“He looks like a more complete player. He looks stronger.”
That what Martin Jones said last night about Dylan Gambrell’s early-season emergence as a go-to San Jose Sharks forward. Gambrell is currently San Jose’s fifth most-used forward, after Logan Couture, Tomas Hertl, Evander Kane, and Kevin Labanc.
The 24-year-old has come a long way, considering he was the team’s 11th most-used forward last year and perhaps not that far from being waived after a disappointing training camp.
Possibly no play in last night’s 3-2 overtime loss to St. Louis exemplified Gambrell’s growth more than this one:
Playing defense in OT, Gambrell (7) has to contain Brayden Schenn (10). The feet have always been there for Gambrell. But the difference now? When Schenn cuts toward the middle, Gambrell’s strong stick keeps the veteran from executing his move.
“He’s very mature for a young guy around the rink. Works hard. Always very detail-oriented. Very prepared. Got that rink rat quality to him,” Brent Burns offered. “He does a lot of little things right.”
Next, Gambrell jumps on the loose puck and is able to hold off Schenn until making the right play to Tomas Hertl (48).
“He’s taken great steps in his puck control,” Burns added. “That’s the thing that he wanted to show more of. He’s done a great job of showing great poise with the puck, making good plays.”
Before this season, the question with the San Jose Sharks’ 2016 second-rounder was: Is he a bona fide NHL player? I believe that question’s been answered. The question now: How good an NHL player can he be?
Last night’s assist on Noah Gregor’s goal was just Gambrell’s second point this season. Does he have enough offense to be more than a solid fourth-line forward?
“I don’t see it,” an NHL scout told San Jose Hockey Now.
Bob Boughner, however, is hopeful that skill plays like these start to end up in the back of the net for Gambrell.
“I think it’s going to come. The more he plays, the more experience and confidence he gains,” Boughner said. “He’s doing a lot of good things with the puck, good decisions. That part of his game will come.”
One Way to Fix PK
There was something familiar about Mike Hoffman’s game-opening power play goal last night. And it wasn’t just the déjà vu of eight power play goals against in four games for the San Jose Sharks.
It was the chaos-causing jam play by Oscar Sundqvist (70) – which might look familiar, if you think back to Saturday versus Vegas:
Chandler Stephenson (20) passes it to the net player (Alex Tuch, 89). Tuch doesn’t jam it, instead giving it to Jonathan Marchessault (81). Regardless, the 6-foot-4 Tuch is an inviting target down low.
— TEAL TOWN USA – A San Jose Sharks Podcast (@TEALTOWNUSA) February 13, 2021
Here, it’s Cody Glass (9) as the net player causing chaos with the jam play. Matt Nieto (83) doesn’t pick up Mark Stone (61).
Seeing a pattern? Stone tries to shovel it down to net player Glass, but Burns denies it.
“It’s something we’re going to work on,” Boughner said before practice today.
So how could the Sharks have played Hoffman better? Let’s review the clip again:
“It starts with our strong side D not getting too high. He’s got to be below the dots. But it’s more stick than anything,” Boughner pointed out. “You have to deny that passing lane with an outside stick. We had an inside stick there, which opens that up.”
That Fredrik Claesson (33) who’s too high. Claesson’s stick is also on the inside, guarding Ryan O’Reilly (90), instead of on the outside, denying the pass to the net player (Sundqvist, 70). While Claesson’s intention is admirable, you can also argue that Logan Couture (39) is on O’Reilly, so that’s two penalty killers covering one player.
“We talked about that before the game. Sometimes, it’s a little bit easier said than done,” Boughner added. “But that’s the way to defend that. Have an outside stick, try to push that goal line guy further away from the net with a good stick.”
Sundqvist’s got it now. But that doesn’t mean all is lost.
“If it does happen, Jonesie’s responsible in our system for the wrap,” Boughner shared. “The net front D is responsible for anything on the backside.”
In this case, that’s Ferraro (38).
Jones makes the save on the Sundqvist. But Ferraro hedges too hard on Sundqvist and the puck pops in front of Hoffman for a gimme.
Boughner conceded: “Our net front D got a little aggressive, it ended up slipping to the backdoor.”
St. Louis will surely go back to the well tomorrow, will the San Jose Sharks be ready?
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