Sharks miss playoffs, goaltending issues among reasons

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The San Jose Sharks failed to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season.

San Jose (20-26-6) was eliminated from contention with a 5-4 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. The Sharks can finish no higher than fifth in the eight-team Honda West Division. The top four teams qualify for the playoffs.

It’s the first time the Sharks did not qualify for the playoffs in consecutive seasons since 1995-96 and 1996-97.

Here is a look at what happened in the 2020-21 season for the Sharks and why things could be better next season:

The Skinny

Potential unrestricted free agents: Alexander Barabanov, F; Kurtis Gabriel, F; Fredrik Handemark, F; Patrick Marleau, F; Matt Nieto, F; Greg Pateryn, D; Marcus Sorensen, F

Potential restricted free agents: Rudolfs Balcers, F; Joachim Blichfeld, F; Ryan Donato, F; Dylan Gambrell, F; Christian Jaros, D; Josef Korenar, G; Noah Gregor, F; Alexander True, F; Jeffrey Viel, F

Potential 2021 Draft picks: 8

What went wrong

Tough start/late slide: Opening the season with 12 straight road games because of COVID-19 restrictions in Santa Clara County, California didn’t help, but the Sharks battled through to start 5-6-1. With a four-game winning streak from March 29-April 3, San Jose improved to 17-16-4 and climbed within one point of the Arizona Coyotes for fourth in the West. But the Sharks went 1-8-1 in their next 10 games, including eight straight losses (0-7-1) from April 10-24, to fall out of contention.

Continued goalie troubles: San Jose hoped Devan Dubnyk, acquired in a trade with the Minnesota Wild on Oct. 5, would form a solid goalie tandem with Martin Jones, but it didn’t work out. Jones is 15-13-4 with a 3.28 goals-against average, an .896 save percentage and one shutout in 34 games, and Dubnyk went 3-9-2 with a 3.18 GAA, an .898 save percentage and one shutout in 17 games (13 starts) before being traded to the Avalanche on April 10.

Scoring woes:& The Sharks are 23rd in the NHL with an average of 2.63 goals per game, and they lacked depth with five players — forwards Evander Kane (22), Logan Couture (17), Tomas Hertl (17), Kevin Labanc (11), and Timo Meier (10) — scoring 10 goals, but no else scoring more than seven. San Jose’s power play is tied with the New Jersey Devils for 28th in the League at 14.4 percent.

Reasons for optimism

Kane’s consistency: Kane scored 20 goals for the sixth straight season, and with a Sharks-best 45 points, the 29-year-old topped 40 points for the fifth straight season.

Improved health: After missing extended time with injuries last season, Couture, Hertl and defenseman Erik Karlsson remained mostly injury-free. Couture has played all 52 games. Hertl missed six games while in NHL COVID-19 protocol from Feb. 24-March 8. Karlsson missed four games from Feb. 15-22 with a lower-body injury.

A look at the future: The Sharks had several young forwards earn looks in the NHL this season after performing well in the American Hockey League. Joachim Blichfeld, 22, has scored one goal in five games and has scored 22 points (12 goals, 10 assists) in 25 games with San Jose of the AHL; Alexander True, 23, has one assist in five games and scored 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in 27 AHL games; and Noah Gregor, 22, has scored six points (five goals, one assist) in 26 games and has scored nine points (three goals, six assists) in 10 AHL games. Another forward, 22-year-old John Leonard, has scored 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 43 games.

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