Sharks

Three takeaways: Improved Sharks' performance; concern for Hansen

Three takeaways: Improved Sharks' performance; concern for Hansen

SAN JOSE – Some low scoring NHL games can be fairly boring, but that wasn’t the case on Saturday as the Sharks and Ducks staged an entertaining get together at SAP Center in a battle of two surefire playoff teams. Here are our three takeaways from Anaheim’s 2-1 win…

1 – Improved performance from Sharks

Yes, the Sharks lost their second straight game in regulation for the first time in more than two months, but Saturday’s effort against Anaheim was much better than Thursday’s dud against St. Louis. Friday’s day off surely aided the team in finding its legs, but playing against a division rival likely helped get their motors going, too.

The Ducks pushed the pace early, but the Sharks seized the momentum towards the end of the opening frame and were the better team from the second period on, too.

“The other night wasn’t our best game by any means. Tonight was definitely better,” Joe Pavelski said. “I think we got better as the game went on.”

To be fair, Anaheim may have been feeling the effects of its 10-round shootout loss on Friday night by the time that third period rolled around. The Sharks still felt they should have scored more than just one power play goal before the final horn rang.

Logan Couture said: “We were better tonight than we were against St. Louis. With every game you take positives. … They were playing a back-to-back, but in that third period we had a lot of grade-A chances where we should score.”

Pete DeBoer said: “In a typical night we get at least two or three with the looks we had, and we didn’t tonight. Just got to keep at it. Stick with it.”

2 – Hansen’s injury cause for concern

Jannik Hansen wasted to time in getting off of the ice and to the dressing room after taking an apparent stick to the head in the third period. It didn’t look good. Sunday’s recalls of Timo Meier and Danny O’Regan suggest that Hansen might miss some time, and there was no word as of Sunday afternoon whether Hansen was on the flight to Dallas.

Hansen may only have one assist in six games, but his addition has sparked Pavelski and Joe Thornton. They’ll need him back sooner than later, since the primary reason they acquired him was that no one else in the organization looked like a long term fit on the top line. Hansen did.

Tomas Hertl filled in there after Hansen left the game, and he could start in that familiar position on Monday against Dallas. That would move Chris Tierney up to third line center, while O’Regan could potentially center the fourth line. That’s all me speculating, though, so stay tuned.

3 – Don’t panic about losing the division lead…yet

The Sharks may have squandered a chance to really put the Ducks behind them, but there’s no reason to panic about losing the Pacific Division yet. Although the upcoming road trip presents some challenges with a pair of back-to-backs, two of them are against the Stars, who are a complete disaster right now. That should be four points in the bank.

If the Sharks gain just 11 of 22 points available to them from now until the end of the season, Anaheim will have to gain 16 points in their final 10 games to catch them, as San Jose would almost certainly have the tiebreaker of more regulation/overtime wins. Still, burying the Ducks – who are looking for their fifth straight division title – would have been preferable.

“Obviously teams are going to be up and down, you’ve just got to try to hammer your games out as much as you can,” Joel Ward said.

 

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

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AP

Sharks need better goaltending with NHL playoffs just around corner

SAN JOSE – Goaltending has been a hot topic all season for the Sharks. Even when they’ve been winning games, the performance between the pipes has been under scrutiny.

Now, with the playoffs just a couple weeks away and San Jose tryng to snap a season-long five-game winning streak, the performance of Sharks goaltenders Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is yet again being scrutinized.

There’s no mistaking it – they need to be better.

Even Sharks coach Peter DeBoer, who isn’t one to call out players after a loss, seemed particularly perturbed with the Sharks' play in net. He said just as much after San Jose's fifth straight defeat, a 4-3 loss to the lowly Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

“I don’t want to sugarcoat it, but I think we had them for six chances, and they scored four goals,” he said at the time. “You can’t lay it at one guy's feet, but you can’t win in this league with [an.800 to .900] save percentage. We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal.”

DeBoer isn’t wrong. Jones might be tied for third place among all NHL goalies with 34 wins under his belt, but his .898 save percentage is 58th out of 69 goalies who have played at least 10 games. Dell's .887 save percentage is 67th. Combined, the Sharks' .891 save percentage is last in the league.

In March, a month in which the Sharks have gone 6-4-1, San Jose has scored 37 goals and allowed 36. Those aren’t stats you want to see heading into the postseason.

To be fair, all the blame can’t be laid at the feet of the netminders, much like DeBoer said. Defensive breakdowns in front of the net don’t do Jones and Dell any favors – and with a banged-up blue line that’s missing Erik Karlsson and Radim Simek, those mistakes become more apparent.

It also doesn’t help the Sharks' offense has dried up, scoring no more than three goals in each of the last five losses. Leading goal-scorer Joe Pavelski has missed the last three, making matters worse.

But San Jose still, as DeBoer mentioned, needs to get more key saves from its goaltenders. 

[RELATED: Why Sharks believe five-game skid will strengthen them]

Now, with the Sharks having secured a playoff spot over the past week, the last few games of the season are going to be focused on being ready for the first round. In addition to getting the lineup healthier, the Sharks also have to focus on allowing fewer goals. A better defensive effort will go a long way, but Jones and Dell also have to buckle down and stop the puck more if San Jose is to hang on to home-ice advantage in the first round.

Don’t expect the goaltending conversation to cool off during these last weeks of the regular season. Goaltending is going to be a major focus as the playoffs get closer. If the Sharks want to still be playing hockey in May and June, it simply has to be better than it is right now.

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Sharks not satisfied with single point, believe skid will strengthen them

Well, the Sharks certainly made it interesting. Every time the Ducks scored a goal on Friday evening, the Sharks came back and were able to tie things up. They even got the game-tying goal late in the third period that took their contest into overtime – at least, before they lost 4-3.

Perhaps at a different time of year, getting their first point in five games would feel better. Not on this night. 

The focus remains on the work to be done with just seven games left in the regular season. For Team Teal, they need to clean their game up and get back into the win column.

“It’s better than nothing, but overall, we’re just not finding ways to win games now,” Timo Meier told the media in Anaheim regarding the single point. “We’ve got to find a way to win games. It’s an important time of the year. Playoffs are really close.”

San Jose put a better effort on the ice on Friday than they did the previous evening in LA against the Kings, but the opportunistic Ducks were able to bury more of their chances,

"I don’t think we gave them very much," Peter DeBoer said. "Every chance they got, they stuck in the net, though."

DeBoer was more critical of the team a second night in a row, and rightfully so. Despite outshooting the opposition, the Sharks weren’t able to find the back of the net enough times. They allowed two goals while playing on the penalty kill and tallied 14 giveaways. Plus, outside of Meier’s power-play marker, San Jose still went one-for-five on the man advantage. Despite tying the score up three times, the Sharks couldn’t keep the Ducks from responding.

Clearly, all areas of the game need to be tweaked.

“We’ve got to find a way to get an extra save, and on (the other) end we’ve got to find a way to get another goal,” DeBoer said. “We could’ve used a power-play goal tonight -- another one.”

Perhaps the only silver lining, as Meier put it, is that the Sharks are going through this stretch now instead of once they get into the playoffs. San Jose is still trying to get some of its key players healthy and into the lineup so they can make a deep playoff run with the lines and pairs they want. The goal, at least at the moment, is to make sure this five-game skid is a lesson to learn from and not a prelude to the future.

"Get stronger as a team, get tighter as a group, and learn," Meier said. "It’s going to make us stronger going into the playoffs because there are going to be lots of ups and downs coming up. It’s going to make us stronger and we’ve got to react the right way.”