

Simply put, the Sharks aren't going to win games if the majority of their team is playing a passive game like they did on Saturday. Even against a middle-of-the-pack team like the Bolts, San Jose's collective effort just wasn't good enough.

Mike Ricci opens up about his first month as Sharks assistant coach

Mike Ricci opens up about his first month as Sharks assistant coach

It’s not just a safe assumption. It’s entirely accurate that Mike Ricci, as a hockey player, never thought he’d become a coach.

“Not back then for sure,” Ricci said recently. “Not even maybe two and a half weeks ago.”

The former Sharks forward was caught off guard by being named as an assistant on interim head coach Bob Boughner’s staff in mid-December.

“It was like boom, told to come to a meeting,” Ricci recalled.  

But there was no reservation in accepting the position.

“When a friend asks, and a boss asks, you’ve got to do it,” said Ricci. “Just going in and trying to do whatever I can to help this team win.”

All of this is a total change of scenery for Ricci – who after 1,099 NHL games as a player -- still hasn’t acclimated to his brand new perch behind the bench.

“If I’m going to be honest, I really haven’t had time to think about it,” Ricci admitted.  

The move was so fresh, and came with so much transition, Sharks equipment manager Mike Aldrich even had to double check that regular game duties would include a presence behind the players.  To which Ricci responded: “I think so…?”

As if the Sharks' need to turn things around wasn’t pressing enough, there’s also the challenge of Ricci learning the ropes of being an assistant coach for the very first time.

“You’ve got to find what makes everybody click,” Ricci said after less than a month of experiences. “Some guys like to see it. Some guys like to hear it. Some guys like it drawn on a board.”

One thing benefitting Ricci, goaltending coach Evgeni Nabokov, and associate coach Roy Sommer is their familiarity and unquestioned dedication to the franchise. Each have been sporting teal for more than a decade, in one capacity or another.

[RELATED: Boughner urges Sharks to 'man up']

Ricci said there’s already a built-in level of trust when the coaching staff has to be critical of players, in trying to reverse the team’s struggles.

“I try to be myself, more than anything. It doesn’t matter how much I know, it matters how much I can get to a player.”

NHL rumors: Doug Wilson won't disrupt Sharks' core at trade deadline

sharksbenchhighfiveusatsi.jpg
USATSI

NHL rumors: Doug Wilson won't disrupt Sharks' core at trade deadline

If you're in favor of the Sharks making a splashy move to shake things up ahead of the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline, we've got bad news for you.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported earlier this week that Sharks general manager Doug Wilson "has let it be known he is not interested in disrupting his core."

That presumably means players like Logan Couture, Evander Kane, Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic are staying put.

But Friedman notes that there will be interest in Melker Karlsson and Brenden Dillon, who are both unrestricted free agents after this season.

With the playoffs looking less and less likely for San Jose, it would make sense for Wilson to try to get something for Karlsson and Dillon.

The Sharks don't have a first, fourth or sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, so it would be wise for Wilson to recoup some of the assets he traded away in recent years.

After losing in the Western Conference final to the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks have fallen on hard times. They enter Saturday's game against Vancouver with a 21-24-4 record and sit nine points out of a wild-card spot. On Thursday night, they were shutout by the Avalanche in Colorado and interim head coach Bob Boughner urged his players to "man up."

[RELATED: Ricci on first month as coach]

At the moment, the Sharks are close to the upper limit of the NHL salary cap, but they will have roughly $18 million coming off the books this summer, according to Cap Friendly, so as Friedman notes, Wilson will have the flexibility to make moves in the offseason.

The Sharks are in desperate need of a wake-up call. But it sounds like it won't come in February.