Three takeaways: Sharks' second line drives even strength play

Three takeaways: Sharks' second line drives even strength play

SAN JOSE – It was the perfect way to resume their schedule after the All-Star break, as the Sharks put forth a complete effort in a 3-1 win over Chicago on Tuesday night at SAP Center. Here’s what we’re taking away from the win, which vaulted San Jose back into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

1 – Second line success

Although the Sharks’ only goal before Tomas Hertl’s late score was on the power play, San Jose was the better five-on-five team for most of the night. They finished with a 26-18 edge in even strength shots, and were finally rewarded on the late game-winner.

All four lines were effective, but one in particular stood out to coach Pete DeBoer.

“I liked all four of our lines all game. I thought actually [Mikkel] Boedker, [Patrick] Marleau and [Logan] Couture really were about as dominant as I've seen them as a line,” said the coach.

Marleau said: “Everyone brings something. The speed Boedker has, he's winning battles, and Cooch is a speedy player and a good playmaker. So things are going good. It's something we can build off of."

We’ve mentioned this before, but it took four goals from Marleau in the third period against Colorado on Jan. 23 for DeBoer to reunite him and Couture on a line to start a game the next night in Winnipeg. They’ve been dynamic ever since.

What took so long?

“We were just trying to find some different things,” DeBoer said. “I think having Tommy Hertl out was tough. We were looking for different combinations. I like the look of that line right now."

The Sharks saved their best period for last. Perhaps they knew that Chicago had been struggling late in games lately, having blown third period leads in each of its last two games, but San Jose prevented the Blackhawks from getting any dangerous looks in what was a 1-1 game at the time.

Chicago had just one shot over the final 11 minutes and five seconds – and that one came with just two ticks left on the lock and its fate already decided.

“I thought we were really strong five-on-five, especially in the third period,” Martin Jones said. “Last 10 minutes, I’m not sure they had a scoring chance.”

2 – Hertl getting his legs under him

After missing 32 in a row, Hertl said he was “sad” the team lost last Thursday, when his first game back was also the end of a six-game winning streak.

He feels himself getting stronger now two games into his return.

“I think it’s coming better,” he said. “First period was I think pretty good again, a lot of chances. Second I [had] a couple chances, too. … O-zone can be better, and strong around the net, but the game is coming. Every game [is] better and better. I [felt] pretty good this game.”

DeBoer said: "He gets better every night. We missed him. He was out for a long time. I thought Game 1 he was real good in the first, and then faded a little bit. I thought tonight he carried it for the whole 60 minutes, and I still think he's going to get better."

3 – Up-tempo pace

The fans in attendance got their money’s worth in this one as the pace was noticeably higher than in games before the break, when just about every NHL team was grinding through the NHL’s preposterous condensed schedule.

“It's amazing when you give both teams a couple days off and get them out there fresh in a big-game situation, how good the hockey is,” DeBoer said.

While it’s still up in the air whether the league will be in the Olympics next season, this game should serve as a prime example of why skipping them is a good idea for the league. Just my opinion here, but it’s time for everyone involved with the sport to be little more concerned with the NHL product and less concerned with things like the Olympics, World Cup, and the ludicrous bye week.

After beating Vegas, Sharks can't suffer emotional letdown vs. Avalanche


After beating Vegas, Sharks can't suffer emotional letdown vs. Avalanche

SAN JOSE -- The Sharks and Avalanche enter their second-round series of the NHL playoffs on very different pages. San Jose will be just three days removed from their Game 7 overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, while the Avs haven't played since booting the Calgary Flames from the playoffs on April 19. 

When asked if there was an advantage to not having time to get rusty, Sharks’ coach Peter DeBoer tried to suppress a laugh. 

“If you’re asking me if I’d rather have a week off, I’ll take the week off,” he told NBC Sports California with a smile.

Granted, San Jose is dealing with multiple injuries sustained during their contentious first-round bout with the Golden Knights. But more than anything, DeBoer wants his team to be able to keep their intensity high after a come-from-behind series win over Vegas. Extracurriculars, off-ice chatter, and back-to-back games going extra long can really zap the energy out of a team, and San Jose has to be ready to bounce back from that. 

“I’m more worried about our emotional level than our physical,” DeBoer admitted. “You’re fighting for your life for three games in a row, that taxes you emotionally. So we’ve got to get our emotional levels back up when we come out on the ice on Friday night.”

There is one advantage San Jose has over their next opponent, however: getting to start the series in their own building.

“It’s nice to not be traveling today to Colorado,” DeBoer said. “It’s nice, especially after a seven-game series, to not have to travel.”

Defenseman Brenden Dillon agreed. “I think any time you get to play at home and you don’t have to travel three or four hours, different time zones, it’s going to play to our advantage. Especially after a big series like that, a physical series where guys are banged up. Any time you’re able to sleep in your own bed I think is a positive.”

Dillon and the rest of the Sharks’ defensemen have a tall task ahead of them in shutting down Colorado’s speedy offense, which did quite a bit of damage against the Flames in their first-round series. Top-line center Nathan MacKinnon and second-line winger Mikko Rantanen led the charge with a combined 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) against Calgary, while Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar finished his first NHL playoff series with two points (one goal, one assist) and a plus-four. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Pavelski unlikely to play in Game 1 vs. Avs]

Much like shutting down Vegas’ Mark Stone line, San Jose will have to solve the MacKinnon combo if they’re going to be successful. 

“We’ve got to be aware of them,” DeBoer said, explaining that facing the Avs' offense in the playoffs will be different than facing them during the regular season. “The regular season you throw out the window this time of year. We watched them against Calgary and what they did to them against a really good d-corps. We know what we’re dealing with and that’s going to be the challenge of the series.”

Sharks' Joe Pavelski day-to-day but unlikely to play in Game 1 vs. Avalanche

Sharks' Joe Pavelski day-to-day but unlikely to play in Game 1 vs. Avalanche

SAN JOSE – Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer is classifying Joe Pavelski as day-to-day after the captain sustained a scary injury during San Jose's Game 7 win against the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday.

Pavelski left Game 7 at the 9:13 mark of the third period after getting cross-checked off a faceoff by Cody Eakin and falling to the ice and hitting his head. No. 8 was bleeding profusely and had to be helped off the ice by a few of his teammates with a towel being held to his head. DeBoer wouldn’t specify exactly what Pavelski’s ailment was, but said the top-line forward was “feeling the effects” of the injury and likely won’t be in the lineup for Game 1 of the Sharks' second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche.

“It could’ve been worse, you could’ve been dealing with a fractured skull,” DeBoer told the media after Thursday’s morning skate. “Thankfully, we weren’t.”

Pavelski did not take the ice for practice Thursday, although the press was told he was in the building.

Teammates Melker Karlsson and Tim Heed were also missing from practice Thursday morning. Joonas Donskoi, who missed Game 7 against the Knights with an unspecified injury, skated in a non-contact orange sweater early Thursday morning but left the ice before practice got underway. Micheal Haley returned to practice for the first time since sustaining an injury during Game 3 against the Knights.

When questioned about the status of players missing from practice, DeBoer chalked it up to the team being banged-up just like every other team still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.

“Like anybody this time of year, we have a lot of game-time decisions,” DeBoer said.

[RELATED: NHL apologizes to Vegas for mistake on major penalty call]

The Sharks will open up their second-round series against the Avalanche at SAP Center on Friday.