Sharks

As trade deadline looms, Sharks express confidence in Dell

As trade deadline looms, Sharks express confidence in Dell

SAN JOSE – The NHL trade deadline is less than two weeks away on March 1. It’s highly unlikely that the Sharks, who are coming off of their first-ever Stanley Cup Final appearance and are in first place in the Pacific Division, will make any blockbuster transactions or overhaul the roster.

The likeliest place they would make a move, though, would be at the backup goaltender position. Although Aaron Dell has been outstanding in his first year, with a 6-3-1 record, 2.05 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, there is a thought that the Sharks should find a netminder that has a little more NHL experience in case something happens to Martin Jones. They did it when they brought in James Reimer last season, allowing Jones some valuable time off down the stretch, and it might make sense for them to do it again.

In the dressing room and on the ice, though, the confidence in Dell is high and grows with every outing. Last Saturday in Philadelphia in his most recent game, when Dell stole the Sharks a point in a 2-1 overtime loss, coach Pete DeBoer gave the 27-year-old his most ringing endorsement to date.

“I don’t know what else he could do to show that he’s an NHL caliber goalie so far,” DeBoer said on Feb. 11. “Those are decisions that Doug [Wilson] makes, but in my mind, that’s not an issue right now for us.”

Dell, speaking on Thursday after an optional practice at Sharks Ice, was aware of DeBoer’s comments.

“It’s an honor to get some compliments like that from a guy like him,” Dell said. “He’s right, though, that it’s Doug Wilson’s decision in the end. Me and him have no control over that either way, but it’s nice to get a compliment like that from him.”

So, what does Wilson think? At the beginning of the month, the general manager was asked his opinion on how Dell has handled his first season in the NHL. 

“A big part of it is, do his teammates believe in him and play for him? Yes, they do,” Wilson told CSN on Feb. 2. “Aaron has come in and given us some big wins at key times. We believe in Aaron.”

Is it a risk going into the playoffs with a backup that has hardly any NHL experience, though?

“What you’re referring to is the comfort you have with the unknown. When you have a comfort with somebody that you know well, that the teammates and coaches know, that makes it much more comfortable,” Wilson said. 

“We’ll see what transpires between now and then. As I’ve said, we always explore any ways we can add to this hockey team.”

* * *

The Sharks are fortunate that Jones has remained healthy this season, although some fatigue may be setting in. The starting goalie has seen his save percentage drop from .924 in November, to .916 in December, to .911 in January to just .882 so far in February. He has started 49 of 58 games, and those declining save percentages seem to indicate he’s been playing too much.

If Dell ends up being the permanent backup, there’s a good chance he’ll get more action than he’s seen so far, as the Sharks saw how valuable it was for Jones to rest up before the playoffs last spring when Reimer started eight of the final 19 games.

After the bye week from Feb. 20-24, the Sharks have 22 games over the final 43 days of the season. Asking Jones to play more than 13-15 of those would be a risk.

Dell believes he can handle more responsibility if need be.

“With every game I think I get some more experience, and get a little more comfortable,” he said. “I think if I was playing more regularly that would come a little quicker.”

Justin Braun expressed confidence that Dell could even handle the number one role, too, if it ever came to that.

“He’s an older guy, he’s been around the leagues and he’s probably learned a lot over the years doing that and [knowing] how to win and handle different situations,” Braun said. “It doesn’t seem like he’s one of those guys that’s going to get rattled or flustered or anything. He’s just going to keep going and doing his job, and that’s a nice thing to have back there.”

DeBoer said: “Every time we [put] him in there he’s found a way to have success or help us win or play well. That’s all you can ask. For me, you don’t overthink those things. He’s getting the job done, and deserves to be here.”

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.”