Three takeaways: Sharks thoroughly outplayed by elite Wild

Three takeaways: Sharks thoroughly outplayed by elite Wild

Facing a team above them in the standings for the first time in more than a month, the Sharks were outclassed by the best team in the Western Conference, dropping a 3-1 decision in Minnesota. Here’s what we’re taking away from the game…

1 – Sharks have some work to do

Sure, the Minnesota Wild is a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, with a balanced offensive attack, stingy defense and strong special teams. But in a game that was supposed to be a meeting between two of the top teams in the Western Conference, it was surprisingly one-sided in Minnesota’s favor.

The Sharks were fortunate they weren’t down by multiple scores after 40 minutes, as the Wild generated the better of the scoring chances from the opening drop of the puck. Then in the third, when San Jose should have been pressing for the equalizer, it took until two minutes left in regulation before it had an actual chance to tie it courtesy of Chris Tierney.

That the Sharks were still in the game at that point was a minor miracle.

“We knew it would be a tough game in here,” Pete DeBoer told reporters. “They came as advertised. They were very good. We were not as good as them. It was the proper result.”

In fairness to the Sharks, the Wild was very pleased with its effort as Minnesota coach Bruce Boudreau called it maybe their best defensive game all season, particularly in the third period, according to the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo.

Still, if the Sharks are going to get to where they want to go, they’ll have to figure out a way to be better than they were against a (fellow?) elite team. Fortunately, we’ll get to see another one shortly, when the league-leading Washington Capitals visit SAP Center on Thursday. If the Sharks – who will likely dress a better lineup – drop that one decisively, it might be time to worry. If they respond with a better effort, perhaps Sunday’s loss to the Wild was just a blip on the radar.

2 – Power play changes remain overdue

It’s time to wonder just what has to happen for the Sharks’ coaching staff to make modifications to the power play units, particularly the top unit. The Sharks have just two power play goals over their last eight games (2-for-20), and since Nov. 1, they are 26-for-166 for a miserable 15.6 percent success rate. 

They’re standing still, they’re not getting second chance opportunities, passes are off the mark, and they aren’t winning battles. In a game that was there for the taking on Sunday despite the ice being tilted the wrong way, a power play goal could have helped them to steal at least one point.

“We had our power plays, we didn’t get a lot done on them,” Joe Pavelski told reporters.

DeBoer said: “That’s the kind of night where you’ve got to win the special teams battle, and we didn’t.”

The Sharks will get one of their final two-day breaks between Monday’s game in Winnipeg and Thursday’s at home against Washington. If the power play has another fruitless performance against the Jets, Wednesday’s practice should be all about the man advantage. It’s simply not championship caliber right now, and it hasn’t been since October.

3 – Jones responding to rest

It appears that no Sharks player has benefited more from the bye week than Martin Jones, who was spectacular in a losing performance with 25 saves. He made a number of stops in the early going, before Brent Burns left Zach Parise wide open in front of the net for a power play score. He got a little lucky with that strange neck-hole save on Chris Stewart, but also stopped three breakaway attempts throughout the course of the game.

“He was great,” Pavelski said of his goalie. “He made some huge saves, and it wasn’t our best game.”

The goalie called it a “good, hard, playoff-style game tonight.”

Jones, if you recall, saw his save percentage decline month-to-month from November to before the bye week in late February when he was overworked. In three starts since the break, though, he’s stopped 80 of 84 shots (.952 save percentage).


Sharks coach Peter DeBoer gives no update on players injured in Game 5


Sharks coach Peter DeBoer gives no update on players injured in Game 5

SAN JOSE -- Questions surrounding the health of the Sharks lineup continued on Monday as the status of three of the four players sidelined in Game 5 remains unknown.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer offered no update on Joe Pavelski, Tomas Hertl, or Erik Karlsson the day after all three missed significant time in San Jose's 5-0 loss to the St. Louis Blues. DeBoer also didn't elaborate on whether the three players would travel with the team to St. Louis to play in Game 6 of the Western Conference Final. Joonas Donskoi, who was also injured on Sunday but returned to the game in the final minutes, is expected to travel.

Neither Hertl nor Karlsson even took the bench with the rest of their teammates for the third period of Sunday's game, while Pavelski exited the contest in that third frame after being hit high by Alex Pietrangelo.

The nature of Hertl's injury is unknown, although there is speculation he may have been feeling the effects of a high hit he took from Ivan Barbashev in the first period of Sunday's game. Karlsson's status to even play in Game 5 was up in the air after he appeared to aggravate an old injury in Game 4.

The Sharks became especially emotional and took some big penalties in the third period of Game 5 after Pietrangelo's hit on Pavelski, given San Jose's captain missed six games after suffering a concussion in Game 7 against the Vegas Golden Knights.

"When Pav got hit high, we lost our composure there in the third," DeBoer said after the game. "Not our finest moment, but I understand where that emotion is coming from, with what he's been through."

[RELATED: Pavelski, Karlsson leave Game 5 with injuries]

While the health of San Jose's lineup is a concern, DeBoer told the media on Monday morning he isn't worried about penciling other players in. 

"We've dealt with this before and guys have stepped in and got the job done," he told the press. "People can write us off but I know in our room we know we've got guys that can get in there and get this done."


Five observations after Sharks get blown out in Game 5 vs. Blues


Five observations after Sharks get blown out in Game 5 vs. Blues

If the Sharks are to face Boston and play for the Stanley Cup, it will necessitate a third consecutive series featuring a Game 7.  On Sunday, San Jose had the bold opportunity to seize a three-games-to-two series lead against St. Louis but fell completely flat after the first 20 minutes.

Now they face elimination, needing two wins to escape and advance. Here are the big takeaways from the Western Conference final Game 5 loss. 

Injury concerns

More concerning than the 5-0 loss is the four players San Jose lost to injury during the contest. Erik Karlsson skated only three minutes of the second period and never returned. A best logical guess is that his previous leg-related ailments have returned or worsened. Tomas Hertl absorbed an Ivan Barbashev head hit in the first period, and while he played during the second period there was no return for the third. 

Joe Pavelski was unnecessarily pinned and elbowed into the boards by Alex Pietrangelo early in the third, and immediately left the contest. Lastly, Joonas Donskoi was accidentally struck in the face by a puck that Justin Braun was trying to clear from the defensive zone in the third.  The bloodied forward made a quick exit to the dressing room. 

Facing elimination

The challenge for San Jose to adapt and be better in Game 6 while facing elimination on the road would have been enough on their plate. However, if they are forced to do without one, or two, or more of those previous four mentioned players — the task goes from difficult to dire.  

Offensive struggles

It’s been a slogan all season that the Sharks would go so far as the defense could take them. However, the offense has hit an uncharacteristic low at the most unfortunate time. San Jose has just one goal in their last six periods.

Their first 20 minutes on Sunday saw eleven shots on goal. But then, things dwindled to just six and four in the respective final two periods. Anyone looking at the final score might be concerned with the “five” allowed from Game 5, but if you’re following trends, San Jose’s “zero” is the bigger story.

Odd stats

San Jose and St. Louis have many things in common, including getting things done the hardest of possible ways.  The Blues own a 7-2 playoff record outside of Missouri, meaning they’re an unexplainable 4-5 on home ice. As for San Jose, they’ve got an 0-6 record when leading a series, but a 10-3 record when tied or trailing in these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

[RELATED: Health a huge concern to key Sharks after Game 5 loss]

Nothing easy

It’s amazing how the Sharks have never had the opportunity for a single comfortable breath in these playoffs.  The last two losses are their first in sequence since April 14 and 16 while facing Las Vegas.  This means they went more than a month without losing back-to-back games -- but now., they face elimination.

No matter how and when these playoffs conclude for San Jose, the overwhelming theme is already starting to write itself: Every step has been a grind.