Game Time: 6:00PM
TV/Radio: CSN, WGN-AM 720
Steve Jobs Was A Irretrievable Piece of Shit: Fear The Fin
Twenty-seven hours (give or take with time zone changes) after whatever the hell that was yesterday afternoon in Buffalo, the Hawks have turned back around for a home game tonight against the San Jose Sharks and whatever it is they’re trying to accomplish.
Since these two last met in The Valley for their traditional Black Wednesday late-night tilt, the Sharks have gone 3-6-1, which included an 0-5-1 stretch in it where they took a single point out of 12. They’re also currently halfway home from their own extended road trip after a three-game Eastern Canadian swing, the most recent of which was a Friday night 4-2 loss to the Senators.
While the possession juggernaut days of early in the decade have been gone for a while, this Sharks team actually finds itself below water in 5v5 shot attempts at 49.8%. That seems almost unthinkable for a team that has even an aging Joe Thornton on it and is coached by Peter DeBoer, who, for all his other coaching blind spots (and there are many), he has always suppressed shots so well that his teams come out on the positive side of the ledger. However they’re not even doing that this year, as the Sharks are dead center of the pack allowing 53.6 attempts per 60 minutes of five on five. But of course, DeBoer’s success came playing in the Eastern Conference, and things are a little different in the West even if no one in the Pacific is really interested in winning anything.
While Logan Couture’s prolonged absence certainly hasn’t helped the Sharks’ scoring depth, Joes Pavelski and Thornton still drive play at at around a 54.0% rate even if Thornton’s scoring is way down with only 19 points in 32 games. Pavelski however paces the Sharks with a point per, and is their leading goal scorer with 15. The sometimes-trade-bait and always-at-fault Patrick Marleau has not missed a step moving back to the pivot with the vacancy left by Couture, and is third on the team with 25 points. He is however carrying an ugly -10, which can’t be masked by scoring output or break-even possession numbers. Tomas Hertl appears as though he’ll never fully recover from the hit by Dustin Brown two years ago, with a mere 3 goals to his name so far after only 13 goals last year. Or this might be just what he has always been and his half-rookie season was the anomaly. Either way, the Sharks were hoping for more out of him.
On the blue line, while that Wookiee looking motherfucker Brent Burns (seriously, you’re presumably an adult with children, it’s not charming or funny) tends to put up solid offensive numbers, again with 12 goals and 16 assists this season, it tends to be due to his incredibly aggressive play which borders on reckless. Marc-Edouard Vlasic has long been the Sharks’ real #1 defenseman no matter what the offensive numbers say, and he’ll in all likelihood get a long look at the Hawks’ second line tonight. Paul Martin is basically just an older slightly less physical version of Vlasic, but he’s always been a very solid and efficient puck moving defenseman.
In net Martin Jones has been giving the Sharks completely average goaltending, which has been a step up from the last couple seasons of the Antti Niemi experience. Jones is stopping .918 of shots overall and .924 at evens, both of which are right at the league average. But aside from his bland name, bland face, and bland numbers, one thing does stand out for Jones, and is his stat line away from the SAP Center. At home Jones is barely replacement level at .902, but on the road he’s been exceptional, with the Sharks going 11-3-1 in the 15 road games he’s played, facing an average of less than 28 shots per.
As for the Men of Four Feathers, they’ll get another chance to keep pace in the meat grinder central tonight, as everyone below them has games in hand. That particularly means Minnesota, who sit only 2 points back currently, but will have an absurd four games in hand after tonight.
Life in the post-Marcus Kruger world continues tonight as well, and will give an interesting window into just what Joel Quenneville has in mind for young Philip Danault with last change against a team with actual centers. On the road against the Sabres yesterday Danault was a dead even 10 attempts for and against with 3 offensive zone starts to 7 in the defensive zone. But for however far the Sharks have slipped, there’s still quite a bit more center depth there than in Buffalo.
Three games into the Rob Scuderi experience has revealed exactly what everyone knew going into it, and his positively electric 37.6 share of shot attempts at evens only reinforces that. But he’s won before and knows his role and plays hard and fartfartassshitfart. It is absolutely painful to watch Scuderi and Rozsival play partnerned together, though it’s better that he’s only bringing down Rozsival as opposed to needing to be babysat by any of the three Hawk defensemen that matter.
With Corey Crawford playing yesterday on the road and a STATEMENT GAME coming up on Tuesday in Dallas, it stands to reason that LOCAL GUY Scott Darling will get his first start at home since November 15th against. Granted it’s been a small sample size with only 2 starts at home as opposed to 6 on the road, but Darling has allowed only two goals on 55 shots against in those two starts, contrasted against his stunningly bad .890 on the road. Obviously on a team with defensive depth issues, Quenneville getting the matchups he wants favors heavily in this wild discrepancy.
With Kruger out, the main issue for the Hawks becomes staying out of the box, as the only offense the Sharks generated at home in November was when they were on the power play. And even though the unit is middling as far as percentage is concerned, Thornton, Marleau, Pavelski, and Burns are all exceptional at getting clean zone entries and continually moving to fill empty space and change passing and shooting lanes. And lateral movement isn’t exactly Scott Darling’s strong suit. So if the Hawks keep the play at evens they should be able to throw enough pucks at Martin Jones for it to be the difference.