Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in flu-riddled 5-2 win vs. Canadiens

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in flu-riddled 5-2 win vs. Canadiens

SAN JOSE – It was a dicey one in teal town when the Sharks hosted the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. But, the home team found a way keep Montreal’s losing streak at SAP Center alive, and prevailed with a 5-2 victory.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday’s contest: 

Down with the sickness

San Jose didn’t play its prettiest game against Montreal, and it's easy to understand why. As coach Peter DeBoer revealed to the press this week, the flu has gone around the dressing room and hit a couple players. Nevertheless, they took the ice on Thursday evening.

You really have to hand it to Brent Burns. The defenseman played his second game while trying to fight off the flu bug, and still recorded his 60th assist on the season. It's only the fourth time since the 1996-7 season an NHL defenseman has accomplished the feat.

Young guns carrying the weight

The Sharks have been pumping that “next man up” message all season in relation to injuries. On Thursday against the Habs, it was San Jose’s young players who picked up the flu-riddled team. 

25-year-old Tomas Hertl recorded his 30th goal on the season in the first period of Thursday’s game, eluding former teammate Antti Niemi with a wraparound attempt that went five-hole. 26-year-old Marcus Sorensen stayed hot, lighting the lamp in the first frame and tallying an assist on old-timer Joe Thornton’s goal in the second stanza. Then, in the third period, 26-year-old Joonas Donskoi set 22-year-old Timo Meier up with a sweet back-handed pass, and Meier's subsequent goal gave San Jose a 4-2 lead with 13:27 to go in regulation.

[RELATED: How DeBoer made two Sharks fans' day on team's day off]

The shot clock didn't dictate the game

A worrisome trend continued on Thursday, when the Sharks were heavily outshot by their opponents. While they were fortunate enough to find the net more times than the Canadiens did, they certainly didn’t make it very easy on themselves.

Goaltender Martin Jones deserves credit for making some big saves on the evening. While both goals he let in weren’t pretty, he buckled down in the final 40 minutes to keep the contest from getting completely out of hand while Montreal gained momentum and put nearly 40 shots on the clock.

Sharks fans pose three questions after successful six-game homestand

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USATSI

Sharks fans pose three questions after successful six-game homestand

After a dismal first month of their 2019-20 season, the Sharks look like they are rounding into competitive form after a six-game homestand.

The Sharks started November with back-to-back home losses against the Winnipeg Jets and the Vancouver Canucks. But following the return of Radim Simek and a sudden offensive explosion at even strength, San Jose has rebounded, winning four straight. As they begin to establish their identity, the Sharks also have started climbing their way out of the Pacific Division cellar.

Naturally, fans have a lot to talk about when it comes to what San Jose is doing in their pursuit of getting to .500 and eventually into the top tier of their division. Here are three questions fans posed before the Sharks face the Ducks in Anaheim on Thursday night.

This one seemed to be a favorite among fans on social media, so we'll tackle both questions.

First up, Simek's return. To summarize, the reason the Sharks are much better with Simek in the lineup is that they don't have any other players in their arsenal that can do all of the things that he can. If San Jose had another defenseman in the organization that could play with the same level of physicality and on-ice awareness all while pairing perfectly with Brent Burns, Simek's absence probably wouldn't seem like such a big deal.

Tim Heed doesn't check off all of those boxes, and while Mario Ferraro has had a promising rookie campaign so far, he isn't quite on Simek's level. That's what makes Simek such an important part of this lineup.

As we've discussed in previous stories, the defense as a whole plays better with Simek in it because his presence allows coach Pete DeBoer to play his whole defense more evenly. When Burns and Erik Karlsson aren't playing around 25 minutes a night and responsibilities are more evenly distributed throughout the blue line, everyone plays a better game.

In regards to the "bottom lineup" players being role players, the Sharks still are trying to figure some of that out. DeBoer specifically mentioned Dylan Gambrell as a player who has earned himself a regular starting job and said that rookie Noah Gregor is on the right path to earning a regular job -- although Gregor is going to be replaced by Lukas Radil for Thursday's game in Anaheim.

The long and short of it here is that there still are regular jobs to be had. With San Jose's top players playing better, the fourth-line group needs to follow suit.

For the first time since last season, DeBoer has some options with regards to who starts on the blue line. Not only are players finally healthy -- Ferraro is close to returning from injury and Dalton Prout has concluded his rehab stint with the Barracuda -- but Heed has played two solid games in their absence. 

From the look of things ahead of Thursday's game against the Ducks, DeBoer is going to take a look at all of his options here. Prout is set to pencil into the lineup over Heed, although that doesn't guarantee he stays there. How well Prout plays could have an impact on whether rookie Ferraro gets back into the lineup, although it's possible DeBoer will just put him back in there anyways given how well he's played through the first part of the season.

So the jury's still out on this one. We'll just have to wait and see who locks down the job.

For San Jose, it isn't about playing one period better than the other. The Sharks need to start off games firing on all cylinders because they play better when they get the early lead. What needs to happen is that they need to continue carrying that effort throughout the entire evening.

[RELATED: Why Sharks believe they're turning corner after another win]

We've talked a lot over the last homestand about the Sharks being able to put a 60-minute effort on the ice night in and night out. The win over Nashville showcased their best 60-minute effort of the night, despite the fact they didn't score too many goals. The key is sticking to their defensive game and not getting too comfortable with getting a lead.

There might still be nights where they take their foot off of the gas in the second or third period. But as San Jose wins more games and becomes more confident as a group, that 60-minute effort should become a more regular facet of their game. 

Why Sharks believe they're turning things around after win over Oilers

Why Sharks believe they're turning things around after win over Oilers

SAN JOSE -- Suffice to say, the Sharks don't look like the same team that started a six-game homestand on Nov. 1 with one of the worst records in the NHL.

With a 6-3 win over the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the Sharks have won four in a row and appear to be climbing out of the hole they dug themselves in the first month of the season.

Not to jump the gun or anything, The Sharks aren't out of the woods yet. But after the past six games, it looks like they're finally turning the corner and playing the way they expect to.

"Every game, I feel like we're more comfortable," said Tomas Hertl, who scored a goal Tuesday. "Everybody plays better. So now we have to just keep going."

The Sharks spent a good chunk of the first month of the season looking out of sync -- offensively, defensively, you name it. The culprit? Focusing too much on individual play and not working together as a unit.

"We weren't playing our system," Marc-Edouard Vlasic summarized Tuesday. "We were freelancing. We were doing our own thing. And it's funny when you stick to it, to what you do best, the results follow."

Erik Karlsson, Vlasic's defensive partner, agreed.

"We lost ourselves a little bit," said Karlsson, who had three assists Tuesday. "But right now we're working hard for each other and getting ourselves in good spots out there."

Sticking to that system yielded positive production on Tuesday against the Oilers. The Sharks scored six goals, and largely contained Oilers superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. 

"We had a big task in stopping one of the best lines in hockey and I think we did a good job of that," Karlsson said. "I think everyone contributed offensively and defensively. I think we played the right way for 60 minutes even though they scored three goals. But I think we stuck with it."

"They're at the top of the division and I thought we did a good job of defending McDavid and Draisaitl as a group tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer added. "I thought we had some individuals who did a really good job, but I thought everyone on the ice with those guys was aware."

Of course, getting the jump on the Oilers fewer than five minutes into the game didn't hurt, either. 

"We got the first goal, which took a little bit of the pressure off," DeBoer said. "We got to play out in front most of the night. Those kinds of things make a difference."

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

Now, as Hertl mentioned, the Sharks have to keep going. With an 8-10-1 record, San Jose is still under .500.

That's not good enough for a team accustomed to playing in the postseason. 

"If you're under (.500) you're not in the playoffs," Hertl said. "We're trying the best and over the last four games, we actually look like the Sharks."

If they keep looking like the Sharks that Hertl is talking about, the outlook on the season gets a little brighter.