Sharks Bested By Bruins in Boston

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

BOSTON– Tuesday, the San Jose Sharks fell to the Boston Bruins 5-3 at TD Garden. In many ways, the game was uncharacteristic for both teams. While it was a predictably close game, the score did not reflect a game between two defensively exceptional teams. After the game, Joe Thornton said:

The game went back and forth, back and forth. We thought we had it, we had a good chance on the four minute power play. In the end we just didn’t bury it. Tough game to lose.

The shot count was a little high on both sides (34-33), and five goals were scored in the first two periods. It is the third time Tuukka Rask has bested the Sharks, and the Bruins have yet to lose to San Jose with Rask in net.
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Sharks: So Far, So Good

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

Joe Thornton scored his 1,200th point into an empty net against the New Jersey Devils Saturday. It was a hope killer for the Devils, putting the game just out of reach with just over a minute remaining. The win improved the Sharks’ record against teams on opening night 2014-15, to 2-1.  They don’t have any more opening nights to spoil this season, and they saved their own with a win. All in all, the young season is going pretty well for the Sharks, with just one loss in five games. (more…)

Sharks Shut Out Jets in Home Opener

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

SAN JOSE- One shut out is not like another. Where the Sharks played a fairly solid game on Wednesday, their shut out of the Winnipeg Jets Saturday was not so shiny. Al Stalock showed that he absolutely deserves to be in contention as the starter, but the rest of the team went off the rails after the first 20-30 minutes of the game. The final score was 3-0, but the Sharks’ power play went 0-8. (more…)

Sharks Sound Ready For Season To Start

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

“Meeting at 12:30.”

It was a small thing, a nothing really, another day at Sharks training camp. It was just a reminder repeated by several players to other players, responded to with a nod or some affirmative phrase.

As players came off the ice, sat down, went away again, they were tagged with this message: “meeting at 12:30.” It was a perfectly normal thing, open, direct, unguarded. It did not sound urgent, just matter of fact. Everyone wanted to make sure everyone would be at the meeting.

Maybe I have never paid close enough attention, but it sounded new to me. Not the words, just the way they sounded, spoken by so many players. I probably only heard it four or five times, but that sounded like a lot. It sounded like many people talking, taking an interest, taking responsibility for each other.

Later that same morning, head coach Todd McLellan was asked if he has sensed any change in the room from seasons past. He answered:

I think they’ve got together and talked about a lot of things, which is a real positive, especially for the group as a whole. That can only help but move them forward.

Was this camp any different from prior camps? Was there any peculiar tension, with the reassignment of the captaincy? Was this camp different in any way?

No one would say it was really different, or any more different than any camp has been.  There is always something buzzing around, trying to distract from the work people are doing.

If it isn’t the captaincy or trades or lack thereof, it might be something truly disruptive. The KHL has a team in the Ukraine. Their arena was damaged last season, all their playoff games were played on the road. As distractions go, that is probably pretty trivial in cases of armed conflict. That did not happen during training camp, I believe it was late in the season. I only mention it to put things in perspective.

The 2014 preseason is over. The Sharks played as long as they could, finishing in overtime in their last game. Their preseason results were not spectacular, but they seem to have found what they need to start the season.

With Tyler Kennedy and Raffi Torres unavailable due to injury, the team will need to rely on some of these new faces. It looks like those faces will belong to one or more of Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney, and Eriah Hayes.

On defense, there is no specific gap per se, but the team can use a boost there, someone more than an eighth defenseman. Can Mirco Mueller do it? Did Saturday’s game in Anaheim expose some holes in his game? Should the Sharks go back to someone with a little more mileage?

The preseason is such a deceptive spectacle. Half the players are auditioning, half are rehearsing for opening night. The only thing to take away from the games is who got to play and who did not. Mueller and Goodrow and Tierney got to play a lot.

Which means either they are staying or the coaches just wanted a better look at them. We will know which in the next couple of days.

In other Northern California hockey news, the Stockton Thunder are up for sale. Apparently there is no mad rush to get the deal done. According to the Sharks’ Chief Operating Officer John Tortora, the Sharks are paying attention to that:

We’re paying attention to what goes on from a hockey standpoint. It’s no secret that the NHL clubs who are based on the West Coast, particularly the three California clubs, are looking to move our minor league Eastern-based teams to the West Coast. We’re working with the AHL to figure that out. Nothing’s been set in stone yet.

One of the things NHL teams have to figure out is where to put the AHL teams. Many locations are being considered by the Sharks.

Sharks Win Preseason Game in Arizona

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

Friday night, the San Jose Sharks won a contentious preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes. Prospects Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney, Eriah Hayes and Mirco Mueller all played well, suggesting that any of them could end up starting the season in San Jose.

Goals from Matt Nieto, Tye McGinn and Tommy Wingels gave the Sharks their third win of the preseason. Alex Stalock was in goal and made 23 saves on 24 shots. Rob Klinkhammer scored for the Coyotes, and Mike Smith made 31 saves on 33 shots faced. (more…)

Sharks Defeat Ducks 3-1 in 4th Preseason Game

(Originally published at Sports Radio Service)

SAN JOSE– Saturday, the San Jose Sharks defeated the Anaheim Ducks 3-1 in their fourth preseason outing. The game featured a preposterous number of penalties from the Ducks and yet another good showing from the line of Barclay Goodrow, Chris Tierney an Nikolay Goldobin. They earned all three stars. Two of the goals were Goodrow’s.  Goldobin picked up assists on both of those, and Tierney had an assist on one. The third Sharks goal was Logan Couture’s, while the lone Ducks goal was scored by Matt Beleskey. (more…)

Win, Lose or Draw, Sharks Shoot First

SAN JOSE- Friday’s game was the third of three preseason games that featured a gross shot advantage for the Sharks. It seems that no matter who is playing or how you line them up, Sharks will outshoot the other team. That does not mean they will win, but it certainly gives them a fighting chance. Friday the Sharks lost 2-1 to the Arizona Coyotes in a game that went to a shootout.

What goes in to these shot advantages? Defenseman Taylor Fedun, in his first season as a Shark, has had some time to learn something about the team’s playing style:

I think we have a pretty good shoot first mentality and it’s been working for us where we get pucks on net and then we’re able to retrieve them and it kinda gets defensive teams on their heels a little bit. It’s one of the ways to keep the game simple in the preseason here, where you’re not as sharp on the system as you will be a little bit later on in the season. So it keeps things simple, just throwing pucks on net and trying to outwork teams.

This is something the Sharks consistently do,  well into the season. It has been their style for a while now, it will probably continue to be what they do. How do they do it, even with players new to the team or even the league?

It’s something that’s touched on by the coaching staff that we want to get the puck on net as often as we can, try and generate second and third opportunities in doing so.

No surprise there. It is an old idea: you have to shoot to score. So the real question is why doesn’t everyone do this? Or, do the Sharks just do it better than most?

Shooting a lot is not new for the Sharks, and neither is talking about simplifying their game. It is a style that suits the Sharks’ new and young recruits. Of Fedun and Mirco Mueller, Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said:

I thought he and Mirco both did some really good things on the rink, heightened our awareness, both of them and improved their status amongst the club. We’ll have some decisions to make. We often think about just keeping one, but maybe two of them, or three of them could push the veterans out. When I look at the game in Vancouver, we had a couple of players who were sub-par and if we have to make those changes we will, if the young D continue to play the way they do.

We should know after Saturday’s game how many will stay in San Jose to push the veterans.

Friday’s game was well attended, particularly for a preseason game.

The Sharks’ Tye McGinn started with an early penalty, which lead to the Coyotes’ first goal on their only shot for the first 13 or so minutes. That goal was Justin Hodgman’s, with assists to Max Domi and Michael Stone. McGinn tried to make up for it a few minutes later with a beautiful breakaway up the middle of the ice but his shot went awry. His game on Friday was a portrait of energy and hard work with communication gaps. The same could be said of the rest of the team, not surprising for a preseason game. It was the second game for most of the players, but they were not playing with the same group as they played with on Tuesday.

For Antti Niemi, it was the first game of the preseason. That, combined with the sad shortage of shots coming at him, did not show him at his best. He gave up a goal on the first Coyotes shot, but he did stop the rest until the shootout.

Arizona’s one goal lead persisted through the middle of the second period. The Coyotes steadily gained on the Sharks’ shot lead.By the seven minute mark, Antti Niemi had made a seven saves. At the other end, Devan Dubnyk made nine in the first period, and another 13 in the second.

The one he did not make was a power play goal from Joe Pavelski at 7:15 of the second period. The assist went to Brent Burns. Pavelski’s shot came from the blue line and blew right by Arizona’s new backup goaltender.

By the end of the second period, the Sharks had run off with the shot clock again, Niemi had done very little for several minutes.

In the final 19 seconds of the period, Nikolay Goldobin had the honor of being tripped by veteran defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Goldobin was tripped while making a very impressive dash for the net. He didn’t get the shot he wanted, and his team did not score on the resulting power play.

By the end of regulation, the shots stood at 38-16 Sharks with the score tied at 1. There was a symmetry to this result, as the Sharks already had one loss and one win under their belt. Seemed only natural they should have an overtime game.

A little over a minute into overtime, Michalek went to the box for tripping Joe Pavelski. The first power play unit included Goldobin, and the second included Mueller. Mueller wound up for a great big shot at the top of the slot… but he was only faking. He passed it. Neither power play unit scored. Neither team scored, the game went to a shoot out.

Joe Pavelski shot first, and scored. Justin Hodgman shot next, for Arizona. He scored too. Goldobin made one too make moves and lost his balance on the third shot. He did not score by accident either. Lucas Lessio, shooting third for Arizona, did not lose his balance and he scored. Joe Thornton did not score.

Mueller continues to play well, most of the time the puck goes where he is sending it. He perhaps could be more reckless, send the puck to the net more, or not send it anywhere at all. At one point, he executed a very pretty pass to a teammate in the neutral zone, sort of a hand off between players going in opposite directions. The problem with it was that there were two Coyotes in hot pursuit of that other player and Mueller might have accomplished more just by hanging on to the puck or even dumping it in. With time, his decision-making should catch up with his skating and puck handling skills.

Mike Brown made some good plays, including one breakaway that didn’t work out but looked dangerous. He also made a defensive zone pass that got some tired Sharks out of trouble. As he has shown before, he can be helpful in the right situation.

Sharks and prospects will play again Saturday against Anaheim Ducks and prospects. The game will be at SAP Center in San Jose at 5:00.

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