SAN JOSE – It wasn’t a pretty sight, but the Sharks managed to scratch past the Canucks on Tuesday to sweep their home-and-home with miserable Vancouver. A few things went right, such as some of the depth guys coming through on the scoresheet, but there were also far too many passengers - young and veteran alike - in a game that the Sharks were without their top two centers. Let’s take a closer look…
1 – Penalty kill effective, but just one power play
The Sharks’ penalty kill was better than it had been in recent weeks, holding the Canucks to no goals and seven shots in three full two-minute advantages. Entering the game, the PK was just 8-for-13 over the last five games (61.5 percent), and 16-for-23 in the last 10 games (69.6 percent).
Chris Tierney said: “I thought the guys did a really good job. [Martin Jones] made some key saves.”
As Joe Pavelski mentioned after the game, Vancouver potentially taking advantage of its power plays, “was an area that’s probably the only way that team is getting back at that moment.”
The Sharks' power play will be a work in progress without Joe Thornton and Logan Couture. They had just one advantage and didn’t register a single shot while deploying two new units.
“Like to get a few more reps,” Pavelski said. “In a game like last one and this one, [in the] playoffs, not a whole lot is called. … You might only get one, so you’ve got to be ready for it.”
The captain expressed concern that the team hasn’t been drawing many penalties lately. The Sharks have had two or fewer power play attempts in four of their last five games, and just 10 total over that span.
“We’ve got to create a little bit more,” he said. “Put refs in situations where they’ve got to think about calling penalties on us. I think that’s one area we can improve on.”
2 – Jones returning to form
If the Sharks do end up beginning the playoffs without Thornton and Couture, they’re going to need Jones to steal at least one or two games if they hope to advance. Perhaps the biggest positive from Tuesday’s game was that he looks like he’s greatly improving after a concerning stretch.
The 27-year-old said he just had to make some “minor, minor small adjustments,” without going into too much detail.
DeBoer was blunt in his criticism of Jones after the 5-2 loss in Calgary on Friday in which the coach said a couple of the Flames’ goals “probably shouldn’t have gone in.”
What does he think of Jones lately?
“He’s been fantastic the last two games,” DeBoer said. “Get him in a rhythm, that’s the most important thing for us [along with getting] healthy going into the playoffs here.”
3 – Playoff meeting with Edmonton even more likely
The Sharks’ win, combined with an Oilers loss and the Ducks’ victory over Calgary, means that a San Jose-Edmonton first round matchup just became much more likely. San Jose can’t be caught by Calgary, while with the Sharks and Oilers each trail first place Anaheim by four points.
Thursday’s game with the Oilers could end up determining which of the teams has home ice in the first round. If the Sharks win Thursday and beat Calgary on Saturday, Game 1 will be at SAP Center.
“Win the next two and kind of get rolling going into the playoffs,” Joel Ward said.
Of course, the Sharks are going to have to be a whole lot better against the Oilers on Thursday. Frankly, if they repeat the kind of performance they had against Vancouver, they’ll probably get smoked. That means more effort from more places, including the younger depth guys and players like Patrick Marleau and Brent Burns, who weren't very good Tuesday.
Asked about that upcoming Edmonton game, Pavelski said: “I’m not overly worried about it right now. “I’ve seen some of these guys and how they can play. If you look back to last year’s team, we had guys playing at the top of their game. It wasn’t one, two, three guys. It was everybody.
“Right now, we’re kind of that edge where we’ve got guys on top of their games one night and then off. We need to elevate our game as a group, and we’ll be alright.”