Sharks takeaways: What we learned in unimpressive 6-3 loss vs. Coyotes


Sharks takeaways: What we learned in unimpressive 6-3 loss vs. Coyotes


Coming off a brief -- albeit impressive -- homestand, the Sharks looked to carry their momentum into a critical three-game road trip, beginning Tuesday night against the Arizona Coyotes at Gila River Arena. Instead, that momentum has been brought to a halt, as San Jose fell 6-3 against its divisional foes.

The Sharks dug themselves a big hole, as Arizona's Phil Kessel provided his team with a 2-0 advantage five minutes into the second period with his second goal of the night. San Jose then battled back in short order, tying the game up within the next five minutes of play, but it would be mostly downhill from there.

Aaron Dell did his best in net to give the Sharks a chance, and the score likely would have been much worse if not for some of his big saves, particularly in the early going.

Here are three takeaways from the battle in the desert/

Unnecessary penalties

The Sharks no longer are the most penalized team in the NHL, but they're still shooting themselves in the foot too often with some of the penalties they are taking.

You don't have to look any further than Stefan Noesen's hooking penalty early in the second period to get the point. On the complete opposite end line from San Jose's own goal, the fourth-liner took a terrible hooking penalty, and it cost the Sharks big time. On the Arizona's resulting power play, San Jose's penalty-kill unit was atypically caught out of position, allowing Kessel to slide an easy goal past Dell to increase the Desert Dogs' lead to 2-0. 

The Sharks have constantly relied on their top-ranked penalty kill  this season, and it has been a tremendous ace in the hole for the team. But if they keep giving the opposition unnecessary advantages, it won't matter how great it is.

Dell is the guy

If it wasn't clear before, it should be by now. Aaron Dell is the Sharks' No. 1 goalie, and he has run away with the job.

Tuesday night was Dell's fourth straight start, and he has started all but one of San Jose's games since the turn of the calendar. He hadn't allowed more than two goals against in any of those starts, and while he allowed four to the Coyotes -- Arizona scored two on an empty net -- it's not as if he had a legitimate chance on any of them. In fact, Dell came up with several big saves in the opening period, without which the game likely would have gotten out of hand long before San Jose had a chance to stage a comeback attempt.

He came up with another huge save shortly after Kessel's second goal, which actually initiated a Sharks' rush up the ice and culminated in Timo Meier's game-tying goal midway through the second period. Without any of those saves, San Jose doesn't have a reason to pull Dell at the end of the game.

And without Dell's recent emergence, the Sharks' goaltending situation would be looking a lot more dire at the moment.

Power play cashes in again

After the Coyotes increased their lead to 4-2 just over eight minutes into the third period, San Jose could have folded and packed it in, knowing a tough game in Denver was next on the schedule. But to the Sharks' credit, they kept battling and gave themselves a chance to get a point or two.

San Jose kept the pressure on, and Meier eventually drew a tripping penalty with just under three minutes remaining in the contest. Less than a minute later, Evander Kane scored off a nice pass from Kevin Labanc to pull the Sharks within 4-3.

They never got any closer, but Kane's power-play marker continued a positive trend for the Sharks. With Kane's goal, the San Jose is now 5-for-13 with the man-advantage over the last five games, with at least one power-play goal in all but one of those contests. Additionally, it was Kane's 10th power-play goal of the season, moving him into a tie with the Washington Capitals' Alexander Ovechkin for the third-most in the NHL.

How Sharks' Joe Thornton taught Rick Nash to be a pro in Switzerland


How Sharks' Joe Thornton taught Rick Nash to be a pro in Switzerland

Joe Thornton currently is in his 15th season with the Sharks after being acquired by San Jose in a trade with the Boston Bruins during the 2005-06 NHL season. He spent the previous year in Davos, Switzerland while the league remained in lockout, where he paired up with one of the NHL's rising young stars.

More than a decade-and-a-half later, Rick Nash still fondly remembers the time he spent playing alongside one of the most prolific passers to ever play the sport.

"When me and Joe first played together in Switzerland, it was really kind of instant chemistry," Nash recalled to NBC Sports California. "For the first couple games, we played together. On the power play, we played the whole season together. The easy thing about playing with Jumbo was he told you, 'Just go to the net with your stick down. Go to the high slot with your stick on the ice and I'll find you.' We had a lot of success with that over the years, at World Championships, obviously in Davos.

"He's such an easy guy to play with and his skill is so high and his passing ability is so high, it just makes sense why he has that many assists in the NHL."

At last check, Thornton was up to 1,082 career assists, good enough for seventh place on the NHL's all-time list. You don't accumulate that many helpers without being supremely skilled, but as Nash explained, Thornton always has brought a lot more to the table than what he could do with the puck.

"The thing that made Joe different from other teammates was, No. 1, off the ice, he was always a happy guy, always had a smile on his face," Nash said. "He was always around the rink. For me, being a younger guy, he was someone I looked up to on how to be a pro, how to extend my career, how to be good to the other guys that I was kind of taking under my wing. On the ice, it was obviously his skill to make plays and make passes. 

"For me and my style of game, I was always a shooter. I always liked to score goals, so we kind of accompanied each other perfectly. To this day, I don't think there's an easier guy to play with than Joe."

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To spend 22 seasons in the NHL -- and one in the top Swiss league -- it requires not only an abundance of talent, but competitiveness to match. According to Nash, while he has seen plenty of Thornton's competitive streak on the ice, he experienced it off of it, as well. Specifically, when it came to the board game of world domination known as "Risk."

"We started this game with his brothers and his friends and my friends," Nash explained with a chuckle. "Dinner time would roll around, and we would bring the Risk board to dinner. So if you could only imagine trying to keep all those pieces on the board driving the car through the Swiss mountains to get to dinner to set up our Risk game, and once we got there, guys would be arguing about how many soldiers they had on which country. 

"It was always that stuff away from the rink that made hanging out with him so fun."

The Sharks know as well as anyone just how fun and talented Thornton can be. While world domination is a lofty goal, they'd all gladly settle for a Stanley Cup.

NHL rumors: Sharks' Brenden Dillon of interest to Bruins, 'half dozen' teams


NHL rumors: Sharks' Brenden Dillon of interest to Bruins, 'half dozen' teams

The market for Brenden Dillon is heating up. It's sounding like more of a "when" rather than an "if" the Sharks' defenseman will be moved.

In a season where very little has gone right for San Jose, Dillon has been one of the few, consistent bright spots. He has appeared in every game while averaging over 19 minutes of ice time, and he leads all Sharks' defensemen in plus-minus. According to TSN Insiders Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun, the closer the NHL gets to the trade deadline, the more teams reportedly are inquiring about the blue-liner who is on pace to lead the Sharks in hits for the fourth straight season. 

"Most definitely the Winnipeg Jets are in the market for a specific top-four defenseman," Dreger reported Tuesday. "Now, it could be a rental player, it could be a player with some term. They're not ruling out anything at this point."

Dillon is in the final year of his contract and is due to hit unrestricted free agency this summer, so he would fall into the rental category. Given the price Dillon is likely to command, that might not be ideal for Winnipeg, but Dreger noted that the Dustin Byfuglien situation -- as well as Bryan Little and Adam Lowry's respective recoveries from injury -- could force the Jets' hand.

LeBrun agreed that Dillon would make plenty of sense for Winnipeg, but didn't stop there.

"I don't think he would be on the top of their list, but certainly on the list of players that the Jets would have compiled already, I think Brenden Dillon would be on there somewhere," LeBrun said. "Pending UFA, he's a defenseman that's going to be dealt by the San Jose Sharks. He's a No. 4 for some teams, a No. 5 for others. I can tell you half-a-dozen teams so far have shown interest, including, I'm told, the Boston Bruins. Obviously a rugged, defensive defenseman in Brenden Dillon would be a nice fit there in Boston. Carolina Hurricanes, who just lost Dougie Hamilton, have also been among the teams that have shown interest." 

"It will not be an issue moving Brenden Dillon," LeBrun summarized. "The question is what can San Jose get out of it? I think it's probably going to be a second-round pick, and maybe a prospect."

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The Sharks are still holding out hope for a playoff push, but whether or not they are successful in that pursuit, Dillon might be of more value to them elsewhere.