Sharks

Three takeaways: Burns struggles with more minutes against Kings

Three takeaways: Burns struggles with more minutes against Kings

SAN JOSE – The Sharks lost two straight against Los Angeles, the latest coming on Tuesday in overtime at home, 2-1. The three biggest takeaways from the defeat? Here you go…

1 – Young D respond, but Burns scuffling

It surely wasn’t going to be easy, with the Sharks missing defensemen Marc-Edouard Vlasic and David Schlemko. The good news was that the young third defense pair of Dylan DeMelo and Mirco Mueller – making his season debut – settled in nicely after some early moments of erraticism in their own end. “I thought [Mueller] was great. He looked like an NHL player,” Logan Couture said.

Pete DeBoer said: "I thought [the defense] did a great job. That's a big ask for those guys. I thought Mirco played excellent.”

On the flip side, though, Brent Burns struggled in both losses to the Kings. He took a pair of minor penalties on Tuesday for the second straight game, while registering just a single shot on goal with about five minutes to go in the third period.

Perhaps he’s trying to do too much while playing extended minutes, eating up a large portion of Vlasic’s time against the opposition’s top players, but it isn’t working.

When it was pointed out to DeBoer after the game that all three of the Sharks’ penalties were by defensemen, including a Justin Braun hooking minor that led to Jeff Carter’s tying goal, he said: "That shows you the pressure they were putting our defensemen under. It's more a credit to them than what we were doing.”

2 – Meier promoted, Boedker demoted

Not to pat myself on the back (OK, maybe a little bit), but I tweeted in the second period that I thought it was time for the Sharks to make a change to their top line. The two Joes need someone who gets to the front of the net, and that’s never going to be Patrick Marleau. Timo Meier does it, and the impact was immediate after DeBoer made that alteration in the third period.

Meier finished with two shots on goal, and was also credited with seven hits – a game high. That includes one early collision with Derek Forbort, when he hammered the Kings defenseman along the wall about eight minutes in.

He seemed to enjoy his first experience in the Sharks-Kings rivalry.

“It’s a physical game out there against a team like that,” Meier said. “You’ve got to fight for every inch on the ice. Those games are good to learn [from], but it’s obviously too bad we couldn’t get those two points.”

I’d have to think Meier gets a chance to stay there for Thursday’s game against Minnesota, as the Sharks are still struggling to score. They need more from that top line, in particular.

It’s also worth noting that Boedker took just two shifts in the third period, including one on the PK, when he was on the ice for Carter’s goal. Perhaps it’s his turn to sit in the press box, while someone like Tommy Wingels draws back into the lineup.

3 – Labanc's OT mistake

Kevin Labanc, who won the most recent Sharks overtime game against Edmonton on Dec. 23 with a goal, committed the turnover that led to Tanner Pearson’s game-winner. The rookie threw the puck right to Carter’s tape in the Sharks’ offensive zone, springing the Kings’ hottest player the other way. Couture couldn’t quite get back in time to break up Carter’s dish to Pearson.

DeBoer wasn’t too critical of Labanc’s misplay in the three-on-three.

"He's won us a few games making those plays, so we're not going to hold that one against him,” said the coach.

Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

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USATSI

Sharks clinch spot in NHL playoffs, thanks to Avalanche win over Wild

For the fourth consecutive season, Peter DeBoer has guided the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Thanks to the Colorado Avalanche's 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night, the Sharks became the second team in the Western Conference to secure a playoff spot. The Calgary Flames (45-21-7), whom the Sharks (43-22-8) trail by three points for first place in the Pacific Division, were the first. 

The Sharks lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round last year. If the playoffs started today, second-seeded San Jose would match up with third-seeded Vegas in the first round.

[RELATED: 'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far in future after loss to Vegas]

DeBoer took over as Sharks coach in 2015 after the franchise ended a 10-year run of making the playoffs. The Sharks made it to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season, but they haven't advanced past the second round since.

The franchise also seeks its first Pacific Division crown since the 2010-11 season. A division banner would be the first of DeBoer's career as an NHL head coach.

'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far into future after loss to Vegas

'Concerned' Sharks can't look too far into future after loss to Vegas

SAN JOSE – Monday night’s contest between the Sharks and Golden Knights was billed as a potential playoff preview. So naturally, when San Jose lost 7-3, there were questions as to how concerned the team was about possibly having to play Vegas in the first round.

But the team was adamant they shouldn’t be looking too far into the future. They believe they need to stay focused on the games at hand, and fix the things that led them to drop three contests in a row – not on who they may play in the postseason.

“You can’t think about that,” Justin Braun said. “You can’t be worried about what you’re doing three weeks from now. You need to get points now.”

Bench boss Peter DeBoer agreed, telling the media afterward that no matchup is necessarily more ideal than another. 

“I don’t think there’s going to be an easy match,” DeBoer admitted. “I don’t think anyone wants to play (Arizona) the way they’re playing now or Dallas or whoever ends up in there. It doesn’t matter once you get in. Everybody you play is going to be a very good and a very good test. So we’re just going to try and win as many games as we can and whoever we get we’ll show up and be ready to play.”

Winning games now means cleaning a few things up on San Jose’s end. They haven’t been happy with how they’ve played in their last three contests, from not having enough energy on one night to making too many mistakes the next.

“I’m concerned, we haven’t played well,” Logan Couture said. “We’re giving up too many chances, too many goals. We’re giving up odd-man rushes. Every time we give them an opportunity like that they’re going to put it in the back of our net.”

Which was primarily the story of Monday’s game against the Golden Knights. The Sharks made too many small mistakes, from turning pucks over in the neutral zone to making too many trips to the penalty box. Couture went so far as to say the Sharks “handed them goals tonight.”

“Some lessons learned tonight that you can’t chase the game, or if you do get behind in a game against that team you’ve got to handle it with a little more composure," DeBoer said. "We knew that, but we shot ourselves in the foot.”

The only thing left to do now is take what went wrong against Vegas and turn it around – particularly on San Jose’s upcoming two-game road trip against the Kings and Ducks down in Southern California.

“It doesn’t matter what happened in the past, you’ve got to keep rolling forward,” Braun said.