Sharks

Why Sharks are confident they can make up for lost offensive firepower

Why Sharks are confident they can make up for lost offensive firepower

SAN JOSE -- There has been a lot of talk outside the Sharks dressing room about whether this season's roster can make up for the offensive firepower the team lost during the offseason.

Sure, some of that talk may be circulating within the dressing room as well. But San Jose knows it has the tools to fill the void -- regardless of what the outside world is saying.

"I think the media's going to talk about those things," defenseman Brenden Dillon said as camp opened up. "And in our room too -- there are lockers that are open. There are positions open. You see different line combinations throughout camp."

In addition to losing regular-season goals leader Joe Pavelski (Dallas) for their upcoming campaign, San Jose will be without depth scorers Joonas Donskoi (Colorado) and Gustav Nyquist (Columbus), as well as defenseman and penalty-kill staple Justin Braun (Philadelphia).

While most NHL teams see some sort of turnover in the offseason -- heck, the Sharks are no strangers to how the business of hockey works -- there has been plenty of speculation ahead of the 2019-20 campaign as to how the Sharks will compete since they didn't add a big-name player to their roster to make up for their losses

But as Dillon explained, he and his teammates have to focus on the guys who are on the roster with them right now --- not who they're missing from last year.

"I think it's about realizing the opportunity for us," he summarized. "Whoever's in this room, whoever's dressed for game nights, that's your teammate. That's who you're going to battle with."

Logan Couture had a similar message on the first day of training camp. As hard as it may seem to fill in for the departed players, that's part of the game. Plus, it gives emerging players like Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, and Kevin Labanc the chance to fill in those roles.

"It's not an easy task, but that's the way it works," the captain said. "Same thing happened when Patty (Marleau) moved on somewhere else. Other guys got opportunities to step up and our scouting staff did a tremendous job bringing in European players as well as Timo and Banker, guys like that they drafted. There's a new wave of younger players we're excited about and hopefully this year they can break through like Timo and Banker and Tommy Hertl did."

The Sharks are, in fact, putting a lot of stock in the crop of youngsters that have come into this year's training camp. General manager Doug Wilson went so far as to say earlier this month the team is "as excited about this group of forwards coming in as we've ever been." 

[RELATED: Why Sharks' alternate captains are just as important as Couture]

After just a couple days of practicing and scrimmaging, those younger players already are starting to show that they are ready to compete for big jobs.

Seeing such positive results at the start of the preseason makes it easier for the Sharks to look forward with the players they currently have in their dressing room. 

"I think it just shows the future is bright for us," Dillon said. "And I think for a lot of -- whether it's analysts or (whoever) -- saying we've got 'too many holes to fill' and missing too many things, camp so far has been really good, and there's a lot of talent."

Why Sharks believe they're turning things around after win over Oilers

Why Sharks believe they're turning things around after win over Oilers

SAN JOSE -- Suffice to say, the Sharks don't look like the same team that started a six-game homestand on Nov. 1 with one of the worst records in the NHL.

With a 6-3 win over the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, the Sharks have won four in a row and appear to be climbing out of the hole they dug themselves in the first month of the season.

Not to jump the gun or anything, The Sharks aren't out of the woods yet. But after the past six games, it looks like they're finally turning the corner and playing the way they expect to.

"Every game, I feel like we're more comfortable," said Tomas Hertl, who scored a goal Tuesday. "Everybody plays better. So now we have to just keep going."

The Sharks spent a good chunk of the first month of the season looking out of sync -- offensively, defensively, you name it. The culprit? Focusing too much on individual play and not working together as a unit.

"We weren't playing our system," Marc-Edouard Vlasic summarized Tuesday. "We were freelancing. We were doing our own thing. And it's funny when you stick to it, to what you do best, the results follow."

Erik Karlsson, Vlasic's defensive partner, agreed.

"We lost ourselves a little bit," said Karlsson, who had three assists Tuesday. "But right now we're working hard for each other and getting ourselves in good spots out there."

Sticking to that system yielded positive production on Tuesday against the Oilers. The Sharks scored six goals, and largely contained Oilers superstars Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid. 

"We had a big task in stopping one of the best lines in hockey and I think we did a good job of that," Karlsson said. "I think everyone contributed offensively and defensively. I think we played the right way for 60 minutes even though they scored three goals. But I think we stuck with it."

"They're at the top of the division and I thought we did a good job of defending McDavid and Draisaitl as a group tonight," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer added. "I thought we had some individuals who did a really good job, but I thought everyone on the ice with those guys was aware."

Of course, getting the jump on the Oilers fewer than five minutes into the game didn't hurt, either. 

"We got the first goal, which took a little bit of the pressure off," DeBoer said. "We got to play out in front most of the night. Those kinds of things make a difference."

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

Now, as Hertl mentioned, the Sharks have to keep going. With an 8-10-1 record, San Jose is still under .500.

That's not good enough for a team accustomed to playing in the postseason. 

"If you're under (.500) you're not in the playoffs," Hertl said. "We're trying the best and over the last four games, we actually look like the Sharks."

If they keep looking like the Sharks that Hertl is talking about, the outlook on the season gets a little brighter.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 6-3 win over Pacific-best Oilers

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE -- If there was a high note for the Sharks to end their six-game homestand on, they hit it against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday.

The Sharks offensively overpowered the Pacific Division-leading Oilers at SAP Center. Logan Couture and Erik Karlsson had multi-point nights and Barclay Goodrow registered a Gordie Howe hat trick as San Jose skated to a 6-3 victory. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' fourth-straight win.

Coming alive 5-on-5

As fans are probably all too aware, the Sharks had a ton of trouble scoring goals at even strength at the start of the homestand. But as they have improved over this six-game span, their 5-on-5 game has come alive. San Jose scored five even-strength goals in the first 40 minutes Tuesday, the team's most impressive 5-on-5 performance of the season. 

To make things better, the Sharks got scoring from their bottom six in Tuesday's game courtesy of third-liner Patrick Marleau's first-period goal. If San Jose can start getting production from the fourth line as well, the Sharks' offense will be in really good shape going forward.


Playing more than 20 minutes

The Sharks went into the first intermission with a 3-0 lead but had a feisty Oilers' team pushing to get on the board. And as the Sharks learned from their back-and-forth 6-5 win over the Minnesota Wild last week, only playing well for the first 20 minutes isn't a good formula for winning games. 

But the Sharks didn't sit back on their heels, instead scoring another goal 1:26 into the second period and then another before the intermission. Even though the Oilers scored three goals in the last two periods, San Jose had enough of a lead to keep the damage minimal.

Not too shabby for a team with one of the league's worst goal differentials at the start of the homestand.

[RELATED: Sharks' Baker shares mental health journey in HEADSTRONG]

The Sharks' best game to date?

Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. The Sharks have certainly played much better over the last four games, but there are still a couple of areas they need to tighten up as they try to climb their way to a .500 record.

Although the Sharks built a big enough cushion, they did let up a bit Tuesday and allow two goals in the third period to let the Oilers make things interesting. As we discussed earlier, that's exactly how the Sharks almost gave up last week's game to the Wild.

While San Jose goaltender Martin Jones did a pretty solid job against Edmonton's offense, the defense in front of him needs to stay tight late into games so they don't end up blowing any late leads.