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Game #35 – Sharks vs. Hawks Q&A: Bus Station Resident

@ItWasThreeZero followed us home one day. We fed him at the back door of the building. He won’t leave us alone. We figure we can at least use him to get Sharks info. 

Three points behind the Flames isn’t where the Sharks were supposed to be. Everything metrically looks great, so is their lack of taking off simply down to Martin Jones?

 A lot of it is. It’s hard to win games when your starting goalie is throwing up a sub-.900 SV% for the majority of the season. That said the Sharks are also top third in the league at yielding high-danger scoring chances so they haven’t been doing Jones or Aaron Dell many favors. The team adopted a higher-risk, higher-reward style of play in the middle of last season in response to Vegas’ success and while it’s made them infinitely more bearable to watch than the previous iteration of Peter DeBoer hockey, it’s also resulted in giving up quite a few more five-alarm chances. Still, it’s not unreasonable to expect Jones to at least be within striking distance of league average and once he starts trending in that direction the Sharks theoretically have the offense, possession numbers and penalty killing to run away with the division.

Is it really worth complaining about Erik Karlsson, as some have done, when he’s got 21 points and appears to be driving the play as he always has?

 Nah. Karlsson has clearly been the team’s best overall player to anyone watching the games and controls the pace of play every time he’s on the ice. What is concerning is that, over a third of the way through the season, the coaching staff still hasn’t quite figured out how to use him. They’ve paired Karlsson with Brenden Dillon at even strength despite how dominant the pairing of Karlsson and Marc-Edouard Vlasic was to start the season. They haven’t figured out how to best combine Karlsson and Brent Burns’ talents on a single power play unit, often having Kevin Labanc quarterback the struggling man advantage instead. Then they turn around and throw arguably the two most offensively dynamic defensemen in the league out there together in bizarre situations, like on the penalty kill or a defensive zone faceoff. I don’t think the Sharks are a serious Cup contender until the coaches can figure out how to get the most out of Karlsson.

Meanwhile, Joe Thornton is average a near career-low in points per game. Just getting that old? Reason to worry?

 2018-19 is in all likelihood the Joe Thornton Farewell Tour so by those standards he’s been surprisingly effective. It helps that the Sharks haven’t really needed him to be more than a third-line center and occasional contributor on the power play and he’s played both of those roles admirably. Really the only goal with him is ensuring he’s healthy for the playoffs after missing the majority of the last two postseasons due to knee injuries.

What’s up with Timo Meier‘s breakout?

 Meier has always put up an insane shot rate going back to junior hockey and has taken that strategy to a new level this season. He’s currently third in the league in unblocked shots per minute at even strength, and with those shots going in at nearly twice the rate that they did last season it’s not surprising that he’s on pace for 50 goals. I don’t expect him to maintain that shooting percentage but based on the shot rate alone, and more importantly the types of chances he’s getting, Meier is going to blow away his previous career high of 21 goals and should easily clear the 35-goal mark as well. The biggest key is probably that his line with Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl has the size and cycling ability to get Meier those chances in front of the net that are his bread and butter but they also have the speed and passing to create chances off the rush that Meier really didn’t generate much of last season.


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