Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in San Jose's 5-4 win vs. Blackhawks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in San Jose's 5-4 win vs. Blackhawks

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It was about darn time the Sharks played an exciting game.

After four straight games where they never seemed to have much of a chance, San Jose engaged in an entertaining give-and-go with the Blackhawks in Patrick Marleau's heavily-anticipated return to the Sharks. With multiple players elevating their game, San Jose finally got in the win column with a 5-4 victory.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday night's game in Chicago:

Marleau contributed right off the bat

The Sharks brought Marleau back to help out on offense, and the 40-year-old winger didn't disappoint. Marleau scored a power-play goal at the end of the first period and then scored a big goal late in the second -- both of which tied the score. Not bad for a player who missed the preseason and first four games of the regular season.

[RELATED: Watch Marleau score twice in first game back with Sharks]

While one player alone doesn't change the complexion of an entire team, Marleau's return has already added some much-needed depth to San Jose's forward attack. When the Sharks get Marcus Sorensen back healthy, the offense should look much more competitive.

On that subject …

The forecheck was a difference-maker

Through the first four games of the season,  San Jose’s offense wasn’t taking enough chances. As Thursday’s game went on, however, a more tenacious forecheck began to take over, resulting in better chances against goaltender Corey Crawford. Despite the Blackhawks taking four separate leads, the Sharks always found a way to stay in the game.

Additionally, several players did a better job of posting up in the crease in an attempt to make life tougher on Crawford. Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane were particularly good at this, as was their new linemate Barclay Goodrow -- who scored the game-winning goal for San Jose while skating right up to the front of the net.

If more Sharks’ skaters get in those dangerous areas, it will continue to give the offense a boost.

On a less positive note …

The defense still is making too many mistakes

You really have to give Sharks goalie Aaron Dell credit. If it hadn't been for him, Chicago might've scored eight goals on the evening. Dell had a few huge saves, especially on breakaways that San Jose's defense had trouble catching up to. But speedy breaks weren't the only thing helping the Blackhawks' offense along. On Chicago's first goal, the Sharks had numerous bodies in front of their own net and the Blackhawks' Dominik Kubalik still found room to bury his first NHL goal.

While San Jose's game improved considerably as the game wore on, the defense still isn't communicating properly and, consequently, the puck is winding up in the back of the Sharks' net too often. The players have been talking about needing to tighten up the defense since the preseason. So far, that's still a work in progress.

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.

Evander Kane says white athletes must speak against police brutality

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Evander Kane says white athletes must speak against police brutality

Sharks winger Evander Kane called on prominent white professional athletes to speak out against police brutality against African Americans.

Kane, who is black, joined ESPN's "First Take" on Friday morning to discuss George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis earlier this week. The 28-year-old Kane said it can't just fall on black athletes to lend their voices to causes of racial justice, and white players joining their black peers is "the only way" for professional athletes to truly affect change.

"We've been outraged for hundreds of years and nothing has changed," Kane said of black people speaking out against racism (H/T Fear the Fin's Sheng Peng). "It's time for guys like (Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback) Tom Brady and (Pittsburgh Penguins center) Sidney Crosby and those types of figures to speak up about what is right, and clearly in this case, what is unbelievably wrong. Because that's the only way we're gonna actually create that unified anger to create that necessary change, especially when you talk about systematic racism."

Bystanders in Minneapolis recorded video Monday of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, having a white police officer's knee pressed into his neck for nearly eight minutes as three other officers looked on. Floyd pleaded that he couldn't breathe, but state charging documents alleged that the officer, Derek Chauvin, continued to have his knee on Floyd's neck for almost three minutes after he became non-responsive. Chauvin and the three other officers were fired Tuesday, and he was arrested on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter Friday.

Kane tweeted Tuesday night that the video of Floyd's death made his "[f--king] blood boil." He shared a petition Wednesday night calling for the four former officers to face charges.

The forward has been increasingly outspoken against racism in the last year, particularly in hockey. Kane is one of just 43 NHL players of color, according to WDET, and they account for fewer than 5 percent of the league. He said he hasn't seen "too many" hockey players discuss Floyd's death, but Kane feels supported by his teammates in speaking out.

"In terms of my teammates, they're incredibly supportive of me and what I stand for," Kane said. "I think hockey, unfortunately, has a different culture than some of the other sports in terms of speaking out and using your voice and speaking your mind. I think for me, I'm one of the anomalies when it comes to NHL players doing that. That's another part of the problem, guys being scared to really speak their mind and stand up for what is right."

Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, who doesn't often address the media, shared his support of Kane in a rare statement Friday hours after Kane's appearance on "First Take."

"There is no room for racism in society," the statement read. "We applaud Evander for his thoughtful and rational response to the recent terrible tragedy. Events like this occur way too often. We all must find a way to do better."

Kane tweeted he was "proud to be part of" the Sharks in response.

[RELATED: Kap starts fund to pay lawyers for Minneapolis protesters]

Kane said sports have the inclusive potential to bring people together from a variety of backgrounds. In order to live up to it, Kane thinks athletes -- white and black -- need to pull in the same direction off the rink, field and court.

"[When] we talk about our own personal battles outside of sports, there's a lot of people that are silent on issues," he said. "They're important issues. They're issues that have been going on for hundreds of years, and we need that same type of team mentality to be brought to issues outside of our sport."