Dallas Stars

How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip

sharksfaceoffsusatsi.jpg
USATSI

How struggles in faceoff circle plagued Sharks on disastrous road trip

That is not how the Sharks wanted to enter the All-Star break.

Coming off consecutive wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Dallas Stars, San Jose had a chance to reach the unofficial midway point of the regular season riding a massive wave of momentum, perhaps large enough to carry the team back to the postseason. All that sat between the Sharks and that development was a crucial three-game road trip against Western Conference foes.

At the very least, San Jose needed to keep its head above water. Instead, the Sharks drowned in disaster.

Facing the Arizona Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks -- all teams San Jose potentially would have to leapfrog to make the playoffs -- the Sharks reverted back to kind of performances that put them in such a deep hole in the first place.

San Jose was outscored 14-4 and outshot 117-73 over the course of the three games. Those two stats obviously are interconnected, but Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner pointed to another area of failure as a big reason for his team's struggles.

"The big difference this road trip is we've been horrible in the faceoff circle," Boughner said following the 4-1 loss in Vancouver on Saturday night. "You're never starting with the puck. Even in the offensive zone, you're chasing, and you can't chase pucks all night. That limits your possessions and tires you out."

Boughner's correct. The Sharks were thoroughly dominated in the faceoff circle over the course of the road trip, which might have had something to do with them scoring only one goal over its final six periods of play. San Jose won only 45.1 percent of the draws against the Coyotes, 45.6 percent against the Avalanche and only 38.0 percent against the Canucks.

It's only the third time this season the Sharks have won fewer than 49.0 percent of the draws in three straight games, and the most recent instance also coincided with a three-game losing streak. Whether it's shooting, scoring or simply gaining possession of the puck, Boughner is hoping the All-Star break will provide the Sharks with the needed respite to address their shortcomings.

"This is probably a great break for everybody, mentally," Boughner said. "Recharge the batteries and come back and try to forget about this week of hockey and put a good week in as soon as we get back."

[RELATED: Report: Wilson won't disrupt Sharks' core at trade deadline]

The Sharks' final week heading into the All-Star break was an unmitigated disaster. If they're still planning on qualifying for the postseason, they can't have any more like it.

Joe Pavelski reflects on San Jose return, believes Sharks 'did it right'

joepavelskisharksstarsap.jpg
AP

Joe Pavelski reflects on San Jose return, believes Sharks 'did it right'

Tissues were in high demand Saturday night when Joe Pavelski played his first game in San Jose since leaving the Sharks for the Dallas Stars over the summer.

Before the teams dropped the puck, a tribute video was played in SAP Center, and there weren't many dry eyes left when it was over.

Following the video. Sharks fans gave the former captain a lengthy standing ovation, which was a bit awkward for a guy who played 13 seasons in San Jose.

"It was awesome. It was pretty cool," Pavelski told reporters after the Sharks' 2-1 win. "This is a special place to myself, my family. To be out there when the building is full like that, I wanted to get on with the [national] anthem, but they wouldn't let me.

"It was pretty special. I've always had, I believe, a pretty special bond with these fans and those guys over there, and it was just a tremendous night. They did it right. Thanks to everyone involved out there and everyone that showed up tonight. Would have liked to win, for sure, but it was pretty special."

Pavelski shed blood, sweat and tears with a lot of the Sharks players he faced Saturday, which made his time on the ice a bit strange.

"It had a little bit of everything," Pavelski said. "It was weird, it was fun. It was fun just seeing the other guys and taking face-offs against a few guys. There were a few good lines out there."

Pavelski and the Stars arrived in the Bay Area on Friday, giving him time to explore the city he called home for 13 years.

"It was nice having the day off yesterday, you know, to buzz around town and see a few faces and do a few things," Pavelski said. "Not feel like I was rushed and have a few good conversations along the way.

"And today, showing up, it was, coming out of the visiting side, was a little different seeing that jersey. It was weird a few times, when you heard, whether it was 88 [Brent Burns] or Joe Thornton, my mind kinda went back, you're waiting for your name to be called. It was kinda weird how it just came and all the noises, all the sounds, smells, everything brought back good memories."

[RELATED: Pavelski's 1-on-1 with Brodie Brazil]

The Sharks picked Pavelski in the seventh round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and developed him into the face of the franchise. He represented the Sharks in three All-Star Games and wore the "C" on his sweater for four seasons.

Pavelski was told that several of the Sharks' North American scouts were in attendance for his return, and he was asked what that meant to him.

"That's just the bond that I have with them, and vica versa," Pavelski said. "I was always thankful they took a chance on me. I think [Sharks amateur scout] Pat Funk was a big key to that, pushing for me.

"The opportunity I was given, I was able to have success with that first opportunity and going on a little run and getting myself established there, and then every year, trying to build on it and add layers and keep getting better. There's a lot of special people over there."

It was an emotional night for everyone involved, and no one will forget it. As Pavelski said himself, it was done right.

Sharks' Patrick Marleau defies laws of time, has Gordie Howe in sights

marleau1700ap.jpg
AP

Sharks' Patrick Marleau defies laws of time, has Gordie Howe in sights

SAN JOSE -- Early in the second period Saturday night, Sharks defenseman Brent Burns launched a slapshot from the point, just as the penalized Dallas Stars player was coming out of the box.

The powerful shot couldn't be contained by Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin, and the rebound eventually got poked over to his right side where a Sharks player was waiting to stuff it into the night.

Stuff it, he did, as Patrick Marleau scored one of the easier goals he has ever had in his 22-year NHL career. It wasn't a noteworthy goal, aside from the fact that in came in his 1,700th career game and it proved to be the game-winner.

Okay, so maybe it was pretty noteworthy.

Simply by participating in Saturday's game at SAP Center, Marleau became the fifth player in NHL history to appear in 1,700 career games. Of the five players to accomplish the feat, he is the only one to score within the milestone game.

"That's unbelievable," Burns said of Marleau after San Jose's 2-1 win. "To do what he has done, it's incredible. A lot of hard work, luck ... I can't say enough about that guy. Off the ice, on the ice ... what he does, it's incredible."

From his first shift to his last, Marleau was flying around the ice. He admitted afterward that the occasion might have had something to do with it.

"It's one of those milestone games, so you've got a little extra energy, a little extra jump," he explained. "It's nice getting that one on the board tonight and helping the team offensively."

On a night when former captain Joe Pavelski was in the spotlight, Marleau managed to steal some of it from his long-time friend and ex-teammate. His goal put San Jose in front, and the Sharks seemed to build confidence from that point forward. Yes, his offensive contribution was a big help, but he showed he is still capable of contributing an all-around game.

"That's vintage Marleau tonight," Sharks interim head coach Bob Boughner said after the victory. "You see his skating at 40 years old. You can see he has that separation speed. I think that he battled hard on the boards -- he made some great plays on the wall -- scores a goal, so real happy for him. 

"It was a good night. You could tell the building had a lot of energy. It was a great ceremony for [Pavelski], and I thought that Patty got his fair due. So it was a good night all around."

[RELATED: Watch Pavelski get standing ovation before Sharks-Stars]

While Marleau provided the game-winning goal, San Jose netminder Aaron Dell came through with multiple game-saving stops in the final minutes to secure the much-needed win. Even from the opposite side of the ice, he can't help but notice how Marleau continues to defy the laws of time.

"He's still the same player he always was," Dell said. "I don't think he has lost a step at all. It's amazing that he can still play at this age. I remember watching him as a kid and stuff like that, so it's pretty cool to be playing alongside him and [Joe Thornton]. It's quite a feat, really, to be even close to what they are."

Between Marleau and Thornton, they have 44 combined NHL seasons and 3,313 games between them. The 40-year-olds are each one of 14 players in league history to appear in four different decades, and while they no longer are the prolific superstars they were in their primes, you don't have to look further than San Jose's back-to-back wins to observe they still have plenty left in the tank. Just like Marleau's tally against the Stars, Thornton's goal Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets proved to be the game-winner.

"Every day you watch those two guys, you sort of shake your head," Boughner said with a laugh. "It's just how they do it. And it's nice to have them on your side, for sure."

Marleau wasn't on the Sharks' side as recently as the summer, but a combination of circumstances opened the door for his return to the franchise, which has been a feel-good storyline in a season that hasn't had many of them. It is only fitting and proper that he reached the 1,700-game milestone in a San Jose uniform, and he hasn't closed the door and pursuing another one.

After Saturday night, Marleau now trails Gordie Howe by only 67 games for the most all-time in NHL history. He would have to return for a 23rd season in order to eclipse that record, and while Marleau admitted that it's something he has thought about, he isn't looking that far ahead.

"It crosses your mind, but obviously you have to take it one game at a time," Marleau said of chasing Howe. "I hate saying that, but that's the way it is, and that's the way it has always been."

After playing 1,700 games, one could hardly blame Marleau for his one-game-at-a-time approach. But if Saturday night was any indication, he definitely has a shot at standing alone atop that all-time games-played list.