Ottawa Senators

Logan Couture addresses Sharks' lack of scoring through first 12 games

Logan Couture addresses Sharks' lack of scoring through first 12 games

There was speculation ahead of the 2019-20 season that the Sharks weren't going to score as many goals as they did last season. Just 12 games into the season, that problem is a regular theme in many of San Jose's games.

Following a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Sharks are being outscored 43-31 through 12 regular-season games. They're ranked fourth in the league with 3.58 goals-against per game and ranked 24th with 2.58 goals-for.

Even with better goaltending and the defense tightening up their game, the Sharks still aren't making good decisions or executing properly. And according to captain Logan Couture, no player is without blame as the offense struggles to finish plays.

"That's been a story this season, we aren't finishing," Couture told reporters at Canadian Tire Center, putting some of the blame on himself. "I can't be sitting at one goal right now. Tommy (Hertl) is at three, Timo's at two. We've got to score some more goals. We're at 12 games in and I can't be sitting at one goal."

The captain isn't pointing fingers necessarily, although he does make a valid point. He, along with the rest of the Sharks big scorers, are having trouble finding the back of the net with regularity. 

There are, unfortunately, multiple factors at play here. Decision-making is just one of the reasons this problem persists, which has resulted in costly turnovers. The other is difficulty establishing a constant forecheck -- which, as we've seen through San Jose's wins so far this season, makes a huge difference in their scoring. When the team really grinds to win battles and takes the ice away from the opponent, they have a much better chance of keeping the score in their favor.

Another issue, Couture said, is trying to do too much with the puck.

"Maybe when you're tired on a shift, chip it out and take the safe play," Couture suggested. "I think that's what's costing us right now. The safe play is there and we're not making it. We're trying something a little fancier and it's biting us right now."

At 12 games into the season, the Sharks really do need to cut down on making those mistakes on such a regular basis. They've played some strong offensive games, like in their win over the Montreal Canadiens last week. But the trouble with execution around the enemy's net is a problem from their four-loss start to the season that is hanging around in the Sharks' game, especially at five-on-five.

Let's face it. Having better goaltending and a dominant penalty kill doesn't make up for the fact that San Jose needs to score more goals.

The Sharks aren't catching any breaks after that tough Sunday loss to a sub-par team. San Jose closes out its East Coast road trip on Tuesday in Boston against the Bruins, who are currently one of the best teams in the league sitting at 8-1-2. If a team like the Senators can make the Sharks pay for their lack of offensive execution, what's going to happen when they face a team like the Bruins?

Even with problems looming and the tough task ahead, Couture insisted the team's scoring woes aren't from a complete lack of trying.

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"I don't think guys are going out there not trying, I think guys are trying as hard as they can," he said. "Giving it everything they can. It's just mistakes. Mental mistakes. When you get out on a shift -- tired mistakes. I think that's hurting us a little bit right now. But it's definitely not lack of effort."

Now the Sharks need to turn that effort into more goals.

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in San Jose's 5-2 loss to Senators

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in San Jose's 5-2 loss to Senators

BOX SCORE

The last time the Sharks played the Senators at Canadian Tire Center, they had arguably one of their worst outings of the 2018-19 season. On Sunday, almost one year later, they didn’t fare much better.

Team Teal’s woes on even-strength played a big role in their discombobulated effort as they fell 5-2 to the league-worst Sens. 

Here are three takeaways from Sunday's game in Ottawa:

Too much time in the bin

One of the biggest criticisms of the Sharks' game in Toronto on Friday night was that they took too many penalties. San Jose coach Peter DeBoer talked about not "beating ourselves" on a tough roadie, and part of that is taking too many penalties. San Jose then went into Ottawa and was on the back-end of two 5-on-3's before the first two periods expired. 

As DeBoer and multiple players have stated, spending too much time on the kill really saps the energy out of the entire team. Even though San Jose's PK has been dominant, the Sharks clearly aren't doing themselves any favors by making regular trips to the sin bin. 

New lines, same ol' lack of flow

DeBoer rolled out retooled line combinations against the Sens in an effort to get the 5-on-5 play going. Through one game, San Jose's even-strength game didn't look much better. The Sharks should've gained momentum after Kevin Labanc scored their second goal of the evening and made the score 3-2. Instead, they continued having trouble putting any pressure on the opponent and it was Ottawa who scored the next goal before the second intermission.

Whatever combos San Jose decides on, the offense has to battle harder if they're going to turn their fortunes around. Once the Senators scored the first goal, the Sharks had trouble establishing any kind of a forecheck. If San Jose can't get their offense going against a sub-par team like Ottawa, they're not going to have better luck against the best teams in the league. 

Not Dell's best

You can't put all of that loss on Aaron Dell. The team in front of him wasn't very good -- especially when you consider how dominant they were in front of him during his last start against the Habs earlier in the week. However, he still didn't have his best showing against a Senators lineup that is the worst in their division.

[RELATED: Dillon won't be disciplined for Matthews hit]

So far through this rough early stretch of the season, goaltending hasn't been something the Sharks have had to worry about. But Dell will have to rebound from Sunday's game. Yes, DeBoer wants to be able to play Dell more this season. But judging by the fact that the coach put Martin Jones in net for the third period, No. 30's leash must not be very long. He'll have to be better.

NHL rumors: Erik Karlsson hopes Senators, Canadiens will make contract offers

NHL rumors: Erik Karlsson hopes Senators, Canadiens will make contract offers

Days after the Sharks were eliminated by the St. Louis Blues in Game 6 of the Western Conference final, Erik Karlsson tweeted out what many believed was a goodbye message to the team and its fans.

It turns out that might just be the case.

Karlsson was traded to the Sharks last offseason from the Ottawa Senators, but a return to Canada reportedly could be in the cards for the star defenseman. The Ottawa Sun's Don Brennan reported Tuesday, citing "a well-connected source," that Karlsson hopes to receive contract offers from the Senators and the Montreal Canadiens when NHL free agency opens July 1.

While Karlsson has loved his time with the Sharks, Brennan reported that the blueliner is hoping for a return to Canada because his wife, Melinda, is an Ottawa native who is "homesick."

That certainly would be a good reason to head back to the Eastern Conference.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday that Karlsson would give a "long, hard look" to staying with the Sharks, but Brennan reported it is believed the defenseman already has decided that he is leaving San Jose.

Brennan noted that both the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs also would fit the bill, but neither reportedly are on Karlsson's list as of right now.

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Before trading him to the Sharks, the Senators offered Karlsson an eight-year, $80 million deal that he declined. The Senators probably could sign Karlsson for less than that now, given his injury history, but a number of other teams also will be in play for his services.

At any rate, it appears Karlsson's time in San Jose could be over.