Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 7-2 win over Canucks in Vancouver

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 7-2 win over Canucks in Vancouver

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If a dominant performance was what you were craving on Monday evening, the Sharks had you covered.

San Jose ended their four-game road trip on a high note as they overwhelmed the young Vancouver Canucks 7-2 to sweep their tour of Western Canada and take over first place in the Pacific Division.

Here are three takeaways from Monday evening’s game:

The Kane-Hertl-Donskoi line continues to roll

Not much, other than the fact this line doesn’t stop steamrolling every opponent they go up against. Evander Kane scored another two goals on the evening while Tomas Hertl tallied a goal -- set up by a magnificent backhanded pass from Joonas Donskoi -- and an assist.

Kudos to that line for leading the charge when the Canucks tried to push back at the start of the second period. The Canucks' Elias Pettersson-led offense came out of the first intermission firing on all cylinders and threatening to make things interesting. That is, until Kane used Brenden Dillon as a screen to score his second goal on the night and increase the Sharks’ lead.

Joe Thornton further solidifies Hall of Fame resume

Seriously, the milestone counter may break, and nobody would complain. After tying Gordie Howe on the all-time assists list on Saturday while setting up Kevin Labanc to score a hat trick, Thornton set his young linemate up again in Vancouver to pass Mr. Hockey. 

Additionally, the assist brought him into a tie for 15th place on the NHL’s all-time points list with Teemu Selanne. It’s truly incredible to watch him reach milestone after milestone during a season that started with him trying to come back from having knee surgery.

[RELATED: Jumbo passes Howe, ties Selanne on all-time points lists]

To top it off, Thornton’s pass to Labanc was an absolute beauty. He won the puck battle with Vancouver defenseman Chris Tanev before powering up the ice and waiting patiently to serve up Labanc.

Speaking of plays like that …

San Jose’s set-up work has been a thing of beauty lately

As the Sharks have collected more wins, they’ve also gotten more confident in how they set up their scoring chances. Whether it’s a forward like Thornton winning a battle or Brent Burns bringing a play up, a lot of San Jose’s scoring plays are being created at the opposite end of the ice. By making smart decisions back in their own zone, they’ve been able to put more and more quality scoring chances together.

The win said a lot about how the Sharks are playing as of late, given they went up against a speedy young team like the Canucks at the end of a long and intense road trip. San Jose can head home feeling good about how they played, having taken over first place in the division. 

Just think about how much better they’ll be once they get Erik Karlsson back healthy.

Sharks vow to learn, grow from adversity faced during 2019-20 season

Sharks vow to learn, grow from adversity faced during 2019-20 season

The Sharks aren’t used to losing. Say what you want about the team’s inability to complete a NHL playoff run and hoist a Stanley Cup, but there’s no doubt this team has been an excellent regular-season unit and a perennial contender for more than two decades.

The Sharks last finished the regular season below .500 during 2002-03 season, going on a 15-season run of winning hockey snapped this year. The Sharks were terrible despite plenty of star power, unable to improve on an awful start that got Peter DeBoer fired and left the team languishing in the Pacific Division cellar.

The Sharks didn’t handle it well.

Goalie Martin Jones was honest about that fact in an interview with SportsNet’s Elliott Friedman.

“When it started to spiral, we went our own ways instead of coming together,” Jones said in a column published May 14. “It’s something that will be addressed moving forward.”

Airing dirty laundry, even with a constructive spin, isn’t always welcome in the aftermath of a season gone awry. Jones’ teammates, however, had no issue confirming the fact the Sharks frayed a bit as losses started to mount.

“When you’re losing and things aren't going your way, frustrating builds and it builds quickly,” Sharks captain Logan Couture said. “With us, a lot of guys in our room have never gone through a season like that. Some may have years ago, but not recently. From top to bottom I don’t think anyone handled it the best possible way. I’m obviously in that group. There’s a lot that I think I can learn from.”

[RELATED: What Couture learned from first season as Sharks captain]

The Sharks were tested during a difficult campaign and they didn’t always pass, but the veteran leaders are determined to use it as a teachable moment to handle adversity better in the future.

“It’s easy for guys to be good guys if everything’s going well, but you don’t really grow from that,” defenseman Brent Burns said. “You know what this feels like now. A lot of guys hadn’t been through a lot of that before. It’s not easy. Guys here know it’s hard. They have grown through a culture that has been very successful through a lot of work and a mental edge. It’s important not to lose that mental edge. It was not fun. There aren’t a lot of positives you can take from [season], other than not wanting to go back there. It’s frustrating. There’s nothing great about it.”

[RELATED: Sharks GM Doug Wilson discusses odd end of season, coaching search]

Defenseman Erik Karlsson wasn’t happy about the team’s response to adversity, but he didn’t consider it out of the ordinary or something that frayed relationships that could linger into future seasons. The Sharks’ goal is to contain a bad campaign and make it the outlier their history suggests it could be.

“When things don’t go your way individually and as a team, it’s nothing more than natural that you start thinking in different directions and looking for solutions that might not be there,” Karlsson said. “Overthinking is one of the biggest mistakes you can make but something we all do in tough situations. That’s especially true when you don’t feel like you are doing enough or playing up to your own standards.

“Anything that happened this year was a normal reaction you would’ve gotten on any team in any sport. … I didn’t see anything alarming, and I don’t really judge the things that happened this year. You get to see a lot of different sides of people you hadn’t seen before, and you learn a lot about yourself. This year is something for each individual to learn from when looking at the situation and what they could do differently if a situation like this creeps up again.”

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

Sharks' Logan Couture speaks up on racism, in support of Evander Kane

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Sharks' Logan Couture speaks up on racism, in support of Evander Kane

Sharks captain Logan Couture thanked Evander Kane and former NHL player Akim Aliu for speaking out against racism in hockey, tweeting a note Saturday that said the sport and society "are only scraping the surface in what desperately needs fixing."

"Racism exists in society, it also exists in hockey," Couture wrote. "That's a fact. Growing up in this game is a privilege. [At times,] I think most of us have been at fault for turning a blind eye when it comes to racism. It cannot continue."

Kane later tweeted his appreciation of Couture's message.

Kane, who is black, has become increasingly vocal speaking out against racism within -- and beyond -- the sport in the past year. In September, Kane told TSN 1040 in Vancouver that hockey lagged behind other professional sports in diversity and addressing racism after fan told him to "stick to basketball" in an Instagram comment. Kane called a story in "The Players Tribune" earlier this month authored by Aliu, whose revelation that Bill Peters directed racial slurs towards him in the AHL led to the Calgary Flames firing their now-former coach late last year, a must-read for everyone involved in hockey.

George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody Monday outraged Kane, tweeting that video of the incident made his "[f---ing] blood boil." Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, could be heard on video saying "I can't breathe" as former officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee into Floyd's neck while three other officers at the scene looked on. Chauvin and the three officers were fired Tuesday, and Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

[RELATED: Kerr says he, white people have to do more to fight racism]

Kane said Friday in an interview on ESPN's "First Take" that white athletes couldn't leave speaking up against systematic racism to their black peers. While Kane felt supported by his teammates, he told "Writers Bloc" on CJCL in Toronto later that day that hockey's team-first culture often encourages silence on a wide range of issues in the sport and outside of it.

“Is it going to change? I hope," Kane said (H/T Sportsnet's Sonny Sachdeva). "I’m going to try to be a part of the solution and process in creating that change. But … when it comes to social injustices and racism in hockey, it requires change at the top. Because, you know, that’s the only way true change is going to take place. At the top. Because it’s going to have a trickle-down effect.

“And until things change at the top ... until they make the necessary change to condemn these sort of acts and mindsets … and really weed out that type of thought process, we’re going to be stuck in the same position we are today, and that’s unfortunate.”

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, who doesn't often publicly comment, said in a rare statement Friday that the Sharks applauded Kane's "rational and thoughtful response to the terrible tragedy" of Floyd's death. Defenseman Mario Ferraro retweeted the statement, and Couture's note is the first tweeted by one of Kane's San Jose teammates in support.