Sharks

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in San Jose's fourth straight loss

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in San Jose's fourth straight loss

BOX SCORE

The Sharks were better Tuesday night. Really, they were. 

But even though San Jose had Evander Kane back in the lineup and he scored the team's first power-play goal on the season, the Sharks fell to 0-4-0 with a 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators. Turnovers and missed opportunities played a big role, and the first win of 2019-20 still eludes the Sharks.

Here are three takeaways from their fourth straight loss.

Getting their groove back

For the third time in four games, the Sharks trailed 2-0. But instead of completely sitting back as they did before, the Sharks ramped up their level of play and started to look like a legitimate threat in the second period.

Their cycle play improved greatly after that point, and they got much more zone time. The Sharks ultimately outshot the Preds 18-6 in the middle frame.

San Jose also began establishing more of a net-front presence, which was greatly lacking in their first few games. Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane were particularly noticeable around the net and gave the Sharks more scoring opportunities, as evidenced by Kane's goal in his return to the lineup from a three-game suspension. 

Unfortunately for the Sharks ...

There are still too many turnovers

If the Sharks are going to ever start off a game with a lead -- or at least not dig a deeper hole -- they really need to do a better job of holding onto the puck in the neutral zone. On top of San Jose's three giveaways in the first 20 minutes, Nashville also registered six takeaways -- which could've given the Preds more than a one-goal lead before the first intermission.

Even with the elevated play in the second period, the Sharks continued turning over the puck and the Predators made them pay for it. Erik Karlsson's turnover in the third period that led to Nashville's fourth goal ultimately was a back-breaker. 

If the Sharks expect to win a game any time soon, they have to play a smarter game.

[RELATED: Bringing back Marleau won't fix all of Sharks' problems]

Those mistakes aren't helping the goaltending

Goaltender Martin Jones has started off the season making some very timely saves, notably freezing Predators forward Colton Sissons with 6:38 to go in the first period Tuesday. However, Pekka Rinne was even better on the other end of the ice, and he kept the Sharks from tying the score up when Nashville only had a one-goal lead.

When the Predators brought the puck in the Sharks' zone, Jones wasn't able to make the same saves.

While Jones needs to make more big saves, he also needs help in front of him. Sure, clicking on offense will help out tremendously. But the blips in the neutral zone also need to be cut down significantly to give the Sharks a chance at winning.

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

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AP

Surging Sharks can't afford to lose 'tremendous' Tomas Hertl to injury

The Sharks' game on Thursday was, without a doubt, the Tomas Hertl show.

Hertl has been playing at a high level throughout San Jose's current winning streak and added to that successful stretch Thursday by leading San Jose's offense with two goals against the Ducks. But then Hertl left the game in the third period after colliding with Anaheim forward Sam Steel and appearing to injure his leg. Hertl never returned to the game and was not available for comment following the Sharks' 5-3 victory.

Even after the postgame media scrum, there was no update on Hertl's status. But it's no secret that the Sharks, who are finally digging themselves out of their early-season hole, can't afford to lose him from their forward attack.

"He's playing tremendous," Logan Couture told reporters at Honda Center after the game. "You hate to say you get used to it because he's playing at such an elite level. But the way he's been playing over the last two years, he's been at that level. And he's getting better."

The captain isn't mistaken. Hertl really came into his own last season after head coach Peter DeBoer moved him to the center position, taking on more responsibility and becoming an irreplaceable force in San Jose's offensive arsenal. Now, after a slow start to the season, the Czech forward has come alive once again with goals in five straight games and is currently leading his team with 21 points. His performance through the first two periods of Thursday's game perfectly showcased the mix of physicality, goal-scoring prowess and relentless drive that makes him a power forward to be reckoned with. Not to mention, he plays well with a number of players on his wing, and the current combination with Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow has been one of the best lines -- if not the best -- the Sharks have put out on the ice since the start of November.

That's precisely why San Jose can't afford to lose him as the team climbs its way out of the Pacific Division basement.

An injured Hertl wouldn't just force DeBoer to shuffle up his lines, as he also plays an important role on San Jose's special teams, which have been one of the team's saving graces since the start of the season. There's no doubt that the Sharks would be missing a major puzzle piece if Hertl has to miss any games.

The Sharks have a packed schedule through the end of November with a mix of competition to face, from hosting the lowly Detroit Red Wings this upcoming Saturday to visiting the rival Vegas Golden Knights next Thursday. Given how San Jose's season began, there is no opponent on the horizon that the Sharks can look past.

[RELATED: Three questions from fans after Sharks' six-game homestand]

If the injury Hertl sustained Thursday causes him to miss time, San Jose's job becomes that much more difficult.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

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AP

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 win over division rival Ducks

BOX SCORE

It wasn't the prettiest or most dominant game the Sharks have played this season. But heck, a win is a win.

San Jose spent a good chunk of Thursday's game trailing the Ducks on the scoreboard. But thanks to some late-game magic from the special teams, Team Teal was able to extend its winning streak to five games with a 5-3 victory over the SoCal rival.

Here are three takeaways from Thursday's game in Anaheim.

Stay strong, special teams

In all honesty, the Sharks didn't look like they had the upper hand for the majority of the game. But during a short span in the third period, San Jose completely took over the game thanks to a power-play goal from Brent Burns and a short-handed goal from Evander Kane within less than three minutes of each other.

San Jose's special teams have been one of the few bright spots through the slow start to the season. When facing an opposing goaltender that is on top of his game -- like John Gibson was for Anaheim on Thursday -- being able to score on both the man advantage and the penalty kill is huge.

Hertl power 

While three of the Sharks' four forward lines generated very little offense against the Ducks, Tomas Hertl and his linemates, Timo Meier and Barclay Goodrow, were on fire. Hertl had quite a night with two goals in the first 40 minutes, extending his goal-scoring streak to a career-best five games.

Hertl, Meier and Goodrow also accounted for the majority of San Jose's shots on goal within the first two periods. Although the rest of the offense began to come alive in the third, the Sharks still need to get to a point where all four lines play up to the level that the Hertl's played at against the Ducks.

Not-so-strong second 

Too often this season, the Sharks have followed up a strong first period with a sluggish second. Such was the case on Tuesday night, as San Jose grinded in the first period but came out in the second stanza flat-footed.

To make matters worse, the Sharks couldn't stay out of the penalty box in that period, which allowed Anaheim's dismal power play to find the back of the net. While the Sharks were able to tie the game back up before the period expired, they can't keep undoing all their hard work.