Dylan Gambrell

What Sharks still can accomplish as unfortunate season comes to close

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USATSI

What Sharks still can accomplish as unfortunate season comes to close

The Sharks have just 18 games left in a season where the Stanley Cup playoffs still are mathematically possible -- but not realistic.
 
It’s been an uncharacteristic journey by franchise standards, one that now demands a pressing question: What can the Sharks accomplish during the rest of the season?

Healthy finish for Couture

In his second game back from injury, Logan Couture netted the game-winning goal Thursday against the New Jersey Devils. He did this despite not having officially practiced with the Sharks since Jan. 7th when he broke a bone in his foot. The captain's quick return should not diminish the fact that his season had to be completely paused and re-started from scratch.

With Tomas Hertl and Erik Karlsson shelved for the rest of the season, it remains important for Couture to finish the current schedule healthy and get his timing back without any limitations entering the summer and next season.

Get Jones' groove back

We could be witnessing the start of a strong finish for Martin Jones, who only has allowed seven goals in his last four starts. Two of those still resulted in losses, but that shouldn't discount his encouraging play.

This is not to suggest his struggles this season will be entirely erased, but sustained success through March would be a positive for Jones and the Sharks.

Jones and Aaron Dell are expected to continue alternating starts for the rest of the way, which would give Jones ample opportunity to continue distancing himself from the glooms of October and December. Before the current stretch, Jones only started three of the Sharks’ first 16 games in 2020.

Can young players emerge?

A theme entering this season was the expectation that the next wave of young players would make their mark at the NHL level.

Outside of Mario Ferraro -- and Dylan Gambrell to a degree -- it didn’t really pan out that way. The Sharks' desire to construct a turnaround by January only exacerbated the situation.

But now that the trade deadline has passed, even more nightly spots in the lineup have opened up. You can expect to see players like Alexander True, Jacob Middleton, and Noah Gregor get the full benefit of regular opportunity from here on out.

At the worst, it’s a great experience that they’re ready for. But the best-case scenario would be to have some built-in optimism and confidence surrounding one or some of the young commodities entering next season.

Avoid struggle stretches

I'm stating the obvious, but sustained losing streaks near the end of any season don’t usually bring any positive vibes or moral victories. This hockey season has been a complete struggle in San Jose, but avoiding a salty ending only can benefit the group that will carry over into next season. Losses are unavoidable, but staying away from long skids will be critical.

[RELATED: Why Couture has 'Girls Just Want To Have Fun' as his song]

Spoiler

While there aren’t going to be extra hockey games in San Jose this spring, it almost is guaranteed there will be a few occasions in the final weeks where the Sharks can help derail an opponent’s postseason plans.

Nothing truly can replicate Stanley Cup playoff games, but putting this group through some simulated high-stakes situations is the next best thing.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 4-1 road loss vs. Islanders

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USATSI

Sharks takeaways: What we learned from 4-1 road loss vs. Islanders

BOX SCORE

A Sunday afternoon spent in New York is pleasant for most people.

The Sharks had a different experience Sunday, as they fell 4-1 to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum in their fourth straight loss.

San Jose fell behind early but tied the game at one heading into the first intermission. But the Islanders scored quickly in the second period, and the Sharks never were able to recover.

Here are three takeaways as the Sharks' East Coast road trip dredges on.

Stay hot

After being silent in road losses to the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers, Dylan Gambrell bounced back with a first-period goal Sunday afternoon.

With the Sharks trailing 1-0, Radim Simek got the puck near the blue line and wristed a laser at Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov. Gambrell re-directed the puck to tie the game.

The tally was Gambrell's third goal in the last five games. He had scored just two goals in his first 37 games. Four of his five goals have come on the road.

Not Jones' day

With Aaron Dell having cooled off of late, some wondered if it was time for Bob Boughner to go back to Martin Jones. 

But Jones' dreadful season continued Sunday on Long Island. After a turnover in the neutral zone, Mario Ferraro got caught chasing, giving the Isles a 2-on-1 rush.

Anders Lee received the puck from Matthew Barzal and stuffed it short side past Jones. 

With the game tied, Lee got his second marker of the game by ripping a blast past Jones on the short side. It's a save you'd like your goalie to make.

The Islanders' third goal came when Devon Toews put it top shelf.

All in all, it was a very bad day for Jones who gave up three goals on 25 shots.

[RELATED: Everything Sharks fans need to know before deadline]

So long?

With the NHL trade deadline happening Monday, many are left to wonder if this will be the final game for either Joe Thornton or Patrick Marleau in a Sharks sweater.

The Sharks already dealt Brenden Dillon to the Washington Capitals and have seen their Stanley Cup playoff hopes evaporate.

Thornton has said he wouldn't mind going to a contender. After 15 years in San Jose, the Sharks should give Jumbo the chance to win a Cup should one arise.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 matinee loss to Panthers

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in 5-3 matinee loss to Panthers

The Sharks couldn't bring their winning ways back from the road to San Jose, losing 5-3 to the Florida Panthers in a Presidents' Day matinee. 

Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was on the case, stopping 29 of 32 Sharks shots. San Jose cut Florida's lead to a goal two different times in the third period, but the Ice Cats pulled away and doubled their lead in both instances. 

Here are three takeaways from the Sharks' loss in their final home game before the trade deadline. 

Too little, too late

The Sharks entered the third period trailing by a goal. They allowed a Panthers goal before getting a single shot on net in the final frame, and Bobrovsky didn't have to make his first save until there was 6:37 remaining in regulation and Florida had a two-goal lead. 

Kevin Labanc -- on the power play -- and Timo Meier -- with goaltender Aaron Dell pulled -- got the Sharks within one, but San Jose never generated much of a third-period push at full strength. Florida ultimately held a 10-5 advantage in 5-on-5 shots and a 6-4 edge in 5-on-5 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. 

The Sharks applied pressure after Meier's goal, but the push needed to come much sooner. The Panthers instead set the tone from the start of the third period onward, and Florida took two points as a result. 

True chemistry

Dylan Gambrell and Alexander True appear to be developing some solid chemistry. The pair were on the ice for a 5-on-5 Sharks goal for the third straight game, when True's forechecking allowed linemate Antti Suomela to set up Gambrell's second goal in as many games. 

Suomela left in the second period with an injury and didn't return, but Gambrell and True were strong together. The duo posted a 60 percent corsi-for percentage in 5:34 of 5-on-5 time, according to Natural Stat Trick, out-chancing the Panthers 4-2 during that time. 

True has played in just six NHL games, but he and Gambrell have brought the best out of one another in their short time together. It's worth keeping the pair together in the bottom-six once Evander Kane returns from his suspension. 

[RELATED: Sharks' Couture will have test to determine practice return]

End of an era? 

Monday was the Sharks' last home game before the trade deadline, and they could look much different when they next play in San Jose on Feb. 27. Pending free agents Brenden Dillon and Melker Karlsson could get shipped to Stanley Cup contenders in need of depth, but the real question is whether or not the Sharks will trade franchise legends Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. 

Both are 40 and nearing the end of their careers. Could the Sharks give them the Ray Bourque treatment, and trade them to a team with Cup aspirations? The Sharks want to be back in the mix in 2021, but this spring might represent the last real chance for the No. 1 and No. 2 selections in the 1997 NHL Draft to lift the Stanley Cup for the first time in their careers. 

Thornton, for his part, told reporters Sunday that he didn't think Monday would be his last game as a Shark at SAP Center. The call should be Thornton and Marleau's alone, given all they've done for the franchise, and we'll know a week from Monday if they'll finish out the season -- and potentially their careers -- in San Jose.