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.

Sharks rival Drew Doughty doesn't think Brent Burns deserves Norris Trophy


Sharks rival Drew Doughty doesn't think Brent Burns deserves Norris Trophy

We're down to two weeks remaining in the NHL season, and there's still plenty left to be determined.

Only five of what will be a grand total of 16 playoff spots have been clinched, and the races for many of the other 11 are likely to come down to the final days of the season. The same can be said for certain individual award races.

The former of those types of races doesn't really apply to the Sharks. They've already clinched a playoff spot and barring something crazy, they likely will face the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round.

As for the award races, there's still plenty at stake and how certain players finish their respective individual seasons could prove to be the deciding factor in who goes home with the hardware and who will have to wait at least another year.

Both San Jose's Brent Burns and Calgary's Mark Giordano have been jostling back and forth for pole position in the race for the Norris Trophy -- given to the league's top defenseman -- practically all year long. And it appears they'll finish it that way, as well.

One former Norris Trophy winner -- Los Angeles' Drew Doughty -- was asked his thoughts on the current race ahead of the Kings' game in Calgary on Monday, and let's just say he didn't mince words when it came to evaluating Burns' candidacy.

Burns currently leads the Sharks and all NHL defensemen with 77 points -- one more than he had in 2016-17 when he won his first Norris. Giordano, meanwhile, ranks second among all NHL defensemen with 72 points. Burns has played in two more games than Giordano so far this season, but his 1.03 points per game still rank slightly ahead of Giordano's 0.99.

Giordano's Flames are the odds-on favorite to finish with the most points of any Western Conference team, though, and that could certainly work in his favor in such a close race.

[RELATED: Sharks need better goaltending with playoffs around corner]

Meanwhile, Doughty's Kings are currently dead last in the Western Conference, 10 points behind the next-closest team. Any realistic shot at the playoffs went out the window a long time ago, and Doughty himself is on pace for his fewest points in a season in which he played more than 48 games.

Doughty has a Norris and a couple of Stanley Cups to his resume, so his comments can't be completely disregarded. But that sure sounds like sour grapes from a frustrated veteran towards a longtime division rival, which -- given the history between the Sharks and Kings -- shouldn't really come as a surprise.

Sharks vs. Red Wings watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs


Sharks vs. Red Wings watch guide: Projected lines and defensive pairs

SAN JOSE -- The San Jose Sharks are looking to snap their longest losing streak this season. They’ll have the opportunity to get back in the win column on Monday evening when they host Gustav Nyquist’s former team, the Detroit Red Wings.

Team Teal returns home after tallying just one point on their two-game trip down in Southern California with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks. San Jose currently sits with 95 points in the standings -- five points ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights and six points behind the Calgary Flames.

The Red Wings are the second-worst ranked team in the Eastern Conference, but visit San Jose coming off a 3-2 come-from-behind overtime victory over the Golden Knights. “They always give us a hard time,” Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said of the Detroit squad. “Their speed. They’re young, they’re enthusiastic. They’re playing, really, with no pressure on them. Those are dangerous teams.”

The Sharks will continue to play with captain Joe Pavelski, who is continuing to recover from a lower-body injury. DeBoer told the media Pavelski was “heading in the right direction,” though. “If it was playoffs, he’d probably be able to play. But there’s no sense rushing that right now.”

Detroit will play without Thomas Vanek, who has been sidelined with a mid-body injury, per Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press. The Red Wings will roll out 11 forwards and seven defensemen against the Sharks.

This is the second and final time the Sharks and Red Wings will play each other this season. Through 93 total games played between the franchises, San Jose holds a 34-49-4-6 record.

Sharks projected lines and pairs:

Timo Meier – Logan Couture – Gustav Nyquist
Evander Kane – Tomas Hertl – Joonas Donskoi
Marcus Sorensen – Joe Thornton – Kevin Labanc
Lukas Radil – Barclay Goodrow – Melker Karlsson

Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Tim Heed
Joakim Ryan – Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon – Justin Braun

Martin Jones – projected starter
Aaron Dell

[RELATED: Sharks need better goaltending with playoffs around corner]

Red Wings projected lines and pairs:

Tyler Bertuzzi – Dylan Larkin – Anthony Mantha
Luke Glendening – Andreas Athanasiou – Taro Hirose
Frans Nielsen – Darren Helm
Ryan Kuffner – Christoffer Ehn – Matt Puempel

Dan DeKeyser – Filip Hronek
Niklas Kronwall – Madison Bowey
Brian Lashoff – Luke Witkowski
Dylan McIlrath

Jonathan Bernier – projected starter
Jimmy Howard